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Buy a piece of history to preserve a legend


Vann Molyvann’s Chaktomuk Conference Hall has survived, unlike others of his.
Living legend ... architect Vann Molyvann.

Photos by: Heng Chivoan

THIS week is the last chance to buy a piece of history – and support Cambodia’s greatest living architect, Vann Molyvann.

A selection of eight autographed photos from his personal collection show some of his most striking buildings in their heyday, such as Phnom Penh’s Teacher Training College and Olympic Stadium just after they were built in the 1960s.

These are on sale at $100 for each print until the Vann Molyvann Project exhibition ends at the French Cultural Centre next Sunday.

Proceeds will help pay the costs of translating his doctoral thesis into Khmer and English for a wider audience. Vann Molyvann wrote it in French (student number 222536) at the age of 82. The subject? Southeast Asian cities from the past to the present.

Costs of translation were estimated at $10,000, said Bill Greaves, founder of the project to document Vann Molyvann’s surviving buildings before they fall victim to further urban development.

“This is the last chance for the great Khmer architects of the 1960s to make a connection with the next generation of young architects,” said Greaves. “This is an opportunity right now to preserve this modern architecture.”

Greaves and young architects and students measured and surveyed each of Vann Molyvann’s surviving buildings, creating detailed drawings and scale models to preserve them for posterity.

Greaves hopes to take the exhibition from Phnom Penh next to New York, Berlin and possibly France as he completes the final stages of his 18-month task and prepares to return to a more normal life as an architect in New York.

Demolition of Vann Molyvann’s National Theatre in 2008 sparked his determination to preserve what was left of his work. “I just quit my job in New York, came to Cambodia and started measuring and drawing,” he said wryly.

Luckily around 180 photographs of Vann Molyvann’s work escaped the destruction of the 1970s because his wife Trudy had sent copies to family and friends in Switzerland.

Images for sale have been drawn from his collection. Order forms are available at the French Cultural Centre on Street 184 until next Sunday, or the pictures can be ordered online by emailing info@vannmolyvannproject.org.

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