BackSociety » Architecture » [Photos] A Look At The Bygone Era Of “New” Cambodian Architecture

[Photos] A Look At The Bygone Era Of “New” Cambodian Architecture

In the 1950s and 60s, Cambodia was developing a unique architectural style, one which blended aspects of the Modern Movement with traditional features found at Angkor. This movement, known as “New Khmer Architecture,” flourished until 1970 when Lon Nol led a military coup against Prince Norodom Sihanouk.

Battambang University (1968).

The movement stemmed from Sihanouk’s efforts to rapidly modernize the country in the early 1950s, following Cambodian independence. Local architects were sent abroad where they studied the Modern Movement and upon their return, fused the style with traditional Cambodian architecture.

Cambodiana Hotel, Phnom Penh (1969).

Within a decade, government buildings, royal residences, factories, schools and universities, health centers and hospitals, sports complexes, exhibition halls, cinemas and theaters, airports and train stations, churches, private houses and social housing projects, even stupas and monuments were built in the New Khmer style. 

Languages Institute (1972).

It’s almost impossible to believe today, but on a visit to the Phnom Penh, Lee Kuan Yew, Prime Minister of the Republic of Singapore from 1959 to 1990, was so impressed by what he saw that he expressed his desire that Singapore use it as a model for development. 

Amazingly, the majority of these buildings survived the bloody Khmer Rouge period though many are currently in poor condition.

Institut Technique Supérieurde l’amitié Khméro-Sovietique (1964).

But it may be modernization and lack of understanding that will ultimately seal their fate: "…it's too modern (...) and is not understood as being an expression of a vital time in Cambodia's history," according to 'Building Cambodia: New Khmer Architecture' 1953-1970, written by Helen Grant Ross and Darryl Leon Collins.

Fortunately, many examples of the style at its prime were captured in the photographs below.

Related Articles

in Architecture

'Gentle House' Taps Traditional Vietnamese Architecture for Modern Inspiration

Blending the natural environment and modern construction, in 2012, Ngoc Luong Le Architects created the gentle house, a home on Hanoi’s outskirts that combines modern and traditional design elements t...

in Architecture

2 Slim Vietnamese Homes Featured In British Architecture Magazine

2 Vietnamese homes designed by Vietnamese architects have made Deezen Magazine’s list of “10 Super Skinny Houses.”

in Architecture

2 Vietnamese Designs Take Home Top Awards at International Architecture Festival

A21 Studio’s “The Chapel” and Vo Trong Nghia Architect’s “House For Trees” both took home top awards at last week’s World Architecture Festival (WAF) in Singapore.

in Architecture

CNN: Vo Trong Nghia Is Next Big Name In Architecture

Vietnamese starchitect, Vo Trong Nghia, had quite a 2014 with a number of his firm’s designs receiving international commendation. It looks like he’s off to a great start in 2015 as American news netw...

in Architecture

Canadian Artist Reimagines Saigon's Architecture

Stories have recently surfaced about historical buildings in Saigon that have been or are on their way to being destroyed to make room for new, modern offices and luxury apartments.

in Architecture

Hanoi's National Assembly Building: Rethinking Modern Vietnamese Architecture

Archdaily recently caught up with GMP Architekten, the minds behind Hanoi’s new National Assembly building who, with their design, attempted to answer the question: “What is Vietnamese building cultur...