Designs for the Documentation Center of Cambodia’s (DC-Cam) planned new institute and genocide museum have been unveiled by world-renowned architect Zaha Hadid.
The long-awaited new Sleuk Rith Institute, which will house DC-Cam’s extensive archives relating to the Khmer Rouge regime, is to incorporate a research center, a graduate school and a 68,000-square-meter memorial park.
With a nod to Angkorian architecture—the much feted Baghdad-born architect took inspiration from Angkor Wat—the designs reveal five wooden structures interwoven and connected in a rising formation to an apex eight levels high, and surrounded by pools of water.
DC-Cam director Youk Chhang, a survivor of the Khmer Rouge who founded the Sleuk Rith Institute, said his vision was for an “enlightening and forward-thinking” institution that breaks from the typically somber style of genocide memorials.
“Cambodia will never escape its history, but it does not need to be enslaved by it,” he said in a statement. “Post-conflict societies have to move on.”
The planned site is on land next to to Boeung Trabek High School, in Phnom Penh, which was used as a re-education camp during the Khmer Rouge regime. DC-Cam hopes it will become a global center for education and research into the causes and prevention of genocide.
Contacted by telephone, Mr. Chhang would not put an exact figure on the cost of constructing the environmentally-friendly building, saying DC-Cam wanted to reflect “the meaning of the nation” without being limited by money.
“We took the design to many villagers in the countryside and asked whether they liked it…it was a heartbreaking mission because no matter how poor they were, they gave us 500 riel or 1,000 riel [to support the project],” he said.
“We hope that the international community and others will feel the same way, like the poor and those who suffered under the Khmer Rouge, and contribute to make this a reality.”
Mr. Chhang said it was not possible to put an exact timeline on the construction, which he conceded was ambitious. He said what was more important was the building’s “soul and spirit.”
“We are in the stage of discussions about when [it will be built], but I have been pushing to have it done in the next four years,” he said.