Blog : Architecture

M.L. Varudh Varavarn, Vin Varavarn Architects: Innovative Design Strategies Can Contribute to Narrowing Rural-Urban Development Gaps

M.L. Varudh Varavarn, Vin Varavarn Architects: Innovative Design Strategies Can Contribute to Narrowing Rural-Urban Development Gaps

/ Bangkok, Thailand /

/ Story: Urawan Rukachaisirikul / English version: Bob Pitakwong /

/ Photographs: Courtesy of Vin Varavarn Architects /

The following are excerpts from an interview with M.L. Varudh Varavarn, founder and CEO of the Bangkok-based architectural practice Vin Varavarn Architects. We had a chance to get his thoughts on design and development models. Precisely, we asked him if architectural design can bring about solutions to our social problems. Here’s some useful information he shared with us.

By means of introduction, M.L. Varudh Varavarn has received wide acclaim for his commitment to innovative design and developments well suited to the place or type of the surroundings.

He has had many outstanding achievements to his credit. They range from family homes, to large residential apartment projects, to schoolhouses, hotels, vacation resorts and other establishments in the hospitality industry.

Asked what was the most difficult task in his career as architect, he said that developing a project that would play a part in resolving social problems was the biggest challenge. To a great extent there were many hurdles to overcome.

Paradoxically, it’s the challenges that make a project interesting and capable of performing as intended. Even better if it could achieve successful change for a better society.

To put it in a nutshell, it’s up to the architect to turn challenges into positive possibilities.

Varudh Varavarn

Let’s catch a glimpse of his ideas before listening to him speak at the upcoming room x Living Asean Design Talk 2023 on the theme of “URBAN FUSION / RURAL FLOURISH: Interweaving Urban and Rural Designs.” The conversation event will take place on Sunday August 6 at the room Showcase zone inside Baan Lae Suan Fair Midyear 2023 at BITECT Bang Na, Bangkok.

Q: To begin with, how would you define your work in design and architecture?

A: All the time, I have tried to avoid defining the nature of my design. As far as I am concerned, it’s entirely up to the viewer to reflect and form an idea about what they see.

Speaking of my approach to the job, it’s not about drawing attention to the feature or quality that identifies us at Vin Varavarn Architects. Rather, the design of everything should be perceived or interpreted for the story it tells, the meaning it conveys and what purpose it serves. That’s the way I see it.

Above all else, we will do our design based on the totality of the circumstances and with a view to solve problems that come with it.

The challenges that we face oftentimes will inspire innovative ideas to create a well-thought-out form that works. This is the feature clearly evident in the designs that we have done up until now.

There is more to it than trying to achieve the pleasing aesthetic alone. Rather, it’s about presenting a quality that’s original and unique in every project that we do.

I’m referring to the distinctive attribute that’s consistent with the context of a place, the environment, and the project’s ability to fulfill user needs.

Varudh Varavarn
The Low-cost Micro Dwellings Project for Klong Toey Community / M.L. Varudh is known for being design tool savvy when it comes to adapting to change and the context that forms the setting of a place. This is manifested in the designing of the Low-cost Micro-houses Project for Klong Toey Community in Bangkok, Thailand. Characterized by fresh new looks and geometric forms with various configurations and colors, the tiny home project is eye-catching and capable of answering homeowner needs despite multiple site limitations.

Q: What is your perspective about Tropical Architectural Design?

A: I see it as the concept of central importance that every architect should follow. It’s a crucial stage in deciding upon the look and functioning of a development project.

In this day and age, Tropical design isn’t an option anymore. Rather, it’s a must-have. And this is particularly true not only in Thailand but also across Asia, even in other parts of the world that share similar prevailing weather conditions. It’s a responsive design that solves problems in the environment, using materials sourced directly from a locality and well suited to local lifestyle needs.

The Baan Klong Bon School Project / Baan Klong Bon School is a schoolhouse project designed to perform well in the climate of a place. It offers plenty of open, flexible spaces to support multiple uses. Magnificent double-height rooms and under-floor space reserved for school activities are well suited to the warm and humid conditions of the area. / Photographs: Ketsiree Wongwan

Q: Give me a few examples that speak volumes for your design studio, be it completed or experimental.

A: Certainly. Every project we’ve done is unique in its own special way. Some are created because we want to build them, in a way contributing to society. Others are experiments aimed at assessing certain features of design.

First, the Ban Huay San Yaw Withaya School. In this development project, we faced countless obstacles to begin with.

After a site analysis, looking into the geographical and infrastructural context of the place, we were able to successfully turn crisis into opportunity, at least from the point of view of architecture.

Varudh Varavarn
The Baan Huay San Yaw Withaya School / Baan Huay San Yaw Withaya School is a part of the Classrooms Improvement Program in effect since 2014. Here, architectural design is dictated by materials sourced from the community paired with new technologies in building construction. Well thought out to perform in the geographical context of a place, the steel-frame schoolhouse is capable of withstanding slight earthquakes common in the area. Where appropriate, a full array of sun-blocking bamboo shades are installed for comfort in the classroom. / Photographs: Rithirong Chanthongsuk

Then, there’s PANNAR Sufficiency Economy and Agriculture Learning Center, an experiment undertaken to spread information about a modest but sufficient scale of living. It was a cross-sector collaboration involving members of the community, project owners, architects and building contractors.

The result was a building in which scientific knowledge combines with local experience in Tropical design. In other words, it’s a hybrid of technological innovations and good judgement in the locality.

Vin Varavarn Architects
PANNAR Sufficiency Economy and Agriculture Learning Center / An architectural design experiment, the PANNAR Sufficiency Economy and Agriculture Learning Center represents a series of connections between modern technologies in building construction and local experiences passed down through generations in a community. For M.L. Varudh, it’s a task that tests his ability having to navigate different hurdles within the design profession. With skill and the imagination, he integrates indigenous materials in the plan and harnesses the expertise of local builders to create a responsive design – one that takes into account the effect of soil, amounts of natural daylight, and prevailing weather conditions. The result is a conducive learning environment that cares about nature. / Photographs: Ketsiree Wongwan

Q: In your view as an architect, what do you think will bring a positive change in society as well as urban and rural development?

A: From my point of view, I want to make progress, not change. But if we’re happy doing our work and be a part of the solution, then we can make a positive change in our community, given the still wide social gap.

An architect has a role to play toward reducing social gaps by creating well-thought-out design that brings benefits to people in every sector of the economy and society as a whole.

Nonetheless, getting started is the hardest part in helping society. But once you get your foot in the door, get involved in your community and do your shares of a joint activity, then it’s more fun.

It brings meaning and purpose in life, and whatever you do soon become less difficult. There may still be minor issues along the way, but hey, that’s perfectly normal. Just fix it and move on.

Find out more about public space design architecture and ideas for a possible course of action toward narrowing social gaps similar to the above-mentioned projects at the upcoming room X Living Asean Design Talk 2023.

It’s an opportunity to meet up with M.L. Varudh Varavarn, founder and CEO of the architectural firm Vin Varavarn Architects of Thailand, and a panel of experts from three ASEAN countries.

This year’s conversation event is on the theme of “URBAN FUSION / RURAL FLOURISH: Interweaving Urban and Rural Designs.” The Talk is scheduled for Sunday August 6 at the room Showcase zone inside BaanLaeSuan Fair Midyear 2023. Admission is free. Hope to see you there!

By the way, seats are limited.

For more details:

Register to attend at:

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Low-Cost Micro Dwellings for Klong Toey Community: Housing Opportunities Aimed at Bridging the Gap between Urban Developments

Shunri Nishizawa, Nishizawa Architects: Reflections on Design within the Context of the Climate and Site Limitations

A New Boutique Hotel in Singapore’s Historic Chinatown

A New Boutique Hotel in Singapore’s Historic Chinatown

Embracing warmth, comfort, and privacy, a new boutique hotel takes up a row of six former shophouses in Singapore’s historic Chinatown. The beautifully renovated Hotel Mono retains the charm of Southeast Asian styled architecture, while highlighting the distinctive personality of Rococo-era ornamentation.

/// Singapore ///
Story: Weena Baramee /// Photography: Hotel Mono

An expression of art and the interior inside the Lobby at Hotel Mono

Its Rococo aesthetic is apparent in the lightness of interior design, cozy spaces, and the tall and narrow windows that speak to the French stylistic period. The gentle black and white theme on the exterior seamlessly interweaves with the lifestyles of traditional Singapore and the city’s urban bustle. 

Loft style décor that is a component in interior design
Single Room
Relaxation in a Rococo styled studio

A striking new landmark on historic Mosque Street, the 46-room Hotel Mono is an independent hotel catering to the needs of design-conscious travelers. Its statement-making black-and-white facade has been turning heads. The hotel occupies a row of six conservation shophouses, which have been completely transformed in an extensive refurbishment by President Design Award-winning firm Spacedge Designs. Hotel Mono was officially opened in November 2016.

The stylishly chic hotel presents an appealing proposition for discerning travelers – high quality rooms and service standards at very attractive prices. “We want to provide accommodations that are the best value for the money and a five-star service experience,” said GM Glenn Quah.

Besides charm and comfort in every room, guests enjoy better quality beddings, bathroom amenities and more spacious rooms, for prices comparable to the budget accommodations in the same area. Rates at the 46-room Hotel Mono start at just $160 net per night for a Double room, while a Family room sleeping four people costs under $300.

The bathroom ensemble reflects simplicity with contemporary flair.

Its bathrooms represent the conceptualization of a hip retreat for design-savvy travelers (and locals) – guests who appreciate the originality of design. A bold and contemporary design language is relevant throughout the hotel. Every room features a seamless integration of metal bars that traverse the space like lines drawn in the air, meantime, functioning as light fixtures, coat hangers and sculptures.

The boutique hotel celebrates the quality of being the only one of its kind. Due to restrictions and particulars in the floor plans of shophouse styled architecture, no two rooms are identical. Their unique characters are manifested in the name that affirms the validity of these bold and original design concepts.

Link :

50 Years of Proof of the 100 Houses Project // When Traditional Khmer is Mixed with Modernism by Vann Molyvann

50 Years of Proof of the 100 Houses Project // When Traditional Khmer is Mixed with Modernism by Vann Molyvann

Bringing the design concepts of  Le Corbusier to Cambodia, the legendary architect Vann Molyvann completed his 100 Houses Project in 1967. 50 years on, what do we see there now?

/// Cambodia ///

Story: Samutcha Viraporn /// Photography: Sitthisak Namkham


The original structures of some abandoned 100 Houses homes remain: raised floors, kitchen chimneys, etc.
Time and neglect leave their marks. Left: living room; right: bedroom
Original stairway and metal railing

Before the Khmer Rouge period, Vann Molyvann was Cambodian architecture’s biggest star. After receiving a 1946 scholarship and studying in France he returned as Cambodia’s National Architect, combining modernist with traditional Cambodian design to produce such grand works as the Chaktomuk Conference Hall, Olympic National Sports Complex, Institute of Foreign Languages, and the “100 Houses Project,” designed as employee housing for The National Bank of Cambodia at Phnom Penh. “100 Houses” was started in 1965 and completed in 1967.

Typically a Project house is a concrete structure holding a large living room and bedroom, raised above the ground with a 7.2 meter span between support posts. Floor, door and window frames, and roof frame are of wood. The roof has a Cambodian-style slant, and for good ventilation, windows reach almost to the ceiling. Kitchen and bathroom are built separate from the main house.

Cambodian family house where Martin Aerne lives
Stairway and entrance gate

After the Khmer Rouge takeover and the massive changes it brought, Vann Molyvann moved to Switzerland. Many of his creations such as this project were abandoned and overgrown, or randomly preempted by new occupants. Living ASEAN recently visited Tuk Thla district to find out how the village looked after all this time, and met Martin Aerne, Swiss architect and teacher, who now lives in one of the “100 Houses.”

Martin Aerne’s living room becomes an architectural office
Bathroom and kitchen section separate from main house
Corner of living room, leading into bedroom
Green space. Tall windows. Houses arranged to catch the breeze and not block each other’s views.

Martin Aerne tells us about coming to Cambodia, meeting Vann Molyvann, and discussing how to preserve works from the age of New Khmer Architecture. This prompted him to rent a space and open an architecture office on the upper floor of a Cambodian family home.

Martin notes that for privacy, homes in the Project are designed with alternating levels. Bedroom windows of one house aren’t open to view from the  next. The porch of one house looks out on the garden of another. And even with no common garden, there’s green everywhere.

Martin Aerne, architect and architecture instructor in Phnom Penh
Martin Aerne’s residence

Not many of the old-style houses remain: new owners have demolished them, rebuilt, or added on willy-nilly with no thought to historical value. Two or three abandoned houses from the original project are fortunately still here, since even in their ramshackle state they’re a great aid for studying Vann Molyvann’s amazing work from the 50s  and 60s, of which on a 1967 visit Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew said, “I hope, one day, my city will look like this.

Most homes in the 100 Houses Project have been demolished, added onto, or rebuilt
Blueprint of original house:


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All-in-One Creative Space

All-in-One Creative Space

Great ideas don’t just happen. They come from having a creative work environment, which is vital in the innovative process. An all-inclusive workspace, such as this one, can make a difference in your projects, too.

/// Malaysia ///
Story: LivingASEAN / Photography: Sitthisak Namkham



For the past half-century, the printing factory at Art Printing Works has stood in Bangsar, a suburb on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur. Recently it has been transformed into an all-inclusive workspace called “APW Campus”. Among its objectives: Combine the art, business, and technology and put them to work together in one creative environment.

creative space

Having a fight with colleagues? Vent your fury and settle it with Street Fighter machines instead.
Having a fight with colleagues? Vent your fury and settle it with Street Fighter machines instead.
No reception counter, no problem! Use an old printing press instead.
No reception counter, no problem! Use an old printing press instead.

The 6,500-square-meter workspace on the property was redesigned to allocate resources in a different way without any change to the existing structure. A co-working space, appropriately named “Uppercase,” is on the second floor, right above the printing factory that still prints reputable books and magazines.

Pulp by Papa Palheta, an on-site café
Pulp by Papa Palheta, an on-site café
Paper Plates Food Court
Paper Plates Food Court

Whilst there, visitors can also get some grub to refresh their creative energy. A caffeine boost is available at Pulp by Papa Palheta, an on-site café offering all kinds of specialty coffee, while Paper Plates, a food court favorite among locals, serves a wide array of fine foods and drinks.

The surrounding areas, both indoors and outdoors, can be used as venues for extracurricular activities, from art exhibitions and product launches to cooking classes and outdoor rock concerts. The all-in-one creative space is designed to showcase a thousand ways to inspire new inventions and the innovative process.


The Colonial Style in Cambodia

The Colonial Style in Cambodia

The colonial style is apparent, but most of the buildings were designed with appropriate adaptations to fit in with the hot and humid climate.

/ Phnom Penh, Cambodia /

/ Story & Photograph: Virak Roeun /



The “Place de la Poste” Square with the Cambodia Post building in background
Neoclassical features on the front façade of Cambodia Post Building

The French colonial style of architecture is apparent, but most of the buildings were designed with appropriate adaptations to fit in with the hot and humid climate. They included design features, décor ideas, and ornaments well suited for the local environment, examples of which are obvious on the façade of the Postal Service Building. Built in 1895, Cambodia Post showcases wooden louver windows and doors, high ceilings and solid brick walls designed to keep the heat out. Opposite it stands the former Hotel Manolis, where Monsieur André Malraux, a celebrated novelist and first minister of culture of France, stayed in the 1920s. Since 1979 it has become a private residence. The Cambodia Post building looks extraordinarily good on a grand scale, but the abandoned Central Police Commissariat nearby is probably more elaborate in design. Its exterior appears to be neglected, but inside, the corridors and the rooms are never directly exposed to the elements and the heat.

The former Hotel Manolis exhibits an architectural style prevalent during the French colonial era.
Terraced houses reminiscent of old-world Europe lie opposite the Manolis.
An original wooden staircase inside the Manolis
A room number plate stands the test of time at the former hotel Manolis.
The former water tank of the hotel Manolis
Original tile flooring at the Manolis tells a story of its long and arduous journey through time.
Vendors set up shop in front of the abandoned Central Police Commissariat in Phnom Penh.
Mirror images of design details are evident throughout this building from colonial era.



The entrance to the former Bank of Indochina

Le Bibliotheque, Cambodia’s national library is situated on Daun Penh Avenue, next to the luxurious Raffles Hotel Le Royal. The sights of beautifully crafted columns, porticos, and pediments evoke images of French neoclassical architecture in years past. Adapted to blend well in a new environment, the library building showcases locally inspired ornamentation rather than Greek influences. There are also traces of styles that characterize Art Deco architecture that followed in later periods, examples of which included reinforced concrete buildings adapted for better ventilation. The Psar Thmei, or Central Market is one of them. The market is not only interesting in terms of design, but has always been a vibrant and bustling commercial address right to this day.

The National Library
The Bibliotheque showcases French neoclassical architecture adapted to include locally inspired ornamentation on every column.
The Royal Railway Station
Parabolic arches built of reinforced concrete support the passenger terminal at the train station.
The railway platform awaits the arrival of the next train.
An entryway to the Psar Thmei central market
Shop fronts before opening hours
Oculus design culminates at the apex of the dome protecting the Psar Thmei central market.

The walking map of central Phnom Penh by KATours, a non-profit organization, is downloadable online here. Give it a try next time you are in Phnom Penh. It’s really useful if you like these buildings and their past glory days.


  • The History of Cambodia, From the French Colonial Period until the Present Day, Part 1 by Vandy Kaonn
  • The French Presence in Cochinchina and Cambodia by Milton E. Osborne
  • Modern Khmer Cities by Vann Molyvann
  • KATours internal documents describing the Post Office by Ester van der Laan
  • The Phnom Penh Map in the 1920s from the Library of Congress
  • The Master Plan of Phnom Penh 1925
Five Roof Types in Laos: Vernacular Architecture in Perspective

Five Roof Types in Laos: Vernacular Architecture in Perspective

Laos, officially the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, is one of ten ASEAN members. There is more to Laos than Luang Prabang, the beautiful old city and World Heritage site. The country is also known for beautiful culture, unique traditions, and pristine landscape.

Story: Thanavoud Inthasone, Xaysomvang Philavong, Souksavanh Vongchandy /// Illustrations: Thanavoud Inthasone /// Editors: Thassareeya Songpao, Witchayapha Boonpha

In this episode, we take a look at an aspect of vernacular architecture that had flourished there before the advent of French colonial influences. A team of Lao interns takes delight in presenting five roof types that have come to characterize the way of living of our closest neighbors since time immemorial.


The Katu

Since a very long time ago, the Katu tribe has lived together in small villages. Their houses are arranged in a circle and oriented to face one another. Each house has two entrances — one in front, the other at the rear.

The traditional Katu house is raised on piles with a thatched roof that extends to cover the front porch, balcony, and stepladders. The entire roof is covered in thatching made from dried vegetation, such as broad-leaved grasses and Ceylon oak leaves. There is an animal figurine on the ridge of the gable roof. According to tradition, the small figure is believed to have supernatural power capable of protecting the building and people living in it.

There are no room dividers of any kind. Family members live under the same roof and share the same interior living spaces. Nowadays traditional Kratu homes can be found in Sekong, Salavan, and Champasak provinces in the south of the country.



The Akha

Homes of the Akha tribe are crafted largely of local materials, like timber and earth. Basic roof frames and support beams are fastened together using vines harvested from the natural surroundings. The gable roof is covered in thatching made from dried Ceylon oak leaves. The Akha home features extended roof eaves on all four sides, which help divert the water flow away from the building. What’s unique is that it has no windows. This and other features combine to effective protect the interior living spaces from the elements especially during winter months. The Akha tribe lives mostly in the northern country known for its temperate climates. The region includes the provinces of Phongsali, Luang Namtha, and Oudomsai.

The Akha tribe believes men and women should live separately. Thus entering the territory of the opposite gender is forbidden. That explains why room dividers are a must in the Akha home, where each gender is entitled to its own private space.

The Oi

Similarly, homes of the Oi tribe are houses on stilts made of timber and thatched roofing. The difference lies in its interior design. The Oi house typically comes with a bedroom reserved for the married couple that live there. There is a separate space that is used either as shared bedroom or as living area for unmarried family members. The kitchen space lies also part of the interior.

The Oi house offers two balconies – one in front, the other at the rear. Tradition dictates that adult males and females live separately until they are married off. The Oi tribal is a small ethnic group living in the southern country, mostly in Phu Luang District.

The Taliang

The Taliang tribe lives in thatched houses made of bamboo pallets in generally cooler and wet climates of the Lao PDR. That pretty much explains why their houses are windowless. Roof thatching is made from dried vegetation, such as broad-leaved grasses and Ceylon oak leaves. Unlike those of other ethnic groups, the Taliang home comes with three doorways, one on each porch. The entire family sleeps together in one big hall that is a shared bedroom. The interior offers a fireplace to keep warm during winter months.

Taliang houses are arranged in a circle similar to those of the Katu village. There is a center court where tribal ceremonies and rituals are held. The Taliang live in the hill country in southern Laos, which includes the districts of Dak Jung, Lam Mam, Thateng in Sekong and Champasak provinces.


The Khmu

The typical Khmu house is raised on short piles only about one to two meters above ground. The front façade boasts an awning roof that protects the entire front porch from the elements. Unlike those of other ethnic groups, the Khmu house is accessible via a single set of stepladders. The Khmu thatch-roof house has no windows. The crossbeams that are parts of the roof frame also double as storage for household essentials. Exterior walls are crafted of bamboo pallets, while the interior space consists of a large bedroom, small bedroom, living room, and kitchen. Men and women gain access to the house via the single entryway.

The Khmu tribe lives in the high country about 500 meters above sea level. To avoid gusty winds on the highlands of northern and southern Laos, the Khmu have learned to keep their houses low to the ground. Interestingly enough, aerodynamic design comes naturally to them.


The New Architecture Icon in Malaysia // The New PAM Centre

The New Architecture Icon in Malaysia // The New PAM Centre

The New PAM Centre just has opened in Bangsar, Kuala Lumper. The design incorporated the use of a narrow tract of land and provides a unique ventilation system as a climate solution. The striking black aluminum façade of this building has made the new architecture icon in Malaysia.

/// Malaysia /// 

Story : Samutcha Viraporn /// Photos : Sitthisak Namkham 



Malaysian Institute of Architects or also known as Pertubuhan Akitek Malaysia (PAM) held the competition to build the new PAM centre in 2012. The winner, HMA & Associates came up with the ultimate solutions in designing this unique space. The 10-story building features black aluminum screening, concrete slabs and blocks, brick walls, steel staircases, exposed pipes, and green spaces inside the building to balance the space.





Mohd Heikal bin Hasan of HMA & Associates

“It is a linear site, very narrow. Actually the size is suitable for a bungalow. The concept is how to bring external space into the building. You can see the green spaces in many areas as staircases design. Because of the limited size, we didn’t have the external Space needed.” Mohd Heikal bin Hasan of HMA & Associates explains.




This type of architectural designcontains 4 main elements
  1. The Space Between, This void merges necessity, functionality, and aesthetic beauty into a remarkable facade.
  2. The Stairs, The vertical staircases create excellent ventilation from one floor to throughout the structure.
  3. The Plane, Also known as the shields blocks neighboring bulky design with eye-straining color scheme.
  4. The Screen, A breathable skin that helps to protect the building from the sunlight from the west.




Once you step into this building, you can feel the natural ventilation around you. Of course, this design reduces energy consumption for saving electricity. All of the elements are not only appealing but also functional. This building is an excellence example of regional tropical design.

The auditorium
The exhibition room

Moreover, this building has even more small surprise inside of it. Before the building was built, a small 2-story dwelling was previously located on the land. The architect decided to keep the structure of the house inside the big building. On the first and the second floor, you can see the original columns and beams in the exhibition room. It is amazing how the older structure remain in this big project. The architect wanted to communicate to us to “Please do not forget who you are and where you come from in the new modern world.” Brilliant!






Yangon / Largest Collection of Colonial Architecture in Southeast Asia

Yangon / Largest Collection of Colonial Architecture in Southeast Asia

Under British rule from 1824 to 1948, Yangon became a significant center of commerce located between India and Singapore. The streets of Yangon offer a glimpse of the opulence of the old city and its heritage. A walking tour is one way to find out.

///  Myanmar ///

Story: Samutcha Viraporn /// Photos: Samutcha Viraporn



After the second Anglo-Burmese war, Yangon was occupied by British troops.  Burma came under British rule, during which time it was declared a province of British India. The British made significant changes to the city of Yangon. In 1853, Dr. W. Montgomery and then lieutenant governor A. Fraser laid out a grid of tree-lined streets for the city of Yangon. New city planning placed the Sule Pagoda at the city center.



After three Anglo-Burmese wars, the British in 1885 occupied all the area of present-day Myanmar. Despite the conflict, many new buildings were built in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and remained to be seen today. Some of them became government offices, embassies, the stock exchange, even shops and cafés. Others were abandoned and fell in disrepair. In 2012 the Yangon Heritage Trust was established to promote the environmental conservation of Yangon’s rich urban heritage through cohesive planning.




The exhibition about colonial buildings in Yangon Heritage Trust office

One of the programs undertaken by the Trust is the Heritage Walking Tour through downtown areas. People who love architecture can visit the Yangon Heritage Trust office on Pansodan Street. There is an exhibition going along with   useful information about six routes for sightseeing. They are outlined in brochures. If time is not on your side, Living ASEAN recommends a shorter route as an option. The starting point is on Pansodan Street.  Start your journey on foot from here. Turn left into Merchant Road, then another left on to Sule Pagoda Road.  Soon you will come to Strand Road (See this route on the map). Give it two hours or a little more than that, and you witness a lot of Yangon’s glorious past and beautiful heritage. Need a break? Drop into the beautiful Rangoon Tea House for refreshments, or the coffee shop at the Strand Hotel. After a couple of hours on the road, coffee smells like heaven!









You can find some design items at Hla Day shop
Take a seat at Rangoon Tea House




Flexible Stone Veneer / The New Innovation of Natural Stone

Flexible Stone Veneer / The New Innovation of Natural Stone

Flexx Stone – Flexible Stone Veneer // Light, Thin and Flexible to apply

A project in Thailand, designed by Studio B
Flexx Stone at the counter

Flexx stone is a veneer with layers of natural stone and polymer composite. This innovation makes it thin, light and yet strong. It is used for both interior and exterior and especially where bending to a curved surface is required. Flexx Stone can be applied on any surface: concrete, masonry, wallboard, metal, plywood and drywall. It can be glued by PU adhesive, silicone and epoxy. Its surface can be treated like natural stone, glossy or matt.


More than 15 color variation of Flexible Stone Veneer

Benefit of Flexx Stone:

Very light – 0.3 kg per square metre

Very Thin – 0.1-0.3 mm

Easy to cut and work with

Flexible to install on wall, ceiling, door, cabinet, furniture and decorative item

Cost effective

Water proof material

High Strength and durable

Every stale is unique

Columns which was covered by Flexx Stone at PLATO X Mobella Showroom Ekamai, Sukhumvit
The project in Canada




Left: ceiling application, Right: Translucent serie


Nowadays, Flexible stone veneer was installed in many countries in Europe, America and Asia. Flexx Stone in Thailand was distributed by Plan X Co.,Ltd.

Distributor: Plan X, Thailand –









Vann Molyvann: The Forgotten Masterpieces of Phnom Penh

Vann Molyvann: The Forgotten Masterpieces of Phnom Penh

/ Phnom Penh, Cambodia /

/ Story: Jeremiah Pitakwong / Photographs: Samutcha Viraporn, Damrong Leewairoj /

There is more to Cambodia than Angkor Wat. 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.

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.

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 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.


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.





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.