Designed by Gustave Eifel, the Long Bien Bridge was built in 1898 by the Daydé and Pillé Company, and inaugurated in 1903. At that time it was the longest bridge in Indochina and one of the four longest bridges in the world. In the 19th century, the bridge was called the Doumer Bridge in the name of the Governor General of Indochina.
With a length of 1,682m including 19 steel spans, the bridge is a fine example of the engineering concepts, metal work and architecture also featured in Paris Eiffel Tower. The bridge is also a survivor having being bombed during two wars. Today it stands as a symbol of Vietnam’s courageous fight for liberty. During this era of peace and development, the bridge serves as a connection between Hanoi’s past and the present.
On October 10-11, the Long Bien Festival of Arts will take place on the bridge, an event marking the 55th anniversary of Hanoi’s liberation, and 2009 as the year of Cultural Diplomacy. The staging of an annual arts festival centered on and around this bridge will help to affirm Hanoi’s place as an artistic capital.
Memories of Long Bien Bridge will be expressed through a variety of artistic mediums including paintings, photos, sculptures, music, film, and food. For 48 hours the bridge and its neighbourhoods will be exclusively pedestrian. People can stroll and explore the city’s history and arts. Hundreds of artistic works by Vietnamese and foreign artists will be on display.
More than 100 paintings of Long Bien Bridge by over 80 artists were displayed at a special auction at Melia Hotel, Hanoi held as a pre-event gala to help promote the upcoming Long Bien Festival of Arts. The Long Bien Bridge of My Heart by Nguyen Duc Can and The Bridge of Love by Bui Trong Du fetched the highest total of the night with a winning bid of $5,500.
A number of activities are scheduled to take place during the festival, including a walk on the theme of Green Hanoi, Peaceful Hanoi’s to mark the 10th anniversary of UNESCO’s designation of Hanoi as a City of Peace. Silk calligraphy will also be hung on the bridge.
Documentaries about the bridge will be aired. And a parade of Vietnam’s 54 ethnic groups will celebrate their colourful fashions, dances and songs. Local artisans will be able to showcase and sell their handicrafts. Offerings will include ceramics, bamboo wares, silk, Dong Ho folk paintings, fans, handmade paper, medicinal herbs and conical hats.
The festival will close with a mass for all those killed in warfare and the release of 999 candle-lit lanterns onto the Red River. Initiated by Nguyen Nga, the Vietnamese- French director of Maison des Arts, the festival has received support from many foreign and local artists. This festival itself promises to be a memorable event in Hanoi’s history.