Everyone has heard of Angkor Wat, but very few are aware of that other great flowering of Khmer architectural genius, namely, the New Khmer Architecture that emerged in Phnom Penh amid the heady national pride that followed Cambodia's independence from France in 1953.
Building Cambodia documents the tragically short-lived style that resulted in a spate of striking buildings until its demise amid civil war and genocide not two decades later. Taking seven years of research to complete, and packed with rare photographs and illustrations, the 360-page hardback pays tribute to this remarkable cultural interlude when King Norodom Sihanouk abdicated the throne to personally oversee a 17-year construction boom. Implausible as it may seem amid today's frenetic construction of soulless apartment blocks and shopping centers, Phnom Penh was dubbed the "belle of Southeast Asia" in the 1960s, its buildings blending Le Corbusier-style functionalism with Cambodian artistic traditions. No other country in the region could then claim architectural standards as high as those practiced in the Cambodian capital.
Times have certainly changed, and what remains of New Khmer Architecture is under threat. Its founding father, Vann Molyvann, is now 80 years old and one has to wonder if his buildings will last as long. While the great architect's views on the current development of Phnom Penh are still respectfully listened to, they are seldom acted upon. The hope is that this beautiful book will not simply be a record of his work and that of his peers, but an inspiration to future generations of Cambodians to preserve and evolve an architectural style that has no parallel. Kevin Doyle (for Time Magazine)
|Title:||Building Cambodia: 'New Khmer Architecture' 1953-1970|
|Author:||Helen Grant Ross and Darryl Leon Collins|
|Publisher:||The Key Publisher Ltd. Bangkok|
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