Architects protest demolition of French villas, VN houses

Update: October, 26/2015 - 09:12
A French colonial villa located at HCM City's Vo Van Tan Road. Architects and historians have opposed the plan of demolishing about 3,000 old villas in the city. — Photo

HCM CITY (VNS) — About 3,000 valuable old houses and villas could be demolished in HCM City, but architects and historians have said that many of these historic structures should be restored.

Of the total number, about 168 valuable houses and villas, mostly built during the French colonial period, are under management of the State and receive funds from the city's state budget for repair and preservation costs.

Only eight Vietnamese traditional houses of the 3,000 remain in good condition, according to the city's Urban Research and Development Centre.

Most of the valuable old buildings were built during the French period. They include the HCM City People's Court (built in 1881), Gia Long King's Palace or Revolutionary Museum (1885), Majestic Hotel and Notre Dame Cathedral (1887), Sai Gon Post Office (1886-1891), HCM City People's Committee (1907), Opera House (1900) and Ben Thanh Market (1912-1914).

Many old villas have been renovated and now house schools, restaurants and coffee shops. They are mostly located on Tu Xuong, Vo Van Tan, Nguyen Dinh Chieu, Le Quy Don, Tran Quoc Thao streets.

Recently, two villas on Nguyen Thong and Nguyen Thi Minh Khai streets in District 3 were demolished because of structural deterioration.

The owners of 13 villas have submitted requests to the city to tear down their buildings.

Pham Cong Luan, a relative of Le Thanh Cong, 84, the owner of an old villa at 237 No Trang Long Street in Binh Thanh District, said the building had been difficult to maintain.

"The villa is still nice, but it's hard for the owner to keep it in good condition because of modern life and lack of concern from local authorities," he was quoted as saying in Sai Gon Giai Phong (Liberated Sai Gon) newspaper.

The sixth generation of Cong's family lives in the villa.

Cong said he had not repaired the building because he must wait for approval from local authorities.

"Authorities should complete reports about valuable old houses and villas as quickly as possible, along with financial and necessary technical requirements, so that owners can keep their buildings," said Nguyen Tan Tu of the city's Urban Research and Development Centre.

Architect Luong Thu Anh from the city's Master Planning and Architecture Department said that preservation of the city's old architecture had been ineffective.

Citizens and society in general, he said, had not paid sufficient attention to preservation of buildings with aesthetic, historical and architectural significance.

"For the last two decades, a significant number of historic buildings have disappeared," she said.

Meanwhile, Irish historian and researcher Tim Doling, who is based in Viet Nam, and has worked with the UN and other organisations in Viet Nam, began a Facebook page a year ago called Sai Gon Heritage Observatory, as well as a website

They both contain detailed information about most historic buildings in the city as well as other places around the country.

Doling also is an advocate for preservation of many of these buildings. — VNS