The independence of Vietnam in 1955 ushered in a period of major upheavals: the arrival of the socialist era and war with the United States. With the Communist Party in control at all levels, communist ideology came to permeate all aspects of urban governance and production. The Party undertook a vast campaign of collectivization, and private property was banned. In line with their egalitarian doctrine, the Communist Party launched a massive construction program to create new residential neighbourhoods, or “collective zones,” the khu tap thé (KTTs). Built mostly in Hanoi’s surrounding suburbs, these slab apartment blocks counting dozens of units each initially contained common spaces to be shared by all occupants: entrances, stairwells, hallways, bathrooms, and kitchens (Pédelahore de Loddis, 2001).

At the same time, 20 years of conflict brought about the de-urbanization of the Vietnamese capital. The American bombardments sparked the exodus of city-dwellers to rural areas. The result was that between 1955 and 1975, the urban population of North Vietnam, where Hanoi is located, increased by only 0.1 to 0.2% (Tran, 2012).