Reunification Palace


Reunification Palace

Infobox building
building_name = Reunification Palace
native_building_name= Hội trường Thống Nhất



caption = Reunification Palace
former_names = Independence Palace, Norodom Palace
building_type = Historical Palace, Presidential Palace
architectural_style =
structural_system =
location = Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
owner =
current_tenants =
landlord =
coordinates =
start_date = 1 July 1962
completion_date = 31 October 1966
demolition_date =
height = 26m
diameter =
other_dimensions =
floor_count = 4
floor_area =
main_contractor =
architect = Ngô Viết Thụ
structural_engineer =
services_engineer =
civil_engineer = Phan Văn Điển
other_designers =
quantity_surveyor =
awards =

Reunification Palace ( _vi. Dinh Thống Nhất) formerly known as Independence Palace ("Dinh Độc Lập") built on the site of the former Norodom Palace, is a historic landmark in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. It was designed by architect Ngo Viet Thu as the home and workplace of the President of South Vietnam during the Vietnam War and the site of the official handover of power during the Fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975. It was then known as Independence Palace, and an NVA tank crashed through its gates, as recorded by Neil Davis. [http://users.hunterlink.net.au/~ddwkl/neildavis.html]

History

In 1858, France launched the first attack in Danang, starting its invasion of Vietnam. In 1867, France completed its conquest of Nam Bo (Cochinchina), including (Biên Hoà, Gia Định, Định Tường, Vĩnh Long, An Giang, and Hà Tiên). To consolidate the newly established colony in Cochinchina, on 23 February 1868, Lagrandière, Governor of Cochinchina, held the first building stone ceremony to start the construction of a new palace to replace the the old wooden palace built in 1863. The new palace was designed by Hermite, who was also the architect of Hong Kong City Hall. That first cubic stone, measuring 50 cm along each edge, with holes containing French gold and silver coins with Napoleon III's effigy, came from Bien Hoa.

The building covered an area of 12 hectares, including a palace with the façade of 80 meters in width, a guest-chamber capable of accommodating 800 persons, with surrounding gardens covered by green trees and grasses. Most of the building materials were inported from France. Owing to the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, the construction got behind schedule. Not until 1873 was this palace completed. The palace was named Norodom Palace after the then king of Cambodia (King Norodom (1834-1904). The avenue in front of the palace bore the same name. From 1871 to 1887, the palace was for the use of the French Governor of Cochinchina ("Gouverneur de la Cochinchine"); therefore, it was referred to as Governor's Palace. From 1887 to 1945, all Governors-General of French Indochina used this palace as their residence and office. The office of the Cochinchinese Governors was relocated to a nearby villa.

On March 9 1945, Japan defeated and replaced France in French Indochina. Norodom Palace became the office of Japanese colonists in Vietnam. In September 1945, Japan surrendered to the Allied forces in World War II, France returned to Cochinchina and Norodom Palace was restored to its position as the office of French colonists in Vietnam.

On May 7 1954, France surrendered to the Viet Minh after its defeat in the Battle of Dien Bien Phu. France agreed to sign the Geneva Accords and withdrew its troops from Vietnam. According to the accords, Vietnam would be divided for two years until 1956 with the 17th Parallel as the temporary border line when a vote based on universal suffrage would be held to establish a unified Vietnamese government. North Vietnam was under the control of a communist government, the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, while South Vietnam was under the anti-communist Republic of Vietnam. On 7 September 1954, Norodom Palace was handed over to the prime minister of the Republic of Vietnam Ngo Dinh Diem and a representative of the French government, general Paul Ély.

In 1955, Ngô Đình Diệm overthrew Bao Dai, the head of the Republic of Vietnam in a referendum (or 1955 South Vietnamese election). Ngô Đình Diệm became president of the Republic of Vietnam and renamed the Norodom Palace Independence Hall. From this time this palace became the presidential palace. According to fengshui belief, this palace is located in a dragon's head; therefore, it was also referred to as Dragon's Head Palace.

On 27 February 1962, two pilots of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam Nguyễn Văn Cử and Phạm Phú Quốc flew two A-1 Skyraider (A-1D/AD-6 version) aircraft and bombed the Hall in what was known as 1962 South Vietnamese Presidential Palace bombing. As a result almost the whole left wing of the Hall was destroyed. Considering that it was almost impossible to restore the Hall, Diệm ordered it removed and rebuilt a new one on the site of the original palace. The new palace was constructed according to the design by Ngô Viết Thụ, a Vietnamese architect who won the First Grand Prize of Rome (Grand Prix de Rome) in 1955, the highest recognition of the Beaux-Arts school in Paris. He was also a laureate of the Rome Architecture Award.

The construction of the new Independence Hall started on 1 July 1962. Meanwhile, Ngô Đình Diệm moved to Gia Long Palace (today this is the Ho Chi Minh City Museum). But Ngô Đình Diệm had no chance to see the completed hall as he and his brother Ngo Dinh Nhu were assassinated in a coup d'état by the opposition alliance on 2 November 1963. The completed hall was inaugurated on 31 October 1966 and was chaired by the chairman of the National Leadership Committee, Nguyen Van Thieu. The Independence Hall became the presidential palace again and was Thieu's home and office from October 1967 to 21 April 1975.

On 8 April 1975, Nguyen Thanh Trung, a pilot of the South Vietnam Air Force (but in fact he was a communist spy) flew an F5E aircraft, originating from Bien Hoa, and bombed the Hall but caused no significant damage. At 10:45 am 30 April 1975, a tank of the North Vietnamese Army hit the main gate, ending the Vietnam War.

In November 1975, after the negotiation convention between the communist North Vietnam and communist South Vietnam was successful, in memory of that event, the Provisional Government of the Republic of South Vietnam renamed the hall Reunification Hall (“Hội trường Thống Nhất”).

External links

* [http://www.dinhdoclap.gov.vn/ Official website]
* [http://www.ocf.berkeley.edu/~xihuule/vietnam/saig3.html Dinh Doc Lap - Independence Palace]
* [http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9A0CE2D6153EF931A25752C0A9659C8B63&n=Top/Reference/Times%20Topics/Subjects/I/Interior%20Design Article about Reunification Palace published in The New York Times Magazine, 12 January 2003]


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