Hanoi Opera House to radiate new cultural space

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Báo Đầu Tư English - 4 month(s) ago 2 readings

On the anvil for about a decade, Culture Ministry gets serious about transforming the Ha Noi Opera House and its environs, Thien Huong reports.

Architectural marvel: An aerial view of Ha Noi Opera House in 1986. - VNA/VNS Photo Vu Hanh

The iconic Ha Noi Opera House will ‘open up’ to become the centrepiece of a special cultural space that incorporates the August Revolution Square, the Co Tan Park and the Museum of National History.

The grandiose plan that would aesthetically and functionally transform downtown Ha Noi and enhance its status as a major tourism destination was announced at recent press briefing by Culture Minister Nguyen Ngoc Thien.

Thien said his ministry would invite foreign consultants to landscape the area around the Opera House.

The Opera House itself would be renovated, surrounding fences removed and the café beside it turned into an open park that connects with the August Revolution Square in front of it.

The new site would be one that presents both featuring traditional and contemporary shows of fine arts and performing arts, he said.

The plan has been supported by the city’s leaders.

“We will finish choosing consultants and preparing a draft plan by the end of this year,” said Nguyen Thai Binh, a ministry official.

“The State budget would be used for a part of the project expenditure, with the rest contributed by individuals and organisations,” he added.

Architects pitch in

Renowned architect Ho Thieu Tri, who directed renovation of the Opera House in 1995, welcomed the idea of a new cultural space.

“It (Opera House) is a special historical building with a special cultural meaning. This project will enhance the special image of the capital city in the world,” Tri told Viet Nam News."

“The plan of rearranging spaces around the Opera House and connecting with nearby museums has been considered since 1992,” said Dao Ngoc Nghiem, vice chairman of Ha Noi Urban Planning and Development Association.

“The plan also mentioned connecting streets of Trang Tien-Trang Thi and nearby architectures and turning them into a cultural space for Ha Noi.”

Another architect, Tran Huy Anh, said that associating the Opera House with neighbouring buildings and parks was the original plan of the French when they built it more than a hundred years ago.

Anh recalled a similar project proposed by Prof Ton Dai and his students, which won high appreciation.

Anh stressed that the Opera House was among five historical buildings in the area, including the Revolutionary Museum in Tong Dan Street (the first building in Ha Noi with pre-colonial architectural features), the National Museum of Vietnamese History, the Guest House of the Ministry of Defence, and the Museum of Geology on Pham Ngu Lao Street.

“These buildings have been divided into small spaces for cafes, restaurants and car parking,” Anh said, adding a “general plan for architectures in the area is needed to bring into full play the real values of these buildings”.

Architect Nghiem noted that future tasks are not limited to opening up spaces. They also involve relocating some offices in the area to the outskirts.

“In the past decades, there have been many workshops and contests on the cultural space surrounding the Opera House,” Nghiem said, but it was seen as a “headache for the city authorities to move some agencies, including the General Department of Geology, to the outskirts”.

Architect Hoang Thuc Hao noted that there were two parks on either side of the Opera House that should be linked when creating an open space for public.

“To make this happen, it will be necessary to rearrange traffic routes and create pedestrian zones,” Hao said.

Nghiem suggested that authorities poll city residents, experts and other sectors to prepare a master plan for the project.

“We should open design contests for special spaces like Co Tan Park that will include sculptures, grass, flowers and benches,” he said.

Cultural haven: The Opera House at night.

“Besides, if we call for contributions (from all sectors), we should ensure the contributors’ profit,” he said, adding, “We should plan areas for them to open services like cafes, restaurants and parking lots.”

East-west axis

Architect Tri suggested that with the Opera House being the centre point of the open space, the axis should run east-west from the House towards the Hong River. To the west of the Opera House is Trang Tien Street, which runs into the green space of Hoan Kiem Lake. Commercial activities on Trang Tien should be continued, he said.

“On the north-south axis, we should maintain the green public spaces on Phan Chu Trinh, Le Thanh Tong and Ly Thai To streets,” he said.

"The Opera House should also connect with plans to develop both banks of the Hong River with green spaces, forming a united complex," Tri added.

Opera House Director Nguyen Thi Minh Nguyet said the idea of the cultural space had just been proposed by the Culture Ministry. The Opera House has not been assigned any concrete duties.

She noted that the Ha Noi Opera House carried great historical and architectural value for the nation. Along with the August Revolution Square (formerly called Theatre Square), it was the scene of great events associated with the August Revolution and the early years of the Democratic Republic of Viet Nam.

On August 17, 1945, at the Theatre Square, a meeting was held to introduce the Viet Minh (Viet Nam Independence League) Front.

On August 29, 1945 the North Vietnamese Army was introduced at the Theatre Square.

In early October 1945, a meeting was held in the Theatre Square in support for resistance against the return of French troops in South Viet Nam.

On May 3, 1945, the National Assembly of the Democratic Republic of Viet Nam held its first meeting at the Opera House.

Since then, the Opera House was the venue for National Assembly meetings until the Ba Dinh Meeting Hall was constructed in 1963.

After nearly a hundred years of use, the Opera House underwent a major renovation led by famed architect Ho Thieu Tri between 1995 and 1997.

It has since been assessed as one of the most beautiful buildings in Southeast Asia. It is now the most opulent building in Ha Noi, and houses major events, including meetings and high-class performances by domestic and international artists.

Source VNS

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