Heritage buildings left to crumble

Because the authorities lack experience with conservation and locals are not allowed to repair the houses themselves, heritage buildings in two Vietnamese port cities are slowly deteriorating.

Old House in Gia Hoi, Viet Nam News 20110110

Architectural heritage crumbles
Viet Nam News, 10 January 2011

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. One 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.

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Author: Noel Tan

Dr Noel Hidalgo Tan is the Senior Specialist in Archaeology at SEAMEO-SPAFA, the Southeast Asian Regional Centre for Archaelogy and Fine Arts.

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