Viet Nam News
ĐỒNG NAI — Despite homeowners’ efforts, many garden houses in Đồng Nai Province need restoration to prevent them from falling into ruin.
Lê Trí Dũng, director of the province’s Relic Management Board, said the Mekong Delta province has 100 garden houses, including 13 older houses built before 1900 of significant value that needed to be restored.
"Many traditional-style houses located in Biên Hòa City and Vĩnh Cửu, Long Thành and Nhơn Trạch districts are in danger of further deterioration," he said. "However, only a few homeowners have received support from local authorities and domestic and foreign organisations to restore their houses."
Trần Ngọc Thu Nghĩa, grand daughter of owner Trần Ngọc Du of a garden house located in Tân Vạn Commune, Biên Hòa, said her family received financial support from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and Showa Women’s University in Tokyo in 2004.
The garden house is located on 2,700 square metres of land. It has two main parts: a house built with 36 big wood pillars and a surrounding garden, designed according to traditional architecture style by Vietnamese in the south and to colonial French standards.
Another distinctive feature of the garden house is that all beams and pillars are joined by mortise and tenons, not nails.
"My grandfather spent several years to build our house. Construction was completed in 1900, and it has been upgraded several times," said Nghĩa, adding that the house was once open to the public free of charge, without support from local tourism firms.
Nghĩa’s house is now closed because of its poor condition.
Nguyễn Thị Diệp, owner of a garden house in Thạch Phú Commune, Vĩnh Cửu District, said: “Most owners of garden houses cannot afford to restore their property. We need support from local authorities to preserve the buildings.”
Diệp’s property is one of the province’s five oldest garden houses. It was built in 1915 on 1,000 square metres of land.
The house includes several big pillars made of precious solid wood such as căm xe (xylia xylocarpa). It has a brick-tiled roof, and stands on pillars surrounding a garden with trees and flowers.
In 1998, the Đồng Nai Museum and HCM City University of Architecture, in co-operation with Showa’s Women University, conducted research on 401 garden houses, including 76 old houses built before 1900, in Đồng Nai Province.
The province has lost nearly 300 houses over the last two decades.
Many owners have sold their houses to outsiders, who often disassemble the houses into small parts to move them for resale.
“Old garden houses are part of the traditional culture and architecture of Vietnamese. We are working to find ways to help local residents in preservation,” said Dũng. — VNS