New life for Dalat’s Redemptorist monastery
The restoration of Da Lat’s abandoned monasteryResidents and tourists alike have shared their disappointment over the removal of large portions of the Franciscaines Misionnaires de Marie – an abandoned monastery in the Central Highlands city of Da Lat – during the site’s renovation.
Spanning more than seven hectares, the chapel and residential quarters of Franciscaines Misionnaires de Marie sit between Tran Quang Dieu and Hung Vuong Streets in Da Lat, which is the capital of Lam Dong Province, according to Tuoi Tre News.
For years, the iconic chapel has been an inspiration for Vietnamese artists and photographers, being reimagined in countless works of art.
According to writer Nguyen Vinh Nguyen, the Benedictine complex was designed and built by French architects Alexandre Leonard and Paul Veysseyre in the late 30s and early 40s, marking the onset of Benedictine missionaries from the West making their way to Vietnam.
In 1954, these missionaries left the complex in the hands of Franciscans nuns before moving to Hue in the central region to set up the Thien An Monastery.nside the main chapel. Photo: Duc Tho / Tuoi Tre
In the following years, the nuns enlisted Vietnamese architect Pham Khanh Chu to design additional classrooms behind the existing complex.
According to Tran Ngoc Trac, former head of Lam Dong Province Arts and Literature Association, the mission was known as Viet Nu Commercial School in 1969.
In 1979, the seven-hectare complex was handed over to the government.
Over the following decades, the school’s two classroom blocks and residential building served as the province’s supplementary school, then as the Lam Vien Hotel, and eventually Tran Phu High School.
In the 1980s, another building was built between the two blocks.
The chapel and monastery were next used as a warehouse, sports hall, and residential structure.
It was eventually abandoned for several years before becoming a campus of the Ho Chi Minh City University of Architecture.
"Restoring costs much more than rebuilding but we must protect this significant landmark."
The complex is now under restoration to become a campus of the HCM City University of Architecture.
The project, co-headed by Huy Hoang Company and the university, started by the end of February.
A representative of HCM City University of Architecture told Tuổi Trẻ (Youth) newspaper that the university has plans to restore the site.
“We see the complex as a meaningful and valuable heritage site. Restoration costs are much more than rebuilding, but we must protect this significant landmark."Photo: Tuoi Tre
Associate Professor Le Van Thuong, rector of the university, said the chapel area and the dorm for monks will be preserved in their original state. Damaged parts such as doors and the roof will be repaired or replaced but will be consistent with the overall structure.
"We will keep the original architecture and materials of the building as much as possible. Only damaged and deteriorated places will be replaced with new materials. The paint will be the original colours," Thuong said.
When the work is completed, the chapel will become the university hall, while the dormitory area of the monastery will remain as the residential function. The classroom area will become a lecture hall for students, Thuong said.
Ninh Viet Anh, teacher at HCM City University of Architecture, said that for works with historical architectural significance, conservation must be carefully considered.
With conservation projects such as these, the city can keep its unique architectural features from the French colonial period and continue to be a popular tourist destination.