Lycée Yersin, nowadays called Da Lat Teachers College, is an amazing landmark and definitely worth a visit. The bent building looks a little weird in a way, but it makes a great background for photographs. Every established wedding photographer in the Central Highlands has been there at least once.
In 1927, the Lycée Yersin was founded in Da Lat in the Central Highlands of Vietnam by the French colonial powers to provide education for their children and the children of upper class Vietnamese families.
Like everything else the school went through various periods of change and is nowadays the Pedagogical College of Da Lat, Trường Cao đẳng Sư phạm Đà Lạt in Vietnamese.
The university is recognised by international architects as one of the 1000 original buildings of the 19th century. Built on an elevated point where you can have a good overview of the area around the great lake. On the other side you see the valley with the Da Lat Railway Station. It was designed and constructed by the French architect Paul Moncet. The red bricks for the walls are imported from Europe, as well as the roof. However, the roof has been restored meanwhile.
The famous bent building has 24 rooms and a bell tower with a height of 54 metres. There is evidence for a clock on the bell tower.
The old part of Lycée Yersin with the picturesque buildings in French colonial style has it’s main focus on pedagogy. It also is a popular spot for wedding pictures, especially the bent building, which offers an interesting photo effect.
This building appears sort of alien to me. The main campus is placed around the central square in a neat, rectangular way. But while the tower of the main building is aligned properly, the building itself is slightly bent. I have never seen anything like that and actually I am curious about the thoughts of the architect on this project.
Like so many of the old colonial buildings, it appears semi-abandoned and would be the perfect scenery for a ghost movie.
Da Lat had boarding schools that served all of French Indochina, since the hill station had been envisioned as a centre of government – clean and segregated between Europeans and locals. But that plan was given up on, since many Vietnamese upper class families moved to Da Lat as well and their children went to the same school.
On 12th of July in the year 1938, the governor-general Jules Brévié held a speech at the Lycée Yersin in front of a racially diverse audience of students, when he said:
At points on the globe where there is contact between different races an incredible effervescence is developing. We must prevent this from degenerating into chronic disorder; we must re-establish the harmony essential for the well-being of men and the progress of societies in all aspects. This is the role vested in you, by the very fact of your presence in a place where these transformations are occurring.
Since the segregation did not work out, the students of local roots were expected to learn French culture and absorb their values to take part in further colonisation efforts. Documents from 1036 show that the school had enrolled young Siamese students, as well as 1942 the sons of the Cambodian Minister of Finance. Other famous students were Bảo Đại and Norodom Sihanouk. The Vietnamese and Cambodian students often achieved the best results.
The Petit Lycée de Dalat was created and opened in the year 1927 and was open to enrollment on 7th January 1928. At first the school was only open for Europeans, but soon it was seen too impractical, so the segregation was cancelled. The Grand Lycée, also called Lycée de Dalat was open to children from both origins from the very beginning and on 10th of May the name was changed to Lycée Yersin to honour the great doctor of immunology.
The facilities and teaching materials suffered damages during the Japanese occupation in World War 2, but everything was restored in 1945. In the early 1950s the emperor Bảo Đại granted scholarships so young people from the Central Highlands, mainly the sons of chiefs and civil servants, so they could enroll as well.
Between 1970 and 1975, Lycée Yersin was renamed Hung Vuong Education Centre and the facilities were used to train teachers of primary schools. In 1075 it was changed into Da Lat teachers College. The faculties include Language Studies, Natural Sciences, Music, Art, Social Science and Political Theory.