Cambodia is home to an extraordinary collection of modern buildings from the 1950s and 60s in a style known as New Khmer Architecture, which blends elements of the modernist movement with two distinctly Cambodian traditions: the grand tradition of Angkor and the vernacular tradition of ordinary homes. These buildings are under imminent threat from neglect and redevelopment, and the rate at which Cambodia is losing them is accelerating.
Begun in 2009, the Vann Molyvann Project is a Phnom Penh-based international team of architects, architectural students, and other researchers working in Phnom Penh to document the buildings by Cambodian architect Vann Molyvann, whose body of work is considered one of the most important contributions to post-colonial architecture in the developing world. In 2008, two of his greatest works, the National Theater and the Council of Ministers, were demolished. Moreover, virtually all of Vann Molyvann’s drawings were destroyed after he was forced to flee the country in 1971; thus, when a building is knocked down, no traces remain of it. The Vann Molyvann Project is addressing this urgent situation.
Initiated by Pen Sereypagna and based in Phnom Penh’s White Building (a New Khmer Architecture style apartment building occupied by artists, tuk tuk drivers, construction workers, etc.) the Genealogy of Bassac project maps the transformation of the Bassac area in central Phnom Penh as a community-based, participatory exercise. The project strives to discover ways to visualize the differences of urban forms over time rather than historical continuities and the characteristics of urban ruptures through various eras. The aim is to uncover what exists now in the Bassac area and what was in the past, in order to create new dialogues that can serve as a basis for ideas about the future of the city.