The Colonial Style in Cambodia

The Colonial Style in Cambodia

The Colonial Style in Cambodia

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

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