Vann Molyvann

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Vann Molyvann
Born (1926-11-23) November 23, 1926 (age 87)
Ream, Sihanoukville
Nationality Cambodian
Education Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts, Paris, France
Known for Architecture
Movement New Khmer Architecture

Vann Molyvann (Khmer: វណ្ណ ម៉ូលីវណ្ណ; born November 23, 1926) is a Cambodian architect. During the Sangkum Reastr Niyum regime (1955–1970) Prince Norodom Sihanouk enacted a development policy encompassing the whole kingdom with the construction of new towns, infrastructure and architecture. Vann was the foremost of a generation of architects who contributed to the unique style of architecture that emerged during this era and that has been coined New Khmer Architecture.

Biography[edit]

Born in Ream, Kampot province in 1926, Vann Molyvann obtained a scholarship to pursue his studies in Paris, France in 1946.[1] After one year of law, he switched to architecture at the School of Fine Arts in Paris (Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts). He studied in the Arretche studio and returned in 1956, the first fully qualified Cambodian architect, keen to put his talents to use. He was promptly appointed Head of Public Works and State Architect by Sihanouk.

During this era known as the "Golden Age", Vann built such famous landmarks as Chaktomuk Conference Hall, the Council of Ministers and the State Palace in the capital. He supervised the design and construction of new towns such as Tioulongville (Kirirom) and Sihanoukville (Kompong Som) and important town plans such as the Bassac development in Phnom Penh, where a mix of cultural facilities such as the National Theatre Preah Suramarit and the Exhibition Hall neighboured with large housing experiments. He also designed many of Cambodia's embassies and exhibitions abroad.

In 1962, Molyvann designed the 60,000 capacity National Sports Complex which was once the most prized arena in all of Southeast Asia. The stadium, built to Olympic standards, is still the largest venue in Cambodia. Initially built at break-neck speed to house the 1963 Asian Games that were then cancelled, it was inaugurated in 1964 to an enthusiastic crowd. It hosted such important events as the GANEFO games and the President of France, Charles de Gaulle’s state visit, in 1966.

In 1970 the Sangkum Reastr Niyum came to a brutal end with the coup d'état led by General Lon Nol. Vann relocated to Switzerland with his family. He worked for the United Nations Human Settlements Programme for 10 years before eventually returning to Cambodia in 1991 where he served as President of the Council of Ministers, Minister of Culture, Fine Arts, Town and Country Planning. In 2008 he completed his doctoral thesis on the development and planning of Asian cities entitled Modern Khmer Cities.[2]

Many of his buildings are now under threat due to redevelopment and speculative land deals. His landmark National Theatre and the Council of Ministers building have been ripped down. The National Sports Complex was sold to a private developer in 2001 who has filled up its vital hydraulic system, consisting of moats and water treatment stations, with shoddy constructions, hence compromising its survival.

Works[edit]

From 1955 to 1970, Vann worked on nearly 100 projects. The following are some of the most significant:

Phnom Penh[edit]

  • National Sports Complex
  • Council of Ministers
  • State Palace
  • Chaktomuk Conference Hall
  • Teacher Training College
  • Institute of Foreign Languages (RUPP)
  • Independence Monument
  • National Theatre
  • Front du Bassac housing development[3]

Sihanoukville[edit]

  • National Bank of Cambodia and staff housing
  • SKD Brewery and staff housing

Legacy[edit]

In 2013, Vann Molyvann won Nikkei Asia Prize 2013 in the culture category. His works on famous landmarks such as Olympic Stadium and the Independent Monument were highly recognized.[4] Nikkei Asia Prizes was launched by Nikkei Inc. in 1996, the awards program honors people in Asia who have made significant contributions in three areas: regional growth; science, technology and innovation; and culture.

Notes[edit]

External links and sources[edit]

Grant Ross, Helen and Collins, Darryl Leon Building Cambodia: 'New Khmer Architecture' 1953-1970, Bangkok: The Key Publisher Co. Ltd., 2006 ISBN 974-93412-1-X Chapter 7 devoted entirely to Vann Molyvann