Khmer Concrete – 5 Favourite Images

To celebrate the upcoming release of our new book Khmer Concrete, we ask its author Ekkehart Keintzel for his five favourite images from the project.

NagaWorld, a huge complex of buildings consisting of hotels and casinos, shapes and reshapes the former Bassac riverfront urban development project today. The original idea was to develop a modern city district consisting of exhibition buildings, theaters, hotels and residential complexes, embedded in green spaces and a contemporary street network. There is not much left of that original idea, the construction of NagaWorld dramatically expanded the urban scale of the area.

The original idea behind the National Sports Complex was to integrate an extensive area with sports facilities, green spaces and water areas into the fabric of Phnom Penh. It was intended as space for public use, which would also have a positive influence on the microclimate of the area. In recent years, however, large parts of the surrounding area has been sold to real estate companies, which have built high-density office and residential complexes on it, encasing the iconic stadium.

In 1965 the School of Applied Arts was built and became an important place for education. Taken over by the Khmer Rouge, then later abandoned, nowadays it is occupied by locals and used as a residential facility. It’s surprising how the arrangement of atelier spaces and public halls is well suited for use as a living environment. A peaceful place, even though parts of the complex are used as a military training facility.

The stage to the side of the Teacher Training Center is commonly used by students for different reasons. In this case it is a group of students exercising traditional Apsara dances; a style of dance which is at least 900 years old and can be found on the reliefs of Angkor Wat. In our case it is a sublime blending of modern, Cambodian style architecture with traditional temple dances, which by the lack of fancy decoration are anchored in the present.

The White Building was constructed in 1963 as part of the Bassac Riverfront development plan and contained modern urban housing. Designed by Lu Ban Hap, the floor plans and furnishings, as well as the organisation of the building were inspired by modernist guidelines. Until the end, the building enjoyed great popularity. The inhabitants were mixed and consisted of people who had lived there since the building was built, merchants who ran stores on the ground floor and many young artists. This mixture gave the building its special atmosphere and made it a city within the city with a high quality of life. However, the land and building were sold to a real estate company which subsequently demolished the building in 2017.