Traditional knowledge key to Cambodia’s built future January 6, 2009Posted by chandrapong007 in General.
Written by Christopher Shay and Nathan Green
As Cambodia modernises, traditional Khmer architectural techniques, materials and urban planning methods have a key role to play, architects say
Norodom Sihanouk acclaimed Phnom Penh’s Institute of Technology as the most successfully-designed university building in Cambodia. Inaugurated in 1964, the team of Soviet architects used all the techniques available to accommodate the heat and humidity of the tropics. Walls are made of sunscreens, window openings feature deep recesses and the rooms are cross-ventilated. The roof was also designed to cope with heavy rain. This image from 1964 was suppied by the Royal University of Fine Arts.
Vann Molyvann’s State Palace is part of the Chamkar Mon Compound in Phnom Penh. Its raised ground floor opened onto the grounds (since walled in) and the design featured cross ventilation and high ceilings. The central reception was initially open on all sides so it interacted with the garden. This photo of the newly completed State Palace entrance in 1966 is by Vann Molyvann.
Vann Molyvann’s SKD Brewery was inaugurated in Sihanoukville in 1968. Its roof has a six-metre cantilevered overhang to provide protection from the sun, while a skylight diffuses reflected light into the upper floor. The location was only selected after a long search throughout Cambodia for the best water source. This photo of the main building was taken by Hok Sokol.
Henri Chatel, the architect behind the National Bank of Cambodia apartment buildings on Sothearos Boulevard, said he always looked for architectural solutions to suit Cambodia’s climate. The suspended VVV-shaped roof provided protection from the heat and rain while providing a space to dry washing. The building was also raised off the ground to provide shade for people or cars. His only regret was that he used concrete, which as a good conductor of heat is unsuited to the tropical climate. The image is an original sketch by the architect.
Vann Molyvann also designed the Teacher Training College, library and workshops at what is now the Royal University of Phnom Penh. The buildings were initially surrounded by water so the entrance linking what is now the Institute of Languages to the main campus building takes the form of a huge bridge replete with Angkorian-inspired nagas. The building is raised off the ground in respect of the natural landscape, and it takes the form of an inverted pyramid in which each floor provides shade for the one beneath. It was inaugurated in 1972. Photo by Helen Grant Ross.
Helen Grant Ross is a dual French-British national who has lived in Phnom Penh since 1997. She was coordinator and lecturer at the Royal University of Fine Art’s faculty of architecture and urbanism for three years and is the author of Building Cambodia: New Khmer Architecture 1953-1970 with Darryl Leon Collins. All images are taken from her book with permission.