Peter Steinhauer


Giang Vo Cages, Hanoi – 2016


Epson legacy platine paper

25.8 x 70 cm

Embodied within the urban landscape of Hanoi are the various types of architecture that make up this city’s diverse cultural identity. From the French colonial imprint to the Soviet-era housing, these influences interbreed with the traditional, local style of architecture to adapt to the tropical environment of Southeast Asia. In the early 1960s, Hanoi popularized a Soviet-style apartment block called “nhà tập thể (community house). Generally 3 to 5 stories in height, they housed many families; in between the blocks there would often be a courtyard with benches and a play area for children, which helped to foster a deep sense of community. Considered luxurious at the time and a privilege to live in, nhà tập thể were generally reserved for families of government and military officers, and then those of influence. With many now dilapidated and degenerated, nhà thập thể have lasted for more than six decades. Over the years, a variety of innovative architectural interventions were added to the original structures; each responding to the changing context of Vietnam as it transitioned from a centralized economic system with bureaucratic subsidies to a socialist‐oriented market economy. For example, an additional living space was often added to extend 2 to 4 meters off the apartment’s balcony. Covered with bars to prevent theft, such additions are referred to as “cages” or “tiger cages”. Living in Hanoi for many years, Peter Steinhauer has seen and been inside these apartments hundreds of times, thus the importance to him to photograph them has come to the forefront of his work.  

(Edited from excerpts provided by the artist)