Hoi An owns the old and peaceful charm for visitors to enjoy a back-in-time trip. This UNESCO World Heritage site since 1999 has been convincing the travelers worldwide of its unique ancient houses in the French architecture, narrow alleys, long-lasting herb villages, and warm-hearted welcome. Amongst these, let’s discover French architecture in Hoi An.
Hoi An History and French Architecture
Together with the architecture of China, Japan, and Vietnam, the constructions in Hoi An reflect the deep influence of France. It is the French architecture preserved in the old houses, shops, and temples that make the Old Town unique and impressive.
For a glance at Hoi An History, know that this little town used to be the commercial center for the Chinese and Japanese merchants during the 17th-20th century. This was the most bustling trading region in the Southeast Asia.
During the 19th century, Hoi An was no longer convenient for foreign trading, which drove the town to lost its significant port center. But this town could still attract many investments at that time when Nguyen Thai Hoc and Bach Dang areas were established. In 1888, when many Chinese merchants moved to Da Nang, some remained in Hoi An and expanded their business. This was when more and more constructions were built up, marking the participation of the French architecture. According to the domestic researcher, the French architecture in Hoi An developed in three periods:
- Period 1: from 1860 to 1880. The marine and military French architecture.
- Period 2: from 1880 to 1920. The French-style constructions were changed to meet with Vietnam weather conditions. The construction this time mainly used the principle of layout, symmetry, central area-focused, the lateral masses higher than the main body, and the classic decoration details.
- Period 3: from 1920 to 1945. The architectural styles from many regions of France were imported, applied, and modified by the Vietnamese architects. They made the French architecture suitable to the local culture, terrace, natural environment, and weather.
That said, most of the French-style constructions in Hoi An were erected during the end of the Period 2 and mainly in the Period 3 because the masterpieces reflected the matching with local conditions.
The French-style Heritages in Hoi An Today
The French architectural heritages left in Hoi An today include houses, markets, offices, shops, and temples. Amongst these, houses in the Old Town hold the largest number, predominantly gathered in the west of Nguyen Thai Hoc Street and the east of Phan Boi Chau Street, where used to be the lodgings of the officers during the colonial time. The houses in these streets were built next to each other, creating the “French-architecture town with many one- floor houses.” Besides, there stand out some individual colonial houses built separately in the Tran Phu, Le Loi, Phan Chau Trinh, Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, Bach Dang, and Nguyen Duy Hieu Streets while the others were constructed on the outskirts of the town. Besides the townhouses, it’s feasible to find the villas and garden dwelling in Hoi An which appear in the French architecture, making the local architectural art diverse and unique.
Generally speaking, the colonial heritages in the Hoi An Old Town possess some of these characteristics: the spacious sideway and big front yard, which make the constructions grandstand. This somehow explains the development concept in house constructions in the Western style today. After investigating, here are statistics of the French-style houses in Hoi An:
- Façade: Applied in the symmetrical layout, the front of the house is constructed of the brick wall, mainly arranged balcony, and port layout with columns. Depending on the horizontal length of the house, two or four columns will be divided into one or three compartments. Arches are used to decorate the spaces between porches. There also use the straight beams with the details processed at the two ends of the pole contact with corners or curves which generate the architectural soft look. The door system is typically used as a set of middle doors and two sets of side doors. The roof system is often two-roof with the big slope, roofed with yin-yang tiles. For the villas and garden houses, the details are employed in a diverse and classical style.
- The height and size: The French-style houses in Hoi An have one or two stories, with 6m-9m wide. In some cases, the houses can be higher and the depth is 30m-40m subject to each street.
- Spatial arrangement: The townhouses are built on a narrow land, space layout is arranged in depth, the 1st floor includes patio (front yard if available), no space for business, for worship (for one- floor house) – bridges linking with inner courtyard – dining space, family living, bedroom (for one- floor house) – kitchen, toilet combined with backyard. The second floor has a layout of the space for worship in the front and the bedrooms in the back. For the villas and garden house, they are built in the middle of the large land, encompassed by gardens and the spacious front yard.
- Structure: Brick walls combined with wooden or reinforced brick system, with the main beam system and beams. The floor area is directly exposed to external space, affected by the weather, so using the concrete instead of traditional wood. Wooden roof systems are usually used as a truss system.
- Materials: Brick, wood, concrete, and stone.
- Decoration: Mainly decorate the front of the construction by the arch, simple and nature-friendly patterns, people, flowers, leaves, canvas drawings, and prefabricated flower models.
It can be said that the colonial buildings in Hoi An mainly has the French-style façade, but the interior characteristics are customized to the Vietnamese standards. These heritages imply the cross-cultural architecture, ensuring the harmony among humankind, nature, construction, and town landscape…Let’s book One day Hoi An City Tour !
The French Architecture Makes Hoi An Old Town Unique and Charming
It’s admitted that the French-style heritages in Hoi An have become the indispensable highlights of the whole Old Town. Though being established later than the other architecture of China, Japan, and Vietnam, the French architectural art could stay in harmony with the other buildings as well as the entire town landscape. Therefore, such architectural values must be evaluated rightly and completely so that the adequate measures can be carried out to protect the long-lasting, valuable constructions. Hoi An is antique, beautiful, and idyllic with the French-style constructions, and more for you to discover! Just travel to Hoi An!