Some organizations and individuals using old French houses and villas with different purposes have not fully recognized the significance and importance of preserving and promoting cultural, historical and architectural values of these works. Meanwhile, the regulations on management and preservation of old French houses and villas still have difficulties.

It requires clearer regulations on the preservation of old French houses and villas. Photo: Nguyen Hong Khanh

Unclear regulations

Deputy Director of the Hanoi Department of Construction Nguyen Chi Dung said that in implementation of the Government's Resolution No. 48/2007 / NQ-CP, the department has collaborated with relevant agencies to review and make a list of 970 state-owned old villas managed by the city authority. It also advises the City People's Committee for the project on management of old villas in Hanoi.

After that, Hanoi also issued many related documents, such as the Resolution on measures to renovate and rebuild old resident apartments, degraded old houses, and other architectural works built before 1954 in the city; Resolution on the list of old towns, old villages, typical traditional craft villages, old villas, and intangible cultural heritage in the capital; Resolution on adjusting the list of old villas; and a Decision on the list of 1,253 old villas built before 1954 and so on.

“In the period from 1954 to 2009, the old French houses and villas were only considered as a type of housing. The state has no regulations and policies to preserve and renovate. In the process of using them, many households have renovated and reconstructed at will and even changed their original structure with many historical and cultural values," Mr. Nguyen Chi Dung said.

An old French villa in Au Trieu Street. Photo: Le Tho

According to Assoc.Prof. Dr. Truong Quoc Binh, the former Deputy Director of the Department of Cultural Heritage (Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism), currently, there is a lack of basic regulations in the state management of historical and cultural relics, including old French buildings and villas, and the decentralization of management overlaps with the functions of ministries, branches, and authorities of the city, districts and wards. 

Therefore, the authorities cannot handle violations promptly. “The inconsistency of legal documents has led to the damage of these works recently. Besides, it is a lack of strict supervision from the authority as well. I think it is necessary that all management levels have the responsibility if there is a violation," he said.

Lack of conservation fund

Dr. Nguyen Quang Minh from Hanoi Construction University said that French houses in Hanoi were built and put into use more than 100 years ago, showing a typical architectural heritage of the French colonial period. However, these houses have not been systematically studied.

Works built from the colonial period have facing with serious degradation due to the long time usages. Photo: Truong Le Hung.  

“This type of urban housing has its own characteristics and, in many cases, they have a high architectural value and need to be thoroughly and fully evaluated as the basis for conservation in the context of  many risks as well as the impact of the market economy and strong urbanization,” he said.

Deputy Head of Housing and Real Estate Market Management Division (Hanoi Department of Construction) Vu Duc Thang said that since 2015, the department has completed the review and listing of old French villas and houses to classify, manage, and conserve. In which, many works have fallen into serious degradation, but in order to have a specific assessment of the degradation level, they had to hire specialized units to evaluate each project which needs  hundreds of millions of dong for restoration.

“French works in the colonial period have been in use for a long time, but have not been restored or upgraded and mainly exploited for different purposes. We use these projects completely in the "squeezed lemon" style until the last drop. If there are some repairs, they are only for the current needs and temporary, not in the proper way to satisfy cultural and artistic criteria. Besides, for a very long time, we have not assessed enough, right, and fairly the urban architectural assets.”

Former Vice Chairman of Vietnam Association of Architects Prof. Dr. Hoang Dao Kinh.


Urgent conservation of old French villas in Hanoi - Challenging conservation

Urgent conservation of old French villas in Hanoi - Challenging conservation

People who live in old insecure French villas are mindful that these works are rotten and unsafe, but they could not afford to relocate to another place so that they have no other choice but to stay.