French-era railway headquarters in HCM City needs preservation

Many experts agree that the 20th-century building in downtown HCM City serving as the headquarters of the Sai Gon Railway Company on 136 Ham Nghi Street needs to be preserved.

French-era railway headquarters in HCM City needs preservation
The Sai Gon Railway Company headquarters, located at 136 Ham Nghi Street District 1 in HCM City, needs to be restored and preserved. — Photo tienphong.vn

Two architects give their views about the need for preservation:

Architect Cao Thanh Nghiep

Vietnam was one of the first countries in Asia to develop a railway system. In fact, Sai Gon was home to the first steam train in Indochina. This event, celebrated in December 27, 1881, marked an important milestone for the Vietnam railway industry.

The building was originally known as the Bureau du Chemin de Fer Building (Railway Bureau) and is believed to be the last remnant of Sai Gon’s early railway system before 1975. Together with train and tram systems, this building reflects a valuable symbol of architectural heritage that many other cities in Asia did not have at that time.

As a train system has once again gained popularity, it is important for a big city like HCM City to develop a public train system that is worthy of its status. A quality metro system can bring about various economic benefits while reducing air and noise pollution.

HCM City should preserve what is left of the old Sai Gon as it represents a memorable period of the South in general and HCM City in particular. 

Conservation and damage prevention should be on the top of to-do list for this building. It has been over 100 years, and if nothing is done, it will be very challenging to preserve the original values of this French colonial building.

 

It would be relevant to convert the building into a museum for visitors to learn about HCM City’s development and the history of the local railway industry. 

Architect Nguyen Ngoc Dung

HCM City has neglected to conserve a number of buildings with significant value such as Eden Apartment and the Tax Building. In fact, there are not many places downtown for visitors to learn about the history of HCM City.

The train headquarters is architecturally beautiful, with many details relatively intact. The building is perfect for tourists to get to know about HCM City in general and how an agricultural-based country like Vietnam was able to be one of the first to develop a railway system. 

The office space inside this building can be relocated elsewhere. It is crucial to start restoring this building as soon as possible before it deteriorates.

According to the 1964 Venice International Charter on the preservation and restoration of monuments, all buildings over 100 years old should be taken care of well, especially their interior spaces. Relevant authorities should re-evaluate the value of this building to determine the best conservation measures.  VNS

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