Then six or seven years ago, Hanoi got in on the act. The ‘City’ was dropped and instead we got Hanoi Sound Stuff. The annual alternative music festival runs to this day.
About five years ago, the name was altered again. This time to Hanoi Rock City or HRC. And now, in the wake of the decline of Zone 9 — yes, the doomed but legendary creative space built into a crumbling pharmaceuticals factory remains forever embedded in Hanoi consciousness — we have Hanoi Creative City or HCC. The other HCC, Hanoi Cooking Centre, had better watch out.
Let’s Get Creative
Anyone who confuses uniqueness with originality is mistaken; nothing can ever be truly ‘unique’. Every good creative idea is the result of many others. Sometimes an idea leaps forward in ways that few have foreseen, and sometimes people alter what already exists.
The latter is the case with Hanoi Creative City — and we’re not just talking about the name (although I confess that when I first heard it a few months ago, I jumped). The place has simply taken the idea of Zone 9 and adjusted. Formally opened at the beginning of September, this space dedicated to all things creative is actually set in a high-rise with an outdoor skating area attached.
When we visited, on the ground floor there was the start of a shopping centre and outside was Bo Sua, a clothing shop in repurposed containers (London’s Shoreditch or Saigon Outcast, anyone?) Close by there was a Cong Ca Phe and even a bar bearing that endearing name, Bia Khu Chin (that’s Zone 9 to you and me). Yes, the legacy continues.
The list of shops and cafes that are making this place their home sounds familiar. At least, their concept is. On the second floor is Yabai, the Japanese-styled teashop where I sit to write this article. On the third floor there are clothes shops and the fourth floor is dedicated to a food court selling young Hanoi’s favourite cuisine — Japanese and Korean. A gym occupies floor 10, and Nha San Art Collective has moved into floor 15. Much of the space is still empty, but it’s gradually filling up.
Will it Work?
I hope so. The capital’s art scene has already seen two decades of creativity. However, individual expression is still new. Just 10 years ago everyone still wore the same clothes — white or grey skirts and a formal blouse for women, and black trousers and white shirts for men. With its clothes shops, funkily designed cafés and bars, and obsession with non-Vietnamese cuisine, Hanoi Creative City is certainly a part of the ongoing transformation from traditional to modern.
But much of the space remains unfilled, and until we see the final mix, we cannot apply the real litmus test — people. Is the place getting customers?
When I was there, four kids were playing out in the skate park, loving the freedom of the space. They were certainly having fun, although everyone else I saw (except in Bia Khu Chin) seemed pretty sombre.
But as I say, it’s early days. And for places like this to work, they need support. So, here’s the big question. Will you be supporting Hanoi Creative City? Despite my reservations, I certainly will.
Hanoi Creative City is at 1 Luong Yen, Hai Ba Trung, Hanoi