Vann Molyvann

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Vann Molyvann
Born(1926-11-23)November 23, 1926
DiedSeptember 28, 2017(2017-09-28) (aged 90)
Siem Reap, Cambodia
EducationÉcole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts
Known forArchitecture
Notable work
Chaktomuk Conference Hall
Independence Monument
Institute of Foreign Languages
Phnom Penh Olympic Stadium
Royal University of Phnom Penh
White Building
MovementNew Khmer Architecture

Vann Molyvann (Khmer: វណ្ណ ម៉ូលីវណ្ណ; November 23, 1926 – September 28, 2017) was 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.


Born in Ream, Kampot province in 1926,[1] Vann Molyvann obtained a scholarship to pursue his studies in Paris, France in 1946.[2] After one year of law, he switched to architecture at the School of Fine Arts in Paris (École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts). He studied in the Arretche studio and returned in 1956,[3] 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",[1] 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[1] 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, who had been the Sangkum's longest serving Minister of Education,[4] relocated to Switzerland with his family.[5] 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 were demolished in 2008.[6] 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.


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

Phnom Penh[edit]


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


Vann Molyvann died on September 28, 2017, at his home in Siem Reap city, aged 90.[8] He is survived by his wife, three daughters and two sons.[9]


In 2013, Vann Molyvann won Nikkei Asia Prize 2013 in the culture category. His works on famous landmarks such as the Olympic Stadium and the Independence Monument were highly recognized.[10] Nikkei Asia Prizes was launched by Nikkei Inc. in 1996, the awards program honours people in Asia who have made significant contributions in three areas: regional growth, science, technology and innovation, and culture.


  1. ^ a b c d e f "The Man who built Cambodia". Retrieved 28 September 2017.
  2. ^ a b ppp_webadmin (25 January 2013). "Vann Molyvann: my legacy will disappear". Retrieved 28 September 2017.
  3. ^ Roasa, Dustin (14 November 2010). "Vann Molyvann: Cambodia's forgotten architect". Retrieved 28 September 2017 – via LA Times.
  4. ^ Ayres, David M. (2000). Anatomy of a Crisis: Education, Development, and the State in Cambodia, 1953-1998. University of Hawaii Press. p. 100. ISBN 978-0-8248-2238-5.
  5. ^ "Documentary celebrates Cambodia's most renowned architect". 21 February 2015. Retrieved 28 September 2017.
  6. ^ Roasa, Dustin (14 November 2010). "Vann Molyvann: Cambodia's forgotten architect". Retrieved 28 September 2017 – via LA Times.
  7. ^ Steinglass, Matt (15 May 2005). "The City He Built". Retrieved 28 September 2017 – via
  8. ^ "Architect Vann Molyvann dies in Siem Reap at 90". The Phnom Penh Post. 28 September 2017. Retrieved 28 September 2017.
  9. ^ Fawthrop, Tom. "Vann Molyvann obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 October 2017.
  10. ^ "Nikkei Asia Prizes 2013". Retrieved 9 June 2013.

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