The Louis Finot Museum (now Vietnam National Museum of History – VNMH Museum) is a beautiful house. It can be seen far away from Long Bien Bridge. It has a mixed style of Vietnamese, Japanese, Thai and Chinese architectures but harmoniously combined to form a pure Asian style.
The VNMH Museum building is located at 1 Trang Tien, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi, where was previously the former Museum of Vietnamese History. It was well known for its impression and representation for the Oriental architectural style and intelligent construction methods. The building is said to be a typical example of Indochinese architecture, combining the French architectural achievements and of the local one.
The Louis Finot Museum was former institute of French School of Asian Studies (EFEO) and designed by C.Batteur and E.Hébrard in 1925. The building was constructed in 1929 and inaugurated in 1932, stood behind the Hanoi Opera House while the other side faced the Red River at the end of the Quaï Guillemoto road (now Tran Quang Khai).
Panorama of Louis Finot Museum (now VNMH Museum)
The museum site plan was designed to serve the large architectural space of exhibition. The main lobby is octagonal at 11m to each side. Conjunction is the rectangular exhibition gallery arranged in forms of the adjoining rooms. The galleries for temporary exhibitions are located at two sides.
Front architecture of building
There is a ground floor at 2,5m high, used for storage and restorative works, and also served as waterproof for the exhibition hall above.
The vertical cube of the building is distinguished by the high rise octagonal roofing system of the lobby hall. The roof system has 3 layers. The sloping of the top layer is more than that of the lower layers and separated with the lower layers by the windows and consoles.
Vertical architecture of building
Although the octagonal cube of the building looks ancient Chinese architecture, the roof system reminds us the tower of Keo Pagoda (Thai Binh). Anyway, because the museum used to be a big cultural project at the time it was built so the octagonal hall was influenced by the Expressionism but created a good impression.
The roof of exhibition galleries is constructed by two layers overlapped that similar to the traditional religious buildings in Vietnam. The hole between two layers plays role as ventilation.
The lower layer of roof extends over the barrier wall to protect the doors below from weather and generating the shade for the house to look good. The extensive roof hold by a system of double columns and the concrete consoles and the decorating balconies make an impressive Asian style.
Back architecture of building
The natural ventilation is made by a system of windows and air gates to supply the fresh air for the house. The lobby and exhibition space is overwhelmed with natural light from the windows and glass walls. The interior and exterior decorations are based on the traditional Asian motif but representative and various.
Front panorama of the museum building
Trees and gardens are paid attention. Trees are planted around the museum to make a "tropical forest" to cover the museum.
With all reasons above, the VNMH Museum building deserves to be a prominent representation of Indochinese architectural style not only for Hanoi but also for Vietnam.
M.A. Nguyễn Hải Vân
EN: Tran Trang