pdfVolume 7 Issue 2 CONTENTS

International Architecture as a Tool of National Emancipation: Nguyen Cao Luyen in French Colonial Hanoi, 1920–1940*

Ulrike von Hirschhausen
University of Rostock
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* This paper is the revised form of a lecture given at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in Budapest on April 5, 2017, as part of its lecture series “Current Approaches to Global History.” Many thanks go to Dr. Judit Klement and Dr. Krisztián Csaplár-Degovics, who stimulated thoughts about globalizing cities and also made my stay in Budapest at the time of the demonstrations in support of the Central European University a wonderful experience of collegial friendship. I am also deeply indebted to the anonymous reviewer from the Hungarian Historical Review for his or her critical reading and very helpful ideas.

This paper takes the city of Hanoi as an example in order to explore the potential of global history with regard to the urban context. It argues that the specific conditions of French urban planning made international architecture, not indigenous traditions, a tool of national emancipation in the 1930s and 1940s. The colonial administration of France in Indochina became increasingly concerned with integrating vernacular elements in its colonial architecture in order to visualize a policy of assimilation. This “Indochinese Style” was clearly seen as part of an imperial repertoire of power to which Vietnamese architects were opposed. Most of them, as the professional biography of Nguyen Cao Luyen illustrates, therefore considered contemporary architecture, as the International Style, to be an appropriate tool to reengineer a colonized society in the direction of national emancipation. When the French assigned a large area in southern Hanoi exclusively to the Vietnamese, this “New Indigenous Quarter” turned into a laboratory of international architecture that the emerging Vietnamese middle-class regarded as a means of practicing global modernity. Only the interconnectivity of the local, the imperial and the global realm helps us to better understand why at the local level internationalism appeared in Hanoi to be the appropriate tool for designing a national future.

Keywords: colonialism; Hanoi; architecture; international style; urban planning; empire.


French colonialism in Hanoi was particularly concerned with urban planning. In 1900, the city, located in the north of Vietnam, became the capital of France’s newly conquered territories in Southeast Asia, termed French Indochina and roughly including the present-day areas of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. A French presence needed to be created visually in order to assert political domination over the territory against indigenous revolts as much as to demonstrate reformist attitudes towards the Vietnamese in a field considered a less overtly disciplinary form of colonial rule. The bulk of current research on Hanoi’s built environment has followed well-known assumptions of colonial rule as an effective power, which reconstructed the inner city as a French capital, neglected traditional housing of the Vietnamese and enforced ethnic separation between the Vietnamese and the European—primarily French—population.1 This, however, seems to partially reflect long-standing and unquestioned ideas of empire-building as a process planned in Western metropoles, forcefully implemented by colonial élites and resulting in a rather static geography of power between the colonizers and the colonized. The critical New Imperial History that is currently emerging questions this notion by focusing on the ambivalent and changing mutual relationship between the colonizers and the colonized in order to open a new understanding of both their diverse agencies in “making and unmaking” empire. This way, the historic entanglement of peripheries and centers, which historiography has often treated in isolation, also becomes visible. Attributing greater weight also to indigenous actors who were bridging these spaces sharpens our sensitivity to the outcome of the colonial encounter as an interactive phenomenon without neglecting the unequal distribution of power upon which it is based.2

Cities have not constituted a major field in which historians have tested such premises, whereas social scientists are particularly concerned with the emergence and governance of global cities today.3 This article takes the built environment of the colonial capital of Hanoi as an exemplary field in which imperial, colonial and national actors used architecture as a strategy to initiate and enforce their frequently contradicting and sometimes overlapping visions of political power, economic hierarchy and cultural identity.4 The Vietnamese Nguyen Cao Luyen (1907–1987) exemplifies a group of indigenous architects. By tracing his imperial biography in the 1930s and 1940s, the activities of these men who were eager to realize their visions of Hanoi’s urban design and city planning in the face of colonial hierarchy and ethnic segregation will be explored. I argue that the specific condition of French urban planning made international architecture, not vernacular traditions, a tool of national emancipation. This thesis builds on two points. First, France’s colonial administration became increasingly concerned with integrating regional and local traditions and elements in its colonial architecture in order to visualize a policy of assimilation. An “Indochinese style” emerging from these efforts was clearly marked as part of an imperial repertoire of power that indigenous architects opposed. Second, some of these architects, including Nguyen Cao Luyen, therefore considered the International Style that had reached its heyday in Paris, Dessau, Berlin, Chicago and Tokyo during the late 1920s and 1930s to be the appropriate tool to reengineer a colonized society. Rather than a reinvention of indigenous traditions, adapting to and reinterpreting global modernity would strengthen their program of national emancipation and future autonomy. Practicing global modernity as a prerequisite for these aims for them meant selecting and converting principles of contemporary avant-garde architecture and adapting them to the local context of Hanoi. A sufficient explanation for these policies, which they considered to be anti-colonial, needs to take three dimensions into account: the colonial environment of Hanoi as well as the metropolitan influences of Paris that Nguyen Cao Luyen had experienced as an intern with Le Corbusier as much as the global trends of the International Style that in the mid-1930s were practiced selectively on a worldwide scale. The interconnectivity of these realms—the local, imperial and global—helps us to better understand why at the local level of Hanoi, internationalism appeared to be the appropriate tool for designing a national future.

An “Indochinese Style” as a Repertoire of Power

City planning and urban architecture became an object of change after World War I. Various factors were responsible for shifting attitudes of both the French colonial administrators and Vietnamese élites in Indochina. In Paris, debates over colonialism had taken on a new tone in the French parliament. Politicians demanded visible attention to the needs of the colonized and started to replace the former leitmotif of “assimilation” with the term “association” as a means of managing ethnic diversity in the colony. Concealing the hard fact that the unequal distribution of political power and military force had remained intact, they advocated a softer policy of taking ethnic identity, indigenous traditions and geographic factors into account in order win greater support from the indigenous population.5 This seemed even more necessary in the face of ongoing revolts against French colonial rule after World War I, in which more than 100,000 Vietnamese had served without gaining more participation at home.

These new politics of “association” were increasingly intertwined with urban design in Hanoi. An influential colonial actor eager to translate the political strategy into local architecture was Ernest Hébrard (1875–1933), who arrived in Hanoi in 1921 to head the new Town Planning and Architecture Service.6 Hébrard had worked in Thessalonica and Athens, where he had realized plans to protect the historic districts and developed futurist “world city” projects. Although a well-trained Beaux-Arts architect by education, Hébrard took a keen interest in developing new forms of regional architecture that the colonial government was in turn eager to use for political purposes. During his years in Hanoi, Hébrard implemented civic buildings combining indigenous traditions with modern techniques of construction and material that were at the same time adapted to the climatic conditions of Hanoi. The “Indochinese style” became particularly evident in his Colonial Ministry of Finance built in 1927, which today serves at the home of the Foreign Ministry of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. Comparable to colonial approaches in Cambodia, Tunisia or Morocco, this regional architecture, often an eclectic mix of diverse cultures within and beyond the colonial borders, remained a product of the French. Only French architectural theorists seemed to Hébrard capable of discerning and building upon the true character of Vietnamese culture and, correspondingly, only French architects were commissioned to implement their vision of the Vietnamese vernacular in the center of Hanoi.




Fig. 1. Ministry of Finance (1927), designed by Ernest Hébrard7


Integrating indigenous traditions in this colonial architecture went hand in hand with segregating the urban population according to race. Hébrard, as most city planners of his time, advocated racial segregation as a necessary constituent of colonial urbanism. The reasons for such segregation, which almost all colonial city planners endorsed, were related to hygiene, security, surveillance and racism.8 In an article “L’urbanism en Indochine,” published in 1928, Hébrard argued in favor of an ethnic topography of the city while realizing that mutual interest often eroded this colonial zeal:


La ville est divisé en: quartier de commerce genre européen et indigène; quartier d’habitations, européen et indigène; quartier des garages, quartier des chantiers, ateliers, petites industries et usines. Il est souvent de quartiers européens et de quartier indigènes, et certains pourraient croire à une spécialisation absolue et penser que des zones devraient être rigoureusement traces pour éviter tout contact pouvant devenir dangereux. En Indochine, les groupements sont distincts, mais si très rarement les Européens habitant les centres indigènes, par contre des Indigènes aisés vivent souvent dans les centres européens.9


Constantly comparing the French methods of controlling colonial societies with those of the British and the Dutch, Hébrard advocated the expansion of land-use zoning in order to enforce strict racial and environmental controls, which, however, were never officially implemented in Hanoi.

In 1926, Hébrard founded a new Architectural Section at the École Beaux Arts d’Indochine at which he hoped to further develop a modern regional architecture as a stabilizing factor underpinning the French régime. The more practical purpose of the colonial administration behind Hébrard was to recruit the much-needed draftsmen, subordinates and technical assistants for the French governmental architectural service. The five-year curriculum of the Architectural Section combined study of Vietnamese traditions with that of Western architectural theories and practices. It became supplemented through surveying and sketching civic buildings of the French, both those in the Beaux-Arts tradition and those in the new “Indochinese style,” such as Hébrard’s Ministry of Finance as well as Vietnamese temples, pagodas and ordinary houses.

Unintended by Hébrard—and even less by the colonial government—the new school spread ideas rather contrary to its original task. The concepts of European and American avant-garde architects increasingly swept into classrooms and lectures and created new models that extended far beyond the Beaux-Arts tradition, Art Deco or French ideas of an “Indochinese style.” The key reason for this unintended outcome was that the interwar-war period, during which around 50 Vietnamese students graduated from the new school, was one of the most stimulating moments in the history of twentieth-century architecture and urban-planning theory. In Dessau, Walter Gropius and Mies van der Rohe developed ideas of Gesamtkunstwerk (“total work of arts”) unifying art, crafts and technology at the German Bauhaus. In the United States, Frank Lloyd Wright created buildings emphasizing simplicity and an organic adaption of the environment in contrast to the ornate architecture prevailing in Europe.10 Most influential for the Vietnamese students at Hanoi’s Section was probably Le Corbusier’s activity as a theorist and architect in Paris. Le Corbusier proclaimed a new aesthetic devoid of any traditional references, oriented toward function and driven by technological development. Although Le Corbusier’s manifesto Vers une architecture, published in 1923, was not part of the curricula, the likelihood that the young French teachers whom Hébrard hired from France circulated and discussed this manifesto with their Vietnamese students is very high.11 Moreover, the publications of the Congrès International d’Architecture (CIAM) radiated worldwide and found repercussions in the colonies.12 In 1932, a year before one of the school’s graduates, Ngyuen Cao Luyen, left for Paris to work as an intern with Le Corbusier, the Museum of Modern Art in New York held an exhibition of “modern architecture.” The show was accompanied by a book entitled The International Style with which Nguyen and his fellow students, as later articles regarding him verify, were fully familiar.


Fig. 2. Lecturers and students, among them Nguyen Cao Luyen, from the École des Beaux Arts, Hanoi, in the 1930s13


These global trends of how to express modernity in urban architecture increasingly became a topic in the classrooms of Hanoi’s Architectural Section. Here they overlapped and mixed with Vietnamese interpretations of modernity fostered by the activities of teachers like Victor Tardieu. Tardieu was a progressive architect from Paris who had been a key promoter of an Architectural Section at the École Beaux Arts d’Indochine since the early 1920s. When the school finally opened, he taught students who studied there to strive in their work for the same standard as in the metropole (“égaler la qualité métropolitaine”), thereby undermining Hébrard’s demarcation of cultural difference between center and periphery as well as the administration’s interest in maintaining a social hierarchy within Indochina’s colonial society.14

Taken together, the French colonial government founded the Architectural Section at Hanoi’s École Beaux Arts with the primary purpose of creating and promoting a new modern “Indochinese Style” that would serve as a tool of imperial rule and produce subordinates and technical assistants for governmental service. Deviating from these expectations, the school turned into an institution at which both French and Vietnamese discussed radical concepts of modern architecture and their capability to reengineer human societies. This was to have unintended consequences for Hanoi’s colonial society and urban built environment in the 1930s.

Nguyen Cao Luyen between Hanoi and Paris in the 1920s–1940s

Nguyen Cao Luyen, one of the 50 Vietnamese graduates of the Architectural Section at the École Beaux Arts d’Indochine, participated actively in all these discussions.15 Coming from an educated middle-class background, Luyen had early on engaged himself in informal Vietnamese associations that promoted ideas of affordable housing production and fostered an endogenous architectural work beyond mere transfer. Immediately following his graduation in 1933, the 26-year-old Luyen departed for Paris to work as an intern with August Perret and Le Corbusier. This stay in the imperial capital had a formative influence on his biography, both as an architect and as a political activist.

In Paris, Luyen was able to approach two leading representatives of modern architecture, one conservative and one radically progressive. Luyen spent the majority of his internship working at the office of August Perret (1874–1954). In the 1930s, Perret was one of the most acclaimed and booked architects of both the French bourgeoisie and the government and was responsible for the design of many civic buildings. Perret argued that contemporary architecture must represent metaphysical principles of construction, thereby legitimizing a return to classical forms while using modern materials, above all reinforced concrete.16 The success of Perret’s neoclassical architecture certainly had an influence on Luyen as some of his later Art Deco designs suggest. Luyen’s own work in Hanoi, however, points rather to the lasting influence of Le Corbusier (1878–1965) who, in stark contrast to Perret, used sociological arguments as the emergence of a new mass culture and urbanization to legitimize his architecture and its potential to standardize. The English, French and German sources used for this article do not indicate how long Nguyen Cao Luyen worked as an intern at Le Corbusier’s atelier, but new research on the latter’s co-workers sheds light on Le Corbusier’s recruitment pattern.17 In the early 1930s, despite his increasing global reputation, Le Corbusier was constantly in depth, had no state commissions at all, quarreled constantly with his clients and paid almost no salary to his interns and fellow architects. Nonetheless his pioneering role in the new “international” architecture attracted a wealth of young, ambitious architects from Europe, Latin America, Japan and India, mostly of middle-class background, who were eager to work in his atelier at the Rue de Sèvres even without salary. Ngyuen Cao Luyen’s background from a Vietnamese middle-class family certainly contributed to making an unpaid internship with Le Corbusier possible.

The key aspects of Le Corbusier’s programmatic architecture, which engaged Luyen and many other young architects at the time, were emphasis on the geometric line as a regulating principle, a complete independence from historical context, the necessary combination of technology and architecture, the primacy of function and the use of new material such as steel, glass or concrete, among others.18 The “International Style,” a synthesis of design concepts from many primarily French, German and American architects, shared many of these claims and became a global export good that was particularly visible through the joint work of these architects within the International Congress of Architecture (CIAM). It was further promoted by Le Corbusier’s extensive publications of his own oeuvre, which he marketed on a worldwide scale. The time Nguygen Cao Luyen spent at Le Corbusier’s office on Rue de Sèvres, which was full of young architects from all over the world, had similar repercussions. The few texts we have from Luyen after he left Paris in 1933 indicate his preference to contribute actively to the “International Style” that he had studied in Hanoi on a theoretical basis and with which he became acquainted on a practical basis in Paris. In an article for the journal La Patrie annamite in 1937, co-authored with others, Luyen reflected on their formative experiences and the future tasks of the Architectural Section at the École Beaux Arts d’Indochine, arguing that “certain étudiant architectes affirment que le point de vue primordial de l’École est des former des artistes indochinois. Mais les étudiants ont plus d’ambition, ont-ils ajouté, c’est de posséder l’esprit d’artiste . . . c’est de pouvoir se comparer aux artistes étrangers.”19

The French capital in these very years was a laboratory for modern architecture that provided Nguyen Cao Luyen with a wealth of professional stimulation regarding how to translate “international modernism” into his own work as an architect working in Hanoi. At the same time, the imperial metropolis attracted migrants and exiles from various colonies of the French empire and beyond, many of whom became politicized during their stay in the imperial center.20 It is this second, social and political dimension of Paris as a “hotbed of anti-imperialism” that helps to further explain the later activity of Ngyuen Cao Luyen in Hanoi both as an architect and as a political activist.

When Luyen arrived in Paris in early 1933, he came to a metropole that was bursting with “men without a country.”21 The huge number of colonial subjects recruited by the French army to fight in World War I was a key reason for their unintended presence in Europe following the war. Moreover, labor demands in the metropole attracted growing numbers of North Africans and West Africans over the subsequent years. The permissive political climate of Paris differed starkly from the colonial situation back home with its strict censorship, violent restriction of public opposition and discriminatory practices in places such as Algeria, West Africa and Indochina. This added to the attraction of the metropole particularly for educated and politicized colonial subjects who were often deported to the center by the colonial governments.22

The anti-colonialist outlook, which in many cases had already been a reason for the frequently forced departure of the migrants from the colonies, intensified through mutual exchange and communication. A letter written by a Vietnamese student in 1927 documents the importance of mutual contacts and learning for the formation of an anti-imperial perspective among Vietnamese: “Since my departure from home, I have come to think much about the situation of my country. [. . .] There is now in France a small number of Vietnamese who constitute a part of the country and who, benefiting from the situation here, have undertaken its defense. I believe it is my duty to take part in that defense.”23

The idea that learning from the West in political, cultural and economic terms and applying these ideas and concepts to the modernization and political independence of their own nations was a recurrent theme in all anti-colonial discourses worldwide. However, the close mutual contacts within the narrow space of the Quartier Latin, where most of the Vietnamese students lived, intensified these perspectives because each migrant was now able to compare his individual experience of colonialism with that of other colonized men. This experience, which Nguyen Cao Luyen also had in Paris, contributed to understanding his situation less as a singular “colonial” fate than as a part of an “imperial” system. Some of the Parisian migrants, such as Ho Chi Minh in the 1920s, drew the conclusion that inter-ethnic solidarity—such as that experienced at the local level in Paris—needed to be translated into a global solidarity of anti-imperialists. Others, such as Nguyen Cao Luyen ten years later, felt encouraged to apply “modernism” as a tool of national emancipation to their professional work at home. The idea of modern architecture being instrumental for social progress was an overarching theme for all protagonists of the International Style and the Bauhaus movement alike. Upon his return to Hanoi, Luyen translated the social agenda of European architects into a national cause seemingly more applicable to the colonial context. Two years after returning to Hanoi from Paris, he co-founded the association Ánh Sáng (“Lumière”) with the aim of coordinating practical measures of intellectuals in Hanoi’s social sector. The society soon embraced a broad spectrum of engineers, journalists, writers, artists, architects and doctors, which numbered around 3,000 members by 1940, who used their respective professional expertise as a means of national emancipation from French rule.24

The Parisian experience, altogether, marked a central moment in Nguyen Cao Luyen’s imperial biography. In professional terms, he acquainted himself with the architectural movement of “International Modernism,” learned how to implement it into reality and started to reinterpret its agenda for the built environment at home. In political terms, the exposure to a city brimming with immigrants from other colonies stimulated new ways of seeing the imperial order and its possible demise. Colonial Hanoi in the 1930s and 1940s became the theater for putting these global inspirations into local practice.

International Architecture in Hanoi’s Indigenous Quarter

Immediately following his return from Paris, Nguyen Cao Luyen, together with a partner, Hoàng Nhu Tiêp, founded Hanoi’s first architectural office that was run completely by Vietnamese. The chances of implementing modern concepts of urban architecture in Hanoi’s center seemed to be dim. The French colonial government invested heavily in public infrastructure and civic buildings, but did not commission indigenous architects with public works. However, the consequences of colonial urbanism, including racial segregation, created an unexpected niche in the residential market that indigenous architects like Luyen used to their own benefit. The development of the “New Indigenous Quarter” in southern Hanoi shows how concepts of international architecture permeated a zone assigned only to the indigenous population.

Since 1900, Hanoi’s French administration had set aside a large area in the southern part of the city to serve as a Vietnamese residential district. Since the inception of the project in 1902, the area was called the “New Indigenous Quarter.”25 Land acquisition implemented in order to privatize and subdivide the land met with ongoing resistance among the poor and migrant population that lived on the periphery of the colonial capital. Therefore, in 1928, only one-third of the entire area accommodated solid houses, while two-thirds of the area served as the site of so-called Paillotes and huts made of light material. The municipal council stopped tolerating this situation the same year, evacuating the poor and offering land to the growing number of wealthier and educated Vietnamese who were interested in leaving the overcrowded merchant city in the center. In accordance with the colonial hierarchy, actual ownership of the new plots would remain with the French, while the Vietnamese could gain access to them only under a lease agreement with the municipality. By the 1930s, the French administration realized that it had to abandon the idea of controlling and delimiting actual ownership in the private real-estate market after realizing that only full private ownership would have the desired effect of populating the Indigenous Quarter with middle-class Vietnamese families. To qualify for purchase, potential future owners had to satisfy considerable financial conditions and needed to be reliable taxpayers and legitimately married. The above conditions restricted the plots of land to members of the emerging Vietnamese middle-class who in turn preferred to commission Vietnamese architects, in particular the graduates of the Hanoi Architectural Section. For a variety of reasons, the consequences of racial segregation as a constituent of colonial rule helped international architecture become a dominant feature of Hanoi’s Indigenous Quarter.

First, the new owners—educated Vietnamese, young traders or second-tier civil servants who often maintained a staunchly national perspective—wanted to have their status and outlook adequately reflected in a modern, contemporary architecture. They clearly associated the “Indochinese Style” that characterized many civic buildings in the center with colonial architecture. Moreover, the outdated eclecticism of this architecture failed to symbolize the social progress they were making, while its association with the French empire was in no way attractive for this bourgeoning, nationally orientated group. Therefore, the “Indochinese Style” was largely rejected by the very Vietnamese whom it was designed to represent.26 Nguyen Cao Luyen characterized the remoteness that he, his fellow-architects and clients alike felt toward any construction of an imagined Vietnamese vernacular: “Il faut assouplir son esprit et allier son art au gout du public. [. . .] Il faut être très libéral, il faut être élastique en art. [. . .] Il faut dégager le caractère primordial de chaque style. L’architecture, ce n’est pas de la théologie.”27

Second, members of the new Vietnamese middle-class who could afford their own house in the Indigenous Quarter instead preferred a style devoid of any imperial association that was shared by urban élites worldwide. This was a key reason for which they embraced contemporary architectural trends such as Art Deco or the brand new International Style, neither of which carried any imperial connotations or conveyed an overly French character. Particularly the International Style that renowned offices such as that of Luyen and Tiép offered their clients was associated with global modernism. To participate in this global movement was also a sign of social progress as a prerequisite of national autonomy. Internationalism as a means of nationalism was a strategy that Nguyen Cao Luyen observed as a growing pattern: “La plupart de nos élèves, une fois sortis de l’École, croient faire oeuvre d’indépendance […] les architectes, bien entendu, avec le moindre effort, construisent des édifices semblables à ceux que l’on construit en Amérique ou en Scandinavie.”28

Third, being relegated to the margins of the colonial capital unexpectedly resulted in a flourishing new market for Vietnamese architects, developers and builders who became largely independent from the city’s colonial administration. The prolific output of Nguyen Cao Luyen’s office shows how indigenous architects used this very situation to their own benefit. Between 1934 and approximately 1945, Luyen, Tiép, Dúc built around 200 villas primarily in the Indigenous Quarter as well as several churches and temples and a variety of shops. They also collaborated closely with the French administration on a number of social housing projects. Their office offered a broad spectrum of styles corresponding to the tastes of their customers, specializing in Art Deco and the International Style. This exemplary villa (see fig. 3), built for a Vietnamese doctor in the late 1930s, used the Art Deco style with barely any reference to indigenous traditions.

Fig. 3. Villa designed by the office of Luyen, Tiép and Dúc, late 1930s29

Fig. 4. “Compartiment,” Luyen Tiép, Dúc, late 1930s, Hanoi30


Luyen worked above all on his own interpretation of the International Style, particularly through the “Compartiment,” a new type of townhouse that he built for customers. The key vocabulary of international modernism with its focus on the regulating power of geometric lines, cubic forms and a flat roof, constituting a break with the historical context, is clearly recognizable in this example (see fig. 4), built in Hanoi in the 1930s. Fine horizontal lines as a décor underlined the importance of geometry, inside corridors provided for the functional segregation of rooms and small pillars created shady outdoor places adapting to the local climate while at the same time using one of Le Corbusier’s favorite elements.

Nguyen Cao Luyen developed a reputation through his buildings that soon transcended the racial segregation that existed in architecture and urban planning. In 1940, the French general governor commissioned him to design the new interior architecture of the governors’ palace. In 1945, Luyen joined Ho Chi Minh’s first communist cabinet as a vice minister in the newly created ministry of architecture.


Colonial Hanoi thus became a location at which both French and Vietnamese protagonists used architecture and urban planning as a strategy to enforce their political, economic and cultural agendas. The colonial administration promoted an “Indochinese Style” that attempted to translate indigenous traditions into the colonial architecture as part of the new French politics of “association.” The Architectural Section that the French founded in 1926 at the École Beaux Arts d’Indochine should implement this goal by training indigenous clerks and assistants. Unintentionally, the school turned into an institution at which students discussed global concepts of contemporary architecture that peaked worldwide in the late 1920s and 1930s. Nguyen Cao Luyen, one of the school’s graduates, personally experienced these concepts while working as an intern with Le Corbusier in Paris. The French capital at the same time functioned as a “hotbed of anti-imperialism” fostered through mutual contacts and networks of students, workers and migrants from various French colonies. Colonial Hanoi became the theater for putting these ideas into practice when the colonial policy of racial segregation set aside a vast area in southern Hanoi to meet the residential needs of the Vietnamese middle-class. Instead of adopting the “Indochinese Style,” which Vietnamese owners, developers and architects alike associated with colonial rule, they favored the International Style associated with global modernism and shared by urban élites worldwide. In turn, the “New indigenous Quarter” at the margins of the colonial capital developed into a laboratory of international architecture that the Vietnamese middle-class also saw as a means of national emancipation from the colonial régime.



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1 See Wright, “Indochina: The Folly of Grandeur”; Logan, Hanoi; Kym, “The French Model”; Cooper, “Urban Planning and Architecture in Colonial Indochina”; Vann, “Building Colonial Whiteness on the Red River”, 290, ft. 40.

2 See, e.g., Cooper, Colonialism in Question; Howe, “Introduction: New Imperial Histories;” Ballantyne, “The Changing Shape of the Modern British Empire and its Historiography;” Hirschhausen, “A New Imperial History?“

3 See Sassen, The Global City; Bain, Urbanization in a Global Context.

4 For a prime example of the new approaches moving away from the mutual exclusivity of colonizers and colonized, see Herbelin, Architectures du Vietnam colonial. In a similar vein, see the following short article: Labbé, Herberlin and Dao, “Domesticating the Suburbs”.

5 See Logan, Hanoi, 97f.

6 See Herbelin, Architectures, Chapter 2, “Ernest Hébrard et la recherche d´un rationalisme indochinois,” 68–84; Logan, Hanoi, 99–109.

7 For photo, see Logan, Hanoi, 100

8 See also Nightingale, Segregation: A Global History of Divided Cities.

9 Hébrard, “L’Urbanism en Indochine,” 284, 285.

10 See Wright, Schriften und Bauten; Alofsin, Frank Lloyd Wright.

11 See Jeanneret, Vers une architecture; Riehl, Vers une architecture.

12 For information regarding the congress, see Mumford, The CIAM Discourse on Urbanism, 1928–1960.

13 Photo by the Hanoi architect Nguyen Van Ninh printed in Mazur, “Nguyen Cao Luyen, (1907–1987).”

14 See Herbeline, Architectures, 85–98.

15 For Ngyuen Cao Luyen, see Mazur, “Nguyen Cao Luyen, (1907–1987);” Labbé et al., “Domesticating the Suburbs,” 254 ff.; Herbelin, “Des HBM au Viet Nam;” Herbelin, Architectures, Chapter 3.

16 See Collins, Concrete: The Vision of a New Architecture; Freigang, August Perret.

17 See Muscheler, Gruppenbild mit Meister.

18 See, for example, Benton, Le Corbusiers Pariser Villen aus den Jahren 1920–1930; Passanti, “The Vernacular, Modernism, and Le Corbusier.”

19 Quoted in Herbelin, Architectures, 122–23.

20 See this argument in Goebel, Anti-Imperial Metropolis; for the following quote see ibid, 5.

21 Baldwin, “The Capital of the Men without a Country,” 460; quoted in Goebel, “‘The Capital of Men without a Country’”.

22 For the ethnic composition of Paris, see Goebel, Anti-Imperial Metropolis, 23f. In the early 1930s, approximately 13,000 North Africans and West Africans, 7,000 Vietnamese, including 700 students, and 4,000 Chinese lived in the Greater Paris area.

23 Letter by Truong Quan Thuy, February 1927, quoted in Goebel, Anti-Imperial Metropolis, 139f.

24 See Heberlin, Architectures, 124–29.

25 See above all Labbé et al., “Domesticating the Suburbs.”

26 See Herbelin, Architectures, 110: “A côté des colonisé, ce style coûteux,, utilisant des références élaborées, empruntées à la tradition savant, ne connut pas de véritable succès . . . cette architecture incarnait en effet difficilement les aspirations de la classe moyenne et de la bourgeoisie vietnamienne. Celle-ci préfère se tourner vers la moderne plus cosmopolite des oeuvres des architectes vietnamiens de l’EBAI conçues à partir des années 1930.”

27 Dào Quang Vy, “Enquête sur la jeuneusse annamite,” La Patrie annamite 60 (1936); quoted in Herbelin, Architectures, 122.

28 See the footnote above.

29 For photo, see Heberlin, Architectures, 117.

30 For photo, see ibid.