A proposed plan to completely revamp a historical site in the downtown area of Da Lat – the capital city of Lam Dong Province and a tourist hot spot in the Central Highlands region of Vietnam – has faced a backlash from local architecture experts for its lack of urban planning and historic preservation.
The historical site in question is Dinh Hill, which houses ‘Dinh Tinh Truong’ – the residence of the head of the erstwhile Tuyen Duc Province, which is now part of Lam Dong Province, during the French colonial era.
Dinh Tinh Truong was finished in 1910, incorporating a style of architecture considered to be among the most beautiful in Da Lat even by today’s standards.
However, lack of maintenance has caused the building to fall into disrepair over the last few decades.
Dinh Hill is considered a 'golden land plot' because it is the only remaining major green space in the center of Da Lat City with a commanding view in all four directions.
Over 90 percent of Dinh Hill’s nearly 1.7-hectare area is green space, with the rest occupied by the Dinh Tinh Truong building.
The proposed revamp for Dinh Hill is part of a master plan for Da Lat and surrounding areas planned for 2030, with a vision toward 2050, that received approval from the prime minister in 2014.
According to the plan, the Hoa Binh Theater area, which covers 3.37 hectares in downtown Da Lat including Dinh Hill, will become a mixed-use complex with modern architecture for services and entertainment.
Da Lat authorities have presented three options for Dinh Hill, with a survey to be conducted among local residents, tourists, and experts to gather public opinion and feedback on the three choices.
One common feature in all three options is the planned construction of a modern multifunction high-rise hotel complex that offers accommodations, exhibitions, and services on the current site of Dinh Hill, which has attracted vigorous objections from experts.
|This collage shows artist’s impressions of three planning options for the future Dinh Hill featuring a complex of hotel, exhibitions, and services in Da Lat City, Lam Dong Province, Vietnam.|
A mistake waiting to be made
“This is not a ‘spatial planning’ for Dinh Hill in a professional sense," said a member of the Lam Dong Architects Association, who did not want to be named.
“It is just what they call it. In fact, these are just graphical illustrations of ideas to build a grand multifunction hotel so as to bring in business benefits for an investor that will emerge in the future."
Reputable architect Ngo Viet Nam Son, who has a strong attachment to Da Lat, said “the detailed planning of the Hoa Binh Theater area is already erroneous in terms of urban conservation and development, and the Dinh Hill planning is even worse.”
According to Son and the community of architects and planners, the general planning, as well as the three options for a Dinh Hill revamp, that the provincial People’s Committee has proposed will not be beneficial to the local people.
Son explained that the first option, which proposes Dinh Tinh Truong be raised 28 meters higher than its current location, will be no different than destroying the over-100-year-old residence and replacing it with a new construction.
Additionally, this plan calls for old trees on the hill to be removed for new ‘green spaces’ that are mainly covered by shrubs and potted plants, small plants of little value, Son said, warning that this method will change the topographic structure in the area.
The second option, in which a modern large-volume building will be erected next to Dinh Tinh Truong, would interfere with and detract from the integrity and originality of both works, according to Son.
In the third option, the current green area in Dinh Hill would be destroyed by about 70 percent.
“If the plan is really implemented, disregarding the community’s benefits, its consequences are clear: overurbanization in the city center and permanent loss of heritage space,” the architect warned.
“Its implementation will be making a mistake in history and for posterity."
“I think that if we respect the people, history and heritage [of Da Lat], the planning of the Hoa Binh Theater area that the provincial People’s Committee approved more than one year ago should be abolished.”
Son suggested the approved planning of the Hoa Binh Theater area should be carried out in other areas far away from Da Lat’s center, in accordance with the spirit of the prime minister's approval in 2014, which envisioned the place as a heritage city and "a city in the forest – a forest in the city.”