Capital Buildings To Open Up For Festival

Ever walked past one of the many stunning buildings lining Phnom Penh’s streets and wished you could step inside for a closer look? This month, some of the capital’s finest edifices will open their doors to the public for one weekend only.

“It’s not a new idea. They do this in lots of countries around the world. It’s just something we want to bring to Phnom Penh,” said Stefanie Irmer, director of Khmer Architecture Tours and an event organizer.

The company, in association with conservation NGO Heritage Watch, are still working on finalizing a list of buildings that will be included in the “Open Doors Phnom Penh” weekend, set for Sept 25 and 26, Ms Irmer said. The weekend will form part of the celebrations for the Our City festival.

She said that, since this is the first project of its type in the country, many of the private residents and institutions she asked to throw open their doors had responded with surprise.

“It’s been really difficult to ask people, especially Cambodians, to let us into their homes,” she said. “It’s a new idea here.”

Confirmed destinations include the Bophana Audiovisual Research Center building, the Phnom Penh post office and the unfinished Vann Molyvann masterpiece known as Building on Sothearos Boulevard in Chamkar Mon district, she said, one room of which will be made up to look like an apartment from the 1960s.

Building’s walls are crumbling and residents report high levels of crime, but one resident said appeared eager for people to come and witness their way of life.

“It’s my duty to give people the chance to look at the achievement of a Cambodian architect. It was a strong building; it displayed the great expertise of Cambodian architecture,” said Te Chhen, 69, who moved into the complex in 1983 and raised three children and numerous grandchildren there.

Tonle Bassac commune chief Khat Narith said he also welcomed visitors to Building, though he expressed some concerns over visitors’ safety.

“If the tour company have permission [to visit], we will prepare and provide the village chief or official guard for guiding them,” he said.


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