Murals change life in Hanoi's residential areas

Last update: 00:39 | 18/03/2019

Murals and 3D pictures on old walls to create new looks in living spaces has become a trend in many residential areas in Hanoi.


Some of these projects can be found in alleys at 39 Phao Dai Lang and 72 Nguyen Chi Thanh. They are not only enjoyed by residents, but also by the people who often travel along these alleys, which brighten their day as they make their way to their destination.

The residential area of 72 Nguyen Chi Thanh has seen more activities than usual with the advent of the new murals. The walls, which used to be dilapidated, are now are brightly painted by artists following 4 themes,  “Ocean”, “Airport”, “Nature”, and “Future”, bringing the whole new aesthetic to the residential area.

The paintings are the result of a community project, called Arts Build Communities (ABC), founded in 2017 by architect Ta Thu Huong.

Through the murals, the project is beautifying local people’s living space while raising awareness on the protection of public areas. Huong explains: “Public areas belong to everyone but also belong to no one. If we don’t care about them, they will quickly fall into disrepair.

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They will be in such poor conditions that no one will want to join in the common activities there. So, Arts Build Community aims to use the murals to formally establish the public area, so that people will recognize it as a public area, and they will consequently protect it and join in community activities more frequently.” 

The initial project conducted by ABC was in an alley at 39 Phao Dai Lang street, Hanoi, which is also the residential quarter of the Women Union’s Central Committee. The project comprised a group of 60 murals connected by a common topic -feminism- to honor the women in the residential area, who devoted their whole life to feminism and women’s rights.

After sharing some of the very first murals of the project, Huong received several messages from friends and artists who expressed admiration for the project and wanted to join in. Some painters came from art companies, some were freelancers, and some were foreigners willing to contribute to the project without any payment.

“I decided to join the project as I realized that it has a huge significance for the community. The walls of the residential areas are in considerable disrepair, so we have to take several steps to make sure paintings will last for a long time," said Artist Do Thi Hong Lien. 

"As part of the ABC project, we also hold events to let local people and their children participate in the project. We believe that when people become involved in the work, they will develop a vested interest in maintaining the spaces. Of course, when they finish the work, professional artists will remake them by turning the 2D paintings into 3D versions, making them more lively and compelling works,” Lien added.

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People who live around the murals now have a common space to treasure and care for. (Source: ABC)

Since the appearance of the murals in residential areas, the people living in the neighborhoods were well pleased and excited. People recognized the positive purpose of the project and supported the ABC team as much as they could.

Founder Thu Huong told VOV, “Actually it was very difficult during the first project, because local residents didn’t know who we were and where we came from. We tried to convince them to let us paint the first four murals. Then, they recognized that we had good ideas and that our project had a good purpose. They accepted us to implement the whole project. For the inaugural project, it took 4 months to persuade the local authority and residents. But in this newest project, the whole process only took one month.”

Vuong Nho is head of the residential area at alley 72 Nguyen Chi Thanh Street. He and many local residents are retired engineers, who devoted their whole lives to the construction of famous sites, such as the Thang Long bridge, the Chuong Duong bridge, Lang Hoa Lac road, and the road linking Hanoi and Noi Bai international airport. Mr. Nho is so happy observing the paintings in the “Airport” theme, saying that the paintings have a special meaning for the residents there as they stir up fond memories of the past. The murals serve as a bridge linking people together. 

“It’s great. The paintings help make the public areas clean and more beautiful. Through those paintings, we understand and love the arts more. The paintings not only contribute to the aesthetic transformation of the residential area but also connect the local residents together. Instead of just walking by, we now gather at the murals and chit chat, which bonds us to the place and also to each other,” said Nho.  

The murals change not only the appearance of the residential area, but the attitude of the people there. Project head Thu Huong said “People who live around the murals now have a common space to treasure and care for. 70 percent of the residents have contributed to the area through DIY projects. Some have used excess concrete to expand the common yard, some build chairs for the children to rest when they play, and some add sports equipment so people can exercise in the common areas."

"A lot of things have changed. The neighbors have become more friendly. We thought that we only made a small contribution, but the impacts have been huge and people have derived a lot of benefit from it.”  

The murals have changed people’s lives in a positive way. Many people have had the idea of spreading this kind of project throughout the residential areas of Hanoi.

Chu Thanh Huong, a resident, said “I think that it’s a very good idea if we can expand this kind of project. Because, you know, there are so many old buildings in Hanoi and the people will be very happy if they can see the walls around them brightened every day.”

Project head Ta Thu Huong revealed her future plans. “The success of ABC comes from the community, thus we need to carefully select the community for each project. We don’t want to simply paint murals, we want to build a community, so in the future we will expand the project to many other communities in Hanoi, and to do it very methodically. The most important thing is the community itself needs to be united through the power of art and have the opportunity for further development,” Huong said. 


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