VietNamNet Bridge – A centre for foreign tourists to learn about Ha Noi's Old Quarter was inaugurated yesterday at 50 Dao Duy Tu Street.



Good old days: Visitors enjoy photos of ancient Ha Noi at the Ha Noi Old Quarter Cultural Exchange Centre. — VNS Photo



The Ha Noi Old Quarter Cultural Exchange Centre is the result of a Toulouse-assisted project dedicated to promoting and preserving the thousand-year-old culture of the capital.

Located in Hoan Kiem District, the Old Quarter gathers households working in time-honoured handicrafts and small businesses. The neighbourhood has grown to be one of the city's most popular tourist attractions.

"Visitors to the centre can learn about the conservation of the Old Quarter's tangible and intangible heritage," said Duong Duc Tuan, chairman of Hoan Kiem District's People's Committee.

The basement demonstrates the process of restoring ancient houses and architecture in the Old Quarter in co-operation with Toulouse. These include Lan Ong Street, which specialises in traditional medicine; Dong Lac Temple, a communal house of the silk trade; ancient houses on Ta Hien Street; and Quan De Temple, built by Chinese people for worshipping third-century general Guan Yu.

The other three floors are dedicated to art exhibitions, cultural events, seminars and art performances. A permanent exhibition looking back on the capital's 1,000 years of history will open in April to celebrate the co-operation between Ha Noi and Toulouse, a milestone of the cities' commitment to restoring the Old Quarter.

It comprises drawings of old Ha Noi houses by Tran Hau Yen The as well as photos of Ha Noi in the 1980s by John Ramsden and the 1990s by Hans Peter Grumpe.

The centre's inauguration yesterday was followed by the opening ceremony of a photo exhibit to celebrate the 85th founding anniversary of the Communist Party of Viet Nam (February 3). The exhibition shows photos of Ha Noi streets in the old days as well as customs and trades such as embroidery and carving.

The area was formerly occupied by a theatre called Lac Viet, built in the colonial era and destroyed early in the 1980s by a fire. People working for the theatre, including actors and technicians, were allowed to build temporary houses on the plot.

In 2007, the site was entrusted by Hoan Kiem District to the co-operation scheme between Toulouse and Ha Noi so that the main reception site of the centre could be built there. In 2010, the families were re-housed to leave room for the future cultural centre.

Architect Romain Orfeuvre from Toulouse said French architects worked with Vietnamese cultural managers and specialists to decide how the centre would look. They combined a part of the theatre with the new building to maintain old features while also inserting modernity.

"Echoing the theme of the lost theatre, we sought to provide a reminder of its former presence in the general structure of the building and its facades," he said. "The centre will be an ideal place for cultural exchanges between Hanoians and international visitors."