Without its old houses, visitors to Hanoi will not stay in the city for more than one day, an expert from the Italian Embassy said during a Friday conference about preserving Hanoi's Old Quarters.
The ancient small houses have cultural value and are unique to Hanoi, and foreigners like to rent these houses rather than stay at modern urban areas like Ciputra, Cesara Bieller was cited by local news website VnExpress as saying.
Bieller said he was sad every time he visited Hanoi and saw several of the old houses demolished and rebuilt.
One of the things that attract tourists to Hanoi is the Old Quarters, not skyrocketing buildings, he said, adding if Hanoi is not concerned about preserving its old houses, the city would have to build fake old houses in the outskirts 20 years later.
Dao Ngoc Nghiem, former director of the Hanoi Department of Planning and Architecture, said experts from 15 countries have offered to help Hanoi preserve the Old Quarters but both the city government and residents were not bothered.
"We have precious assets but we don't know to protect them," Nghiem said.
For several years, only four of more than 200 old traditional houses in the quarters have been restored with state budget and foreign support. They have become popular tourism attractions.
Residents who own old houses outside the Old Quarter area have renovated them as they liked, some pulling them down to construct high-rise buildings.
The Hanoi Old Quarters Management Board has set some conditions for restoring and/or renovating old houses, such as using light colors such as yellow or white for painting, using only lime, sand and cement as construction materials and tiles for roofs.
Old houses facing main streets must be no taller than 12 meters and any billboard on the first floor must not conceal the second floor, the board has said.