The culture of Vietnam is a heady blend of beauty, aestheticism, harmony and grace and the architectural creations herein reflect these attributes in large measures. Take a tour of the Vietnamese temples and monasteries. The predominantly pagoda form of architecture will leave you gaping at its sheer magnificence. You have the numerous pagodas of the Son La Mountains in North Vietnam or the Giac Lam Pagoda of Ho Chi Minh City, where the concrete and wooden edifices are readily mistaken as dreams.
The original architecture of Vietnam included structures made of elaborately carved wood and tiled roofs. The floor consisted of packed earth or tile and the entire structure rested on four pillars. All the buildings, excluding the village’s community house, maintained the same architectural style with hardly any difference between a temple and a residential house. Only the size of the building differed depending on the purpose. With the advent of the French, Vietnamese architecture drew influences from them and this is distinctly visible in the later structures.
Architecture of Vietnam: Citadels
The architecture of Vietnam exhibits some of the finest specimens of citadels. The Co Loa or Loa Thanh was built in 257BC by King An Duong in Phuc Yen, one of the Vietnam provinces. It is famous for its impeccable defense mechanism. The royal palace sat at the centre of the structure comprising a maze of three entwined mud-enclosures. In ancient Vietnam, architecture consisted of brilliantly constructed fortified residences consisting of mud-wall enclosed yard, watchtowers and entrances covered with holes to attack the enemies. Dinh Tien Hoang had built a fortress in Hoa Lu with brick walls and watchtowers. The royal palace was situated in the middle of the structure. The Tay Do is another famous Vietnamese citadel built in 1790 by Ho Qui Ly. The citadel was among the best naturally guarded ones with hills in front and a river in the west.
With the coming of the French, architecture of Vietnam had had a makeover of sorts. It witnessed the construction of the first French style citadel by Gia Long in 1790. Hue Citadel is another famous construction by him. Following this many other structures of the same pattern were constructed throughout the land.
Architecture of Vietnam: Religious Temples
Khai Quoc was the first Buddhist temple built in the 6th century by King Ly Bi. From 7th century onwards there was a certain shift of paradigm in architecture. Vietnam witnessed the construction of a large number of Buddhist temples. Some of the famous temples were the Phat Tich, the Dam and the Dien Huu. The Dien Huu is renowned for its architecture. It is built in the shape of a blossomed lotus. The temples of this period had multi storied towers and the interiors decorated with beautiful statues. The designs and decoration had Vietnamese motifs of dragons, elephants, chrysanthemum, and lotus. Some of the sculptures manifest a strong influence of the Cham art.
The temples from the time of the Mac era contained a huge collection of wooden statues. They included statues of Buddha, saints and royalties cured from jackfruit wood. Architecture of Vietnam in the early nineteenth century witnessed the restoration and expansion of many existing temples in cities like Ha Noi, Hue and Saigon.
The architecture of Vietnam is also a reflection of how the culture of Vietnam evolved through the ages. Influence from the west resulted in the replacement of the traditional materials for the construction of temples. Now iron, steel and concrete was being used for the construction. New temples showed clear influence of architecture from Japan, China, India and Europe.