Saigon's historic architecture 'could be demolished' for admin center expansion: official

By Huu Nguyen   May 2, 2018 | 08:29 pm GMT+7
Saigon's historic architecture 'could be demolished' for admin center expansion: official
Part of the 59-61 building as seen from outside. Photo by VnExpress/Huu Nguyen.

Officials said there are other ways to preserve built heritage, such as keeping a model of it.

A 130-year-old building in Saigon is facing the threat of demolition as part of a proposed expansion plan for the city’s People’s Committee headquarters.

Under the proposal, the building at 59-61 Ly Tu Trong Street in District 1, which is currently the headquarters of the city’s Department of Information and Communications, "could be destroyed" to give space for a bigger administrative center, Nguyen Thanh Nha, director of the city's Department of Planning and Architecture, told reporters on Wednesday.

The plan is awaiting feedback from experts and members of the public.

Nha said the building is not included on the government's conservation list and as such the authorities are under no obligation to save it.

He said the world has different ways to preserve old buildings, such as keeping part of them or keeping a model of them. Only recognized heritages are to be wholly protected, he said.

Vo Van Hoan, chief of office at the committee, expressed agreement.

“There are other ways to preserve Saigon’s architecture for future generations,” Hoan said.

The building was built by the French in the 1860s, upgraded in 1890, and used for the management and operations of all civil and judicial activities during colonial times. The building is the second oldest in Saigon, after a 228-year-old house that belonged to Bishop Ba Da Loc.

The old French government building at 59-61 Ly Tu Trong in Saigon is earmarked for destruction under a plan to build a new city administration center. Photo provided by Tim Doling

The old French government building at 59-61 Ly Tu Trong in Saigon is earmarked for destruction under a plan to build a new city administration center. Photo provided by Tim Doling

Several architects have already voiced their opposition to the plan.

Vo Kim Cuong, HCMC’s former deputy chief architect, said the building is an architectural gem and should not be destroyed.

Ngo Viet Nam Son, also a respected architect, said it would be “a shame” to demolish the building, saying the building’s historical value was “indisputable.”

The demolition of the building would “destroy the city’s soul”, said Nguyen Thi Hau, an archaeologist. She also said that any attempts to remove old structures to make way for modern development would rob the city of its rich history and culture.

The upgrade plan was first announced by HCMC’s Department of Planning and Architecture in April, using a design by U.S. architecture firm Gensler. If approved, the new center would span over 14,000 square meters.

 
 
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