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Battle looms over proposed Hoan Kiem cultural centre

Update: November, 27/2014 - 08:35
A view of Hoan Kiem Lake. A project to build a four-storey cultural centre 12 metres from Hoan Kiem Lake has resurfaced after four years of consideration and heated debate. — VNA/VNS Photo Dinh Hue

HA NOI (VNS) — A project to build a four-storey cultural centre 12 metres from Hoan Kiem Lake has resurfaced after four years of consideration and heated debate.

The lake, in the heart of the capital city Ha Noi, is associated with the return of a legendary sword that had helped King Le Thai To to fight off northern invaders. It has huge historical and emotional meaning for Vietnamese.

The authority has been struggling to preserve the natural surrounding of the lake in the face of the city's rapid development in recent years.

The centre, if approved by the city, will be located on a small triangle of public land at the corner of Le Thai To and Luong Van Can streets, 12 metres from the lake.

The project was widely criticised the first time around by the local residents and experts alike. Their main objections were that such a modern structure would hinder views over the tree-lined lake.

Several households near the location have already filed complaints and requested the project be discontinued, according to Hoan Kiem District's Peoples' Committee.

Lam Quoc Hung, deputy chairman of the committee, said at a meeting back in 2012 that the city had considered another option - turning the location into a public park.

However 14 of the 16 members of the city's Committee for Planning and Architecture voted in support of the establishment of a cultural centre.

The location is quite small (242 square metres) and is surrounded by run-down houses, said Hung, adding that a small park would not be able to hide them.

"The location is covered with metal panels. It's an ugly sight in the heart of the city. We must come up with a solution quickly to remove it," he said.

Hung also said the main function of the centre would be to exhibit and provide information about the lake and to serve as an office for the lake's management unit.

Duong Trung Quoc, an historian and National Assembly deputy, said the project was opposed by the public four years ago.

He demanded that city authorities answer all the questions raised back then before restarting the project.

Another scholar, however, has a different view.

"The new building would not necessarily damage the scenery or the historical value of the lake," he said.

"We must clearly identify what locations around the lake possess historical value and what needs to be protected," said associate professor Ha Dinh Duc, an expert on the lake. — VNS

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