Vietnam News

Hanoi people denounce new colors of old French villa

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The new coating of an old French villa in Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi has prompted a backlash from local people and experts in architecture and heritage preservation.

The project to give the old French villa, which is located at 49 Tran Hung Dao Street in Hoan Kiem District, a new coat began in April 2022 and has been under the spotlight as many people expect to see the ancient building revived.

The developer is the Management Board of Hoan Kiem Lake and Hanoi Old Quarter, while experts from the Ile-de-France region will provide technical support.

Constructed in the early 20th century, the villa is one of the buildings that still retain many architectural values.

It is located on a land lot with two facades covering 993 square meters at the corner of Tran Hung Dao Street and Hang Bai Street.

After being revamped, the villa will function as a French cultural exchange center where heritage enthusiasts can learn about the formation of the French Quarter in Hanoi, the interaction between the French and Vietnamese cultures during the first half of the 20th century, and basic principles in the restoration and promotion of ancient French architecture.

The renovation, which costs up to VND14 billion (US$597,000), was expected to be complete in March this year.

However, a public backlash erupted immediately after new color washing paints were applied onto the villa as one of the final stages of the project.

The reactions vary, as observed by Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper, but a majority of the public opinions shows dislike of the new colors of the ancient building, with some people questioning whether the cost of VND14 billion is worth it or not.

Prof. Doan Minh Khoi, director of the Urban and Architectural Institute (UAI) under Hanoi University of Civil Engineering, who is also the design consultant of the project, is among the critics of the new paints.

Khoi said he is aware that “the current paints do not look good” and believes using an antique finish technique can please everyone, but that method is against what he and many Vietnamese and French experts have studied about the original colors of the villa.

Khoi added that it takes time for the new paints to transition to the ones in people’s instilled knowledge about the building.

Meanwhile, a representative of the People’s Committee of Hoan Kiem District affirmed that the currently controversial paints are not the final colors of the villa upon the completion of its revamp as the experts are experimenting with a number of colors.

For the VND14-billion cost of the project, the representative did not give a comment.

According to Prof. Khoi, the French and Vietnamese experts who are working on the project have not made any discussions to address the public outcry over the new colors of the building.

Architect Le Viet Ha, founder of the construction media site, suggested that the relevant units organize a press conference to present their paint selection during the project for more understandings from the public.

This is not the first time that there has been a big controversy surrounding the restoration projects of ancient buildings in Hanoi, given the previous cases of the Hanoi Opera House and the Hanoi Cathedral.

In the Hanoi Opera House’s case, its new paints were criticized as too bold and bright compared to the previous colors in many people’s memory.

In 2022, the revamp of the Hanoi Cathedral faced the same criticism and architects then had to paint the structure with new colors.

By Khang Nguyen & Thien Dieu – Tuoi Tre News – April 15, 2023

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