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Southeast Asian cities fail to recognize benefits of historic preservation

Hue, Vietnam, is one city in Southeast Asia that has largely retained its historic district. (amadeustx/Shutterstock)

Historic preservation is mostly an afterthought for fast-developing Asian cities that favor modern architecture and designs.

That’s the conclusion of Aldrin Plaza, urban development officer for the Asian Development Bank, in post on the bank’s blog. Centuries-old structures are routinely incorporated into urban renewal plans throughout Europe, but rarely in Southeast Asia, he writes.

While city leaders in the region tout the benefits of modern construction, Plaza argues that they overlook the economic value of historical buildings. Tourism, museums, boutique hotels, restaurants and land values all can be lifted through restoration and preservation, he says.

Uncooperative owners who resist restoration efforts and the high cost of preservation — which can exceed the price tag to build from scratch — are among the hurdles. It’s also difficult to find the same construction materials used decades ago or workers proficient with preservation, Plaza adds.

Despite the challenges, there are success stories, including Siem Reap, Cambodia and Hue, Vietnam, which have largely retained their historic districts. Plaza also cites Iloilo City, located on Panay Island in the Philippines, as an example of a city that balances historic preservation with modern development. 

Asia Development Bank

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