Architectural heritage crumbles
QĐND - Monday, January 10, 2011, 20:26 (GMT+7)
Historic buildings in two localities that functioned as commercial port towns during the Nguyen dynasty are in a severely dilapidated condition.
The Bao Vinh town, which hosted a busy port in 18th century, had 39 old buildings standing at the end of the American War.
Meanwhile, Gia Hoi, a bustling port town in early 19th century, had 140 old buildings featuring traditional Vietnamese, Chinese as well as French colonial architecture.
These buildings have been so badly damaged by the rampant urbanisation of last two decades that only 15 of them still stand in Bao Vinh, while Gia Hoi has 55.
Residents complain that they are caught in a bind. On the one hand, they cannot repair their houses to make them safe or expand it to meet their needs because authorities have banned such actions. On the other hand, the authorities themselves have taken no action to preserve the old buildings.
"Many old houses in Bao Vinh are in ruin and vulnerable to floods and hard weather," said Nguyen Van Bon, chairman of Huong Vinh commune.
A conservation project to protect the two towns was set up by Thua Thien Hue province in 2003, but only three houses were repaired with funds from the French Parliament. In Gia Hoi, one pagoda had its gate and entrance restored.
Experts have called on authorities to act before it is too late.
"Architecture reflects history, so there is a need to protect Bao Vinh and Gia Hoi. Authorities should promptly come up with ways to deal with the conflict between conservation and locals' benefits," said Nguyen Viet Tien, chairman of the province's Planning Association.
Nguyen Xuan Hoa, former director of the province's Culture Department, said it was not possible to restore Bao Vinh as an old town because not many old house remained in it.
"But Gia Hoi has unique architectural values with a national-heritage pagoda, a Hindu temple, the house of a Japanese karate master, overseas Chinese club house, French colonial buildings and palaces of royal family members. It would be interesting to restore the old town," he said.