Creative space a must, but safety paramount

Last week, Viet Nam News asked its readers what they valued more, safety or authenticity, after a tragic fire in Ha Noi’s industrial complex-turned-hangout Zone 9 killed six workers and injured another dozen.

Here are some replies we received.

Susan May, German, Ha Noi

The accident at Zone 9 was very unfortunate. However, I think we can both ensure the safety of Zone 9 and maintain its authenticity.

I have been to Zone 9 twice and I have never seen such an artistic area in Ha Noi. It reminds me of underground art spaces in cities like Seoul, Amsterdam or even in Bangkok.

The question of whether a place like Zone 9 is necessary or not is similar to when we talk about graffiti. If we designate an area for youngsters to express themselves, it’s better than banning them.

Young people, especially those who love arts, lack a space to express themselves. Can they just limit themselves to decorating coffee shops? It’s very difficult to find a place in this crowded city where they are allowed to do such works without being caught for engaging in vandalism.

Zone 9 have coffee shops and bars with vintage-style. It gives young people an out-of-pathway space to get away from the crowded bars in the city.

I also know that many owners move here due to the cheap rent. However, there’s also a plan for an apartment building here in the next few years. So this place does not have a definite future.

If local authorities allow this place to operate until then, there should be a regulation to make sure that all renters can ensure safety. Otherwise, they must move out of the area now. Otherwise, they have to spend more funding to fix their shop or bar.

Satoh Kumiko, Japanese, Ha Noi

It was a coincidence that right after I visited a new Japanese restaurant in Zone 9 that the bar fire happened. I myself have been to Zone 9 several times with my friends to enjoy the entertainment at night.

Personally, I really like the idea of Zone 9 where different artistic ideas and initiatives can be gathered in the same place. Let’s think about this. Isn’t it difficult to get artists sitting around together? I think it is, since artists’ egos are normally big. But here in Zone 9, we have many different people with different styles in one place.

It was brilliant for those who started from an abandoned factory and turned into a popular art and entertainment centre like it used to be more than a week ago. And I really like the authentic industrial-style experience in the Zone.

So looking at the successes of Zone 9 compared to others in Ha Noi, I object to the idea to close down the whole area after the bar fire last week.

The authorities, instead, can issue policies to encourage such areas to operate and ensure safety at the same time. The Government can also think about providing infrastructure for temporary artists so that they can develop creativeness.

Susan Milder, American, Ha Noi

Zone 9 has taken the same concept as other art districts in the world by choosing an abandoned urban area or factory to turn into an artistic area.

Outsiders, when looking at those districts, may immediately think they’re not safe or that the old foundation may collapse.

However, in fact, architects ensure that the place only looks damaged, while the structure is stable.

Do not think about safety as an abstract notion. It should be related in detailed regulations. In this regard, I can say shops and restaurants in Zone 9 meet the requirements to a far greater degree than many others outside.

It was reported in the case of Zone 9 that the fire was caused by careless welders. It was a work accident. But it seems that the media in Viet Nam show the tragic fire in the wrong light, reporting the case based on only a superficial look.

Many of those who reported the case, I guess, have never really experienced things at Zone 9.

Kristy Lu, Chinese, Ha Noi

I think Zone 9 is the coolest area in Ha Noi, especially for foreigners. I’ve been to other art districts which provide cultural, artistic and commercial activities, including Dashanzi Art District, the original 798 Factory in Beijing and Gillman Barracks in Singapore and I really love the places.

Here in Ha Noi, Zone 9 is my favourite place in the city. From what I saw, many youngsters, including Vietnamese, really enjoy the place. It would be so sad if they closed all the zone because of the fire.

Andrew Burden, Canadian, Ha Noi

“Safety first” is the employer-employee mantra on every Western Canadian oilfield. The province of Alberta states every employee has the right to refuse unsafe work. I exercised that right twice, receiving my ‘free’ bus ticket back to the city.

I blame the deaths of the welders firmly on both the worker and his boss. The worker is poor, from out of town and in need of a job. That is no excuse to work unsafe. No job is worth dying for.

I especially blame the greedy indifferent boss for not caring enough to provide basic safety training and equipment. Most of all I blame the careless government and its various enforcement agents who must be blind. Each day I have to shrug my shoulders, grit my teeth, then get on my motorbike.

At night I almost drive into an unmarked pile of dirt or gravel dumped on the road for construction. I get flat tires by driving over holes in the road not paved beside metal grates and covers. Had I tried to avoid them I would have run into the guy on each side. Bamboo scaffolding while wearing flip flops and no gloves? Don’t get me started!

It would have been perverse luck if French or German citizens had died during their respective embassy-sponsored events. Then the international headlines would have prompted real change. Life is as cheap here as a motorcycle helmet or a bowl of pho. — VNS

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