Vann Molyvann is not just Cambodia’s most revered architect, he is a national icon. His work includes Independence Monument, the Olympic Stadium, Chaktomuk Theater and many, if not most, of Phnom Penh’s landmarks.
It doesn’t take an architecture aficionado to appreciate the creations of architect-urbanist Vann Molyvann, many of which are on permanent, and prominent, display around the capital.
To the Western eye, trained on skyscrapers and shopping malls, the designs of Molyvann are a delightful departure. He’s known as the star of New Khmer Architecture, a period in the 1950s and 1960s that was at once experimental and practical, monumental and whimsical.
“Style is not just something you stick on the outside. Neo-Khmer architecture draws on real needs,” says historian and architect Helen Grant Ross. “There is something very human about it. It’s not at all like fascist monolithic architecture, and it is very Cambodian in the sense that it is very low key. It doesn’t use luxurious materials. It’s really quite modest.”