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Everything old is new again

A one-year pilot project to revamp Ta Hien Street in Ha Noi’s Old Quarter has been completed.

The project aimed to restore the 52m stretch of the street often referred to as Pho Tay (Westerners’ street) to its original mix of French and traditional Vietnamese houses.

The front facade of 10 two-storey French architectural style terrace houses with sloping tiled roofs on one side of the street and a group of Vietnamese-style houses on the other side was successfully restored to it’s former glory.

All of the houses were built in the early 20th century when the country was still under the French colonial rule. The basic structures were intact, though they were in dilapidated condition.

The work involved plastering and repainting walls, balconies and windows, and a unified design was incorporated for the front doors, air-conditioning units and advertising boards.

The road surface was repaired with stone, while the drainage and night-light systems were upgraded.

The VND15 billion (US$798,000) project was the result of co-operation between Ha Noi, the French city of Toulouse and the capital’s Institute for Urban and Rural Architecture and Planning.

“We have conducted serious research for this renovation work,” said architect Nguyen Hoang Long, who is mainly responsible for the project. “But the real implementation required many adjustments to meet owners’ demands.”

The front face of the first house at the Ta Hien-Luong Ngoc Quyen junction, which is called “international junction” as many foreign back-packers flock there to enjoy bia hoi (draught beer), had been opened up a little more to accommodate more beer bars, he said.

“Unlike restoration work carried out on temples and pagodas, with these house we also had to meet the demands of local residents,” he added.

The street will soon be pedestrianised on the weekends, as will neighbouring Hang Buom, Hang Giay, Luong Ngoc Quyen, Ma May and Dao Duy Tu.

Long said a nice touch would be to place wooden benches along the street to serve tourists.

Local residents said they were delighted with the street’s makeover.

“In general, the street’s architecture looks beautiful and uniform,” said Trinh Tho, 81, who has been living in the street for half a century. “The houses look just like they used to. Guests coming to my house are happy and surprised with its new look.”

Trieu Long, who runs a souvenir shop in the street, designed his wooden advertising board according to regulations issued by the Old Quarter Management Department. He was even asked to design boards for other shops in the street.

Nguyen Van Khoi, vice chairman of the Ha Noi People’s Committee, said similar renovation work would be carried out in other streets in the Old Quarter and period houses in other parts of the country.

Source: VNS

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