Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Amateur architects reimagine fading quarter



Amateur architects reimagine fading quarter

The second-place redesign of the square features a courtyard with a soundstage.
The second-place redesign of the square features a courtyard with a soundstage. Athena Zelandonii

Amateur architects reimagine fading quarter

Phnom Penh’s old colonial Post Office sits in a sleepy corner of the city just away from the riverside. Its bell, used to mark curfew under the Khmer Rouge, no longer tolls.

In an urban design competition that concluded this week, architecture students from five university programs offered their takes on how to reinvigorate the historic district.

“It is a beautiful place, but now it looks too quiet. So we’ve designed it to be alive,” says Horn Sok, a student at Pannasastra University. His team’s model, which took first place, seeks to bring people back into the square.

In miniature, they have closed the carpark out front to traffic and reimagined it as a courtyard with seats, two movie screens and room for food stalls. Its centrepiece – termed the “Flying Envelope” – is a multipurpose event space with a roof shaped like a paper airplane.

The replica is a creative take on a task often left unaddressed in Phnom Penh: re-designing the old to fit the new.

Urban design for public consumption isn’t the priority in the capital, says Pen Sereypagna, an architect who co-organised the contest. “The thing is, in Cambodia, in this industry . . . everything is just focused on private buildings or apartment buildings. There is a lot of development in Phnom Penh,” he says. “But we don’t have enough public space.”

Architecture graduates have little problem finding jobs, but there are few who work as city planners. The Post Office square competition gave them the opportunity. The judges came from a few sectors, including the municipal government. “We see this competition as a way to bring people together and make a dialogue,” Sereypagna says.

One student winner, Hun Sokagna, who received her degree from the Royal University of Fine Arts in August, wants to pursue a career in heritage conservation. Design, she has learned, is about carefully considered intervention.

“Phnom Penh is developing in the wrong way. Buildings are not designed by architects, but engineers,” she says. “I want to develop Cambodia in the right way.”

An exhibition of the winning designs is on at the Community Art Gallery at the Asia Foundation, #59 Street 242.

MOST VIEWED

  • Prince Norodom Ranariddh passes away at 77

    Prince Norodom Ranariddh, the second son of the late King Father Norodom Sihanouk and former First Prime Minister of Cambodia, has passed away in France at the age of 77. “Samdech Krom Preah Norodom Ranariddh has passed away this morning in France just after 9am Paris-time,”

  • General’s gun smuggling ring busted

    The Military Police sent six military officers to court on November 22 to face prosecution for possession of 105 illegal rifles and arms smuggling, while investigators say they are still hunting down additional accomplices. Sao Sokha, deputy commander of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces and commander of

  • More Cambodians studying in US

    The number of Cambodian students studying at US colleges and universities in 2020-21 increased by 14.3 per cent over the previous year despite the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a recent US government report. The 2021 Open Doors report on International Educational Exchange showed that 848 Cambodian students studied

  • Cambodia, Thailand to discuss border reopening

    Cambodian authorities from provinces along the Cambodia-Thailand border will meet with Thai counterparts to discuss reopening border checkpoints to facilitate travel, transfer of products and cross-border trade between the two countries. Banteay Meanchey provincial deputy governor Ly Sary said on November 22 that the provincial administration

  • Banteay Meanchey gunfight sees 15 Thais arrested, three officers injured

    The Banteay Meanchey Military Police have arrested 15 Thai suspects and their accomplices after a gun battle between two Thai groups caused injuries to three police officers in the early hours of November 21, local authorities said. National Military Police spokesman Eng Hy said that according to

  • Locally-trained commercial pilots to lift Cambodia’s aviation standard

    The Kingdom is boosting its civil aviation sector with the establishment of a flight school with a local airline to meet growth demands once air travel recovers At 22, First Officer Reachta Lim is the youngest commercial pilot in Cambodia. He flies with the national flag