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Hue buildings not easy to preserve

THUA THIEN-HUE — Most buildings in the complex of Hue monuments are hundred-year-old wooden structures that require much effort and precise methodology to restore and conserve.

Complicated: Three-door gate at the Dong Khanh Mausoleum in Hue.
Complicated: Three-door gate at the Dong Khanh Mausoleum in Hue.

A quick investigation shows that the former royal capitalcity has at least 500 wooden buildings that form part of a complex of palaces, mausoleums, temples and pavilions.

In addition, nha ruong, a traditional house with all wooden beams and pillars, is popular in the neighbourhood.

Conservation of these structures, from pagodas to communal houses to family temples, is hard because humidity in Hue is the highest in the country, and the complicated carving patterns used on these structures are difficult for today’s artisans to replicate.

According to Prof Hoang Dao Kinh, an architect, conservation of wooden structures is a big challenge.

“Partial repair is an effective and possible measure to conserve these wooden structures. The only thing of concern is how to harmonise partial repair with total repair at a time when demand for repairs is high,” Kinh said. “Total repair could sometimes lead to unexpected changes in the structures. Thus, artisans who are experts in wooden structure conservation should be the ones doing the repairs.”

Kinh also called for a clear plan for each repair work, as well as full commitment to the preservation of the original structure and value of the heritage buildings.

The complex of Hue monuments that the UN cultural agency UNESCO recognised as a world heritage site in 1993 includes numerous groups of buildings of various types and sizes that are scattered in numerous places such as Hue City and other districts along the city outskirts. Each group comprises several separate buildings.

“The typical situation is that scattered heritage buildings are in Hue City and the districts of Huong Thuy, Huong Tra and Phu Vang,” said Dang Van Bai, deputy chairman of the Viet Nam Cultural Heritage Association and an associate professor.

“These groups of buildings are often surrounded by residential houses and farms which exert more pressure on the safety of the heritage. Thus, the key to the conservation of wooden structures in Hue is to define the core and buffer zoning areas for buildings in need of conservation,” Bai added.

The associate professor also urged local authorities to relocate illegal residents in and around the heritage sites.

Together with Kinh and Bai, Japanese experts of the Japan Icomos National Committee also delivered papers sharing experiences in conserving wooden structures in the country. The experts were participants of a workshop on the conservation of wooden buildings held in Hue on Saturday.

The workshop programme included visits to areas with residential wooden houses in Hue which have been identified for future conservation