Colonial and Institutional Architecture in Vientiane

Channelling Grey Gardens.

Channelling Grey Gardens.

Where colonial and institutional architecture is concerned, Vientiane resembles its cousin Phnom Penh, with many colonial villas now housing government institutions, and many civic institutions occupying modernist and art deco buildings from the ‘50s and ‘60s.

There are two main differences, however.  Here, one finds the “crumbling” colonial villas one expects to find in Phnom Penh but aren’t there anymore. Here also, one finds a faster pace of development that has seen many colonial villas demolished and replaced by flashy buildings in the neo-colonial or completely contemporary (read: mall) style.

The bulk of the major civic and government institutions are located along Lane Xang Avenue, which runs between Patuxai at one end, and the Presidential Palace at the other.  Off Lane Xang Avenue, particularly along Thanon Setthathirat, Rue de La Mission and around the French Embassy, one finds dozens of dilapidated colonial villas: latter-day Grey Gardens’ that are still inhabited.  The environment here is an evocative mix of laidback and lost-in-time.  On these back streets, one can still get a feel of how it must have been like during the colonial era.

The highlight of this gallery, however, is at the Lao National Museum. At the gates of this worthy establishment hangs an impressionistic painting of the Pha That Luang, the symbol of the Lao Nation.  It is a stirring piece of work recalling Monet’s paintings of Rouen Cathedral.  This, more than anything else I saw that weekend, reminded me strongly of just how pervasive the French colonial presence once was and still is in the city.

*  *  *  *  *

L’institut de Langue Francaise, on Lane Xang Avenue

L’institut de Langue Francaise, on Lane Xang Avenue

Lycée de Vientiane

Lycée de Vientiane

Ministère de la Justice. Note the fallen letters.

Ministère de la Justice. Note the fallen letters.

The United Nations

The United Nations

Ministère de l’Agriculture et des Forêts

Ministère de l’Agriculture et des Forêts

The French Institute for Development.

The French Institute for Development.

The Presidential Palace

The Presidential Palace

Bibliothèque Nationale

Bibliothèque Nationale

The General Post Office

The General Post Office

Nam Ngum 2 Power Company Ltd.

Nam Ngum 2 Power Company Ltd.

That Damm, or Black Stupa.

That Damm, or Black Stupa.

Two Ladies

Two Ladies

Still Occupied

Still Occupied

Education Printing Enterprise State Company.

Education Printing Enterprise State Company.

Résidence de France.

Résidence de France.

École de Médecine.

École de Médecine.

Église de Nôtre Dame.

Église de Nôtre Dame.

Haunted House.

Haunted House.

Wat Hophrakaew: razed to the ground by the Siamese in 1828; rebuilt by the French colonial authorities in 1942.

Wat Hophrakaew: razed to the ground by the Siamese in 1828; rebuilt by the French colonial authorities in 1942.

View towards Hopital Mahosot, from within the Hophrakaew.

View towards Hopital Mahosot, from within the Hophrakaew.

Kualao Restaurant.

Kualao Restaurant.

Old Rusty.

Old Rusty.

The Lao National Museum.

The Lao National Museum.

Impressionist painting of the Pha That Luang at the gates of the National Museum

Impressionist painting of the Pha That Luang at the gates of the National Museum

PDF: Gallery VIIA – Colonial and Institutional Architecture in Vientiane (3.8 MB)

About Kennie Ting

I am a wandering cityophile and pattern-finder who is pathologically incapable of staying in one place for any long period of time. When I do, I see the place from different perspectives, obsessive-compulsively.
Gallery | This entry was posted in Art & Architecture, Cities & Regions, Culture & Lifestyle, Landmarks & History, Photography and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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