Youth-friendly public spaces in a context of rapid urbanization

Research Project on Public Space & Urban Youth Culture in Hanoi by A Canadian-Vietnamese partnership

Providing public spaces where youths can flourish is a tall order for the Vietnamese capital. This rapidly urbanizing Asian city combines some of the world’s highest densities with very limited formally-planned public spaces. Bringing together Canadian and Vietnamese researchers and the NGO HealthBridge, this study tackles the issue of youths and public space in Hanoi with the hope of contributing to the positive engagement of young Hanoians with the city where they live. In this research, we provide a picture of the evolution of public spaces in the region (in terms of overall spatial distribution, available areas, quality, and usage) and an understanding of the driving forces behind these changes.

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Are formally-planned public spaces fulfilling youths’ needs?


How have formally-planned public spaces evolved between 2000 and 2010?


How can planning, design, and governance of public spaces better meet youths’ needs?

The 15-24 years old represent a significant part of Hanoi’s population: almost 16% in 2012.

Read More
Vietnamese youth are at the forefront of Vietnam’s urban transition and society.Youths - Facts and Figures

Observation photos of youth practicing lifestyle sports.
see Photo Gallery here…

Themed Videos by Vincent Beaumont
see Video Gallery here…

Photos and VideosGallery
In depth additional information

Youths – Research Themes

+a) Activities
What do youth do in public spaces?

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+b) Gender
Being a girl in public spaces.
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+c) Accessibility
Constraining and enabling youth use of public spaces.

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+d) Territorialization
No conflicts: Spatial choreographies and negotiation strategies.

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Hanoi combines some of the worlds’ highest human densities (reaching up to 404 persons/ha) with scarce public spaces. Public space represents only 0.3% of the city’s territory and less than 1m2 per capita (HAIDEP 2007).

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Hanoi's public space compared to other cities in AsiaPublic Spaces - Facts and Figures

Our study focuses on formal public spaces, combining geographic data, quantitative analysis and a qualitative focus on three parks:

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Lenin Memorial Park, the 34T Plaza and Hòa Bình Park3 Sites
In depth additional information

Public Spaces – Detailed Research

+a) 2000 / 2010
Maps of the evolution of:

i) Public Gardens
ii) Parks
iii) Lakes
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+b) Policies
Policy-makers, at all levels of government, pay considerably more attention to the issue of urban public spaces today than they did in the first years of the đổi mới reforms.
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+c) Publicness
How ‘Public’ are Hanoi’s Public Spaces?

i) Control and Safety (presence of guards)
ii) Physical Maintenance & Provision of Facility;
iii) Animation
iv) Vendors
v) Entrance Fees
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+d) Users' Preferences
Likes Likes – Environment, social exchange, pleasantness and convenient access.

Dislikes – Environmental quality, saturation of the space, physical and budgetary constraints, security and transgressive behaviors.
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Physical Health, Mental Health, Socialization, Aesthetic, Economic …

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Public spaces are important for youth development and the whole society. Benefits of Public Spaces for Youths

Research Partners and Methodology

Meet our team
Who? and How? Our Team and Method
List of documents and results from the research project

Research Report

+a) Benefits
i) Health Benefits
ii) Socialization and mutual-assistance
iii) Relaxation: A space to release daily stress
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+b) Recommendations
i) Why public spaces are important for youth and the whole society?
ii) Recommendations targeting specific types of public spaces
iii) Long term actions and goals related to planning issues, monitoring systems and a research and development agenda.
Read More…

+c) Links & Documents
Further reading, external links and document downloads
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  • 16% of Hanoi’s population is aged 15-24 years old;
  • Most rural migrants moving to Hanoi are aged between 15 and 34;
  • Urbanites aged 25 years old or below are the first generation (since the 1950), to be widely exposed to the global flow of cultural materials, trends, and ideas.


Public spaces are very scarce in Hanoi. It is very rare to find one [where one can practice].
(focus group interview, November 22, 2013)



Public space provision is very challenging in Hanoi. The Vietnamese capital is characterized by some of the worlds’ highest human densities (up to 404 persons/ha), and very scarce formal public spaces: only 0.3% of the city’s territory and less than 1m² per capita.

Compared to other Asian cities with similar high-density urban fabrics, Hanoi is also one of the poorest cities in terms of square meters of green space per habitant: 11.2 m²/capita, compared to an Asian average of 39 m².  According to the 2011 Asian Green City Index, Hanoi is the only city, out of the 22 surveyed, that ranks ‘well below average’ in terms of land use and building.

Source: Economist Intelligence Unit (2011) Asian Green City Index.

3 Sites

This research focused on three of Hanoi’s formal public spaces: Lenin Memorial Park, the 34T Plaza and Hòa Bình Park. These places are particularly attractive to youths because:

They are relatively large public spaces by Hanoi standards;
They are adjacent to main streets and so are easily accessible;
They are unfenced and do not charge an entry fee (as opposed to most of the city’s other large parks);
They feature un-programmed, flat surfaces that allow for multiple uses.
 Inherited from the colonial era
 In the city’s historical and political heart
 17 000 m²
 “cultural park”
While originally created by the French, this park was re-appropriated by Hanoi’s authorities in 1976. That year, a statue of the Soviet figure Vladimir Lenin was installed in its centre.
In principle, recreational activities are forbidden in this park due to its official classification as a “cultural park” (công viên văn hóa) (i.e., parks serving as historical and political symbols).
In practice, this is a locus of youth activities, especially new “street sports” such as hip-hop, skateboarding, inline skating, freestyle soccer etc.
This park is particularly crowded at night. Despite (or perhaps because of) this intense activity, youths keep coming, enhancing its image as a “youthful” place.
 Created to mark the city’s 1000-year anniversary
 200 000 m²
 “cultural park”
Named “Peace” park, this vast public space was inaugurated in 2010 to symbolize Vietnam’s entry into an era of prosperity and peaceful external relations. As with Lenin Memorial Park, this park is considered a cultural park. It is also meant to provide a leisure space to residents living on the city’s northwestern edge.
The park is surrounded by several universities. It is very popular among students (many of whom have come from rural areas) who live nearby. It is appreciated by couples for its quietness and its romantic lake scenery.
 Completed in 2006
 In a new suburban area
 4,000 m²
 “multi-purpose space”
The hard-surface plaza is named after the 34-story tower facing it. It is located in a planned suburb of Hanoi known as Trung Hoa-Nhan Chinh inhabited by a new middle class and a new economy of headquarters, banks and enterprises.
The 34T Plaza is officially categorized as a “multi-purpose space” (không gian đa năng). The space is meant to be used for a variety of activities without the kind of restrictions associated with “cultural parks.”
While the 34T Plaza was primarily built to serve the needs of local residents, it remains open and accessible to other users living outside the neighbourhood.
Users are mostly from the neighbourhood. There are fewer street sports practiced there than in our other two study sites.

map of hanoi with our 3 sites

Click + Zoom + Pan



The use of public spaces brings multiple benefits to youths:


Our Team

INRS – Urbanisation Culture Société

INRS – Urbanisation Culture Société

Montreal, Canada

Ville et espaces politiques (VESPA) is a dynamic research laboratory that offers researchers the technology and equipment necessary for qualitative data collection, research analysis, archiving and networking.

VASS – Institute of Sociology

VASS – Institute of Sociology

Hanoi, Vietnam

Institute of Sociology (IoS) - Research basic theoretical and practical issues on social development and social management in Vietnam for the development undertakings and policies of the Party and the State.



Hanoi, Vietnam

HealthBridge Vietnam’s activities include research and pilot projects, working with local groups and officials in the cities of Hanoi, Hue and Hoi An, to develop clear strategies for developing and maintaining public spaces.

  • INRS / UdeM / UQÀM

    Institut national de la recherche scientifique / Université de Montréal / Université du Québec à Montréal
    Julie-Anne Boudreau, Laurence Charton, Mélissa Côté-Douyon, Stephanie Geertman, Pham Thi Thanh Hien, Olivier Jacques, Danielle Labbé, Alice Miquet, Étienne Pelletier

  • VASS - Institute of Sociology

    Dang Nguyen Anh (director), Doan Phuong Thuy, Trinh Thai Quang, Nguyen Thi Ngoc Ha, Nguyen Thi Xuan, Nguyen Vu Cuong, Nghiem Thuy, Pham Ngoc Tan

  • HealthBridge

    Tran Thi Kieu Thanh Ha (project manager), Sian Fitzgerald and Kristie Daniel (Canada office)

  • Film-Maker

    Vincent Baumont, Almaz Media     

  • Colleagues

    Tran Huy Anh, Ta Quynh Hoa (DHXD), Doan The Trung (DHXD), Nguyen Pham Son Tung, Tran Hoang Viet, Dinh Thi Dieu, Doan Thi The, Nguyen Kim Dung, Sylvain Rodrigue, Tran Thi Huong Giang, Buy Minh Tam, Nguyen Thanh Mai and Tran Ngoc Anh

  • Web-Design

    Web design by Olivier Jacques
    Translation to Vietnamese by Tran Thi Huong Giang
    Financed by Université de Montréal

Contact Us

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