Phnom Penh itself will be the star of the show this month as artists, architects and urban planners illustrate and discuss its cityscape during a series of events throughout the capital.
Activities will include an exhibition of Cambodian and foreign artists called “I Love Phnom Penh” at Java Cafe opening Thursday and will conclude with a conference on urban planning by famed architect Vann Molyvann at the French Cultural Center on Sept 25.
The idea for “Architecture + Design Month” came out of a concern over alterations made to the city in the last few years, said Dana Langlois, owner of Java Cafe.
“As a resident of Phnom Penh for almost 10 years, watching the city change so rapidly affected me quite strongly,” she said. “I saw a lot of good changes and a lot of bad changes, and I thought that some of them were done without a lot of consideration. So I felt that our community had a right and needed to make a response to this change.”
The diversity of events and venues will ensure that all viewpoints are expressed, Langlois said.
“It may vary from, ‘Eh, Phnom Penh is great as it is,’ to some people who are more nostalgic, while others are dreaming of the future,” she said.
“The city of Phnom Penh features rather exceptional monuments both in terms of new Khmer architecture and [French] colonial heritage,” said Alain Arnaudet, director of the French Cultural Center.
“Few countries in the world have had national movements in architecture such as the one [of] the 1950s and 1960s…. And today, pagodas built in the country are no small accomplishment—it’s a nation of architects, of builders,” he said.
The French Cultural Center will be exhibiting art installations by artists Georges Rousse, Leang Seckon and Daniel Perrier on Sept 20.
Meta House will hold a three-evening program starting Sept 16 with an exhibition featuring drawings of colonial buildings by artists from Phare Ponleu Selpak; panels on 1960s architecture by urban planner Helen Grant Ross; and photos of Phnom Penh’s vacant spaces by photographer John Vink. This will be followed Sept 17 and 18 by evenings of film screenings and discussions with architects and artists, said Lydia Parusol, Meta House’s creative manager.
Art historian Darryl Collins and architect Hok Sokhol will speak on traditional Khmer wooden architecture Sept 22 at Java Cafe; and Friends The Restaurant will exhibit “A Work in Progress, From Historical Buildings to Award-Winning Designs” Sept 24.
The program has also involved the design of a map listing Phnom Penh’s landmarks, art galleries, theater venues as well as child-safe locations and guidelines. SpotMap 2008, which was illustrated by artists Khvay Samnang and Kong Vollak, will be available within the next three months, Langlois said.