Vann Molyvann / The Forgotten Masterpieces of Phnom Penh

Vann Molyvann / The Forgotten Masterpieces of Phnom Penh

Vann Molyvann / The Forgotten Masterpieces of Phnom Penh

There are more to Cambodia than Ankor Wat or a casino. Phnom Penh itself is a city with a legacy from its glorious days. Many may have lost in time. But some remain; including the architectural buildings designed by Vann Molyvann.        

///  Cambodia ///

Story: Jeremaih Pitakwong /// Photos: Samutcha Viraporn, Damrong Leewairoj

The Royal University of Phnom Penh's library building. Exterior pillars support the building weight (no pillars inside). The building is surrounded by a pond containing raindrops from a gutter.
The Royal University of Phnom Penh’s library building is surrounded by a pond. The building weight relies mainly on the exterior pillar.

 

The Institute of Foreign Languages's meeting room. The floor is elevated and the roof helps tackle with the heat.
The Institute of Foreign Languages’s meeting room. The floor is elevated and the roof helps tackle with the heat.

Phnom Penh is equipped with a great city-planning. Temples and palaces in the city have a hint of Southeast Asian style component incorporated with French colonial architecture. Although parts of these heritages are deteriorated, their good old days can still shone through.

Among high-rise buildings and growing villages indicating Cambodia’s improving economy, old and valuable buildings are neglected as the government and foreign investors prefer the “Modern” which suggests “Prosperity” rather than renovating its old ones.

However, old doesn’t mean out. Vann Molyvann, has designed “Modern” principal buildings since the 1960s.

Vann Molyvann was born in 1926. He was granted the scholarship from Cambodian government to study architecture at Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux-Arts in France, where many modern architects are nurtured.  After the graduation, he served as a State Architect in 1956 and also played an important role for a period.

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The lifted walkway in the back gives a shade to the pathway below.
Details of light boxes a roof and a facade of the Institute of Foreign Languages group of buildings
Details of light boxes a roof and a facade of the Institute of Foreign Languages group of buildings

His significant works was designed and built within 1974; The National Theater (later torn down), the National Sports Complex (a.k.a. Olympic Stadium), the Institute of Foreign Languages inside the Royal University of Phnom Penh, Chaktomuk Conference Hall (renovated). All of his works could be considered as modern and would definitely be treated as national treasures if they were in Europe.

Since the government policies regarding these building are unknown, their futures are uncertain. For those who have an urge for a modern building, a quick sightseeing trip to the remaining site is highly recommended. Also, don’t forget to check out www.ka-tours.org where you can book a private architecture tour in Cambodia conducted by Cambodian architecture students.

The exterior of the National Sports Complex.
The exterior of the National Sports Complex.

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A yellow transparent fiberglass partition at the entrance and a gutter below.
A yellow transparent fiberglass partition at the entrance and a gutter below.

 

Vann Molyvann has designed a proper ventilation system for a tropical climate.
Vann Molyvann has designed a proper ventilation system for a tropical climate.

 

An area inside the stadium and a press observation deck overlooks the amphitheater.
An area inside the stadium and a press observation deck overlooks the amphitheater.

 

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Details of the indoor stadium roof.
Details of the indoor stadium roof.

At the age of 89, Van Molyvann has returned from his fugitive in France and now living in Siam Reap. While many might have already forgotten about his iconic buildings, it is safe to say his pages in the history will never be erased.

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