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Sokha’s expansion development ‘not a knockoff'

While scant details have been revealed, Sokha Hotel’s expansion plans for the peninsula of Chroy Changvar is now shaping up with more light being shed on the nature of the project and, most importantly, the company that won the architectural bidding to execute construction of the mega multiuse development, which is yet to be named.

The design competition, which was reportedly closed-door and involved 13 international companies made known only to those in the professional architectural circle, kicked off in August 2015 and concluded in June this year with Sokha Hotels & Resorts releasing photos of the victorious design on its official Facebook page.

SG Hyfort, the winning bidder of the competition, is a one-stop design house originating from Singapore and is presently based in Cambodia.

The release of the winning design by Sokha on its social media was initially met with much ardour because of its futuristic design in stark contrast to the peninsula’s current outlook. However, questions were soon raised within the real estate industry over the similarity of the project with a development in Beijing, China – the Beijing Tongzhou Integrated Development.

Svay Vuthy, chief legal and corporate affairs officer of Sokha’s parent company Sokimex, shrugged off concerns about the resemblance its planned development shared to that of the Beijing project being developed.

“Sokha has no problem with it because SG Hyfort has also admitted that the design is similar to the Beijing Tongzhou project, especially from the outside, but the interior is very different,” Svay said.

He added that when scrutinising the details, there is no question how different both developments are as SG Hyfort’s design is entirely based on Apsara tradition and religion and Khmer heritage.

“I have heard people saying that the buildings look similar, and I asked SG Hyfort about it but they guaranteed us that it is not the same and definitely not a copy of the Beijing development,” said Vuthy.

He added, “If you want to compare, all over the world there are buildings that look alike, but when you go into detail, they are not the same.”

When contacted, the developer of the Beijing Tongzhou Integrated Development said they were unaware of any other project in the world that drew parallels to its development.

“Basically, I don’t think it’s an issue because there are some common elements in terms of certain architectural expressions. The similar things that we can see are the connecting sky-bridges and probably some of the tower-clustering, especially the three towers,” said Tong Ka-Pin, head of investor relations and corporate communications at Perennial Real Estate, the Singaporean developer for the Beijing development.

Though Apsara dancers historically do not appear on boats, the designers drew inspiration from two traditional boats with Apsaras standing next to each other as a framework for the design concept. Facebook
Though Apsara dancers historically do not appear on boats, the designers drew inspiration from two traditional boats with Apsaras standing next to each other as a framework for the design concept. Facebook

The fact that Sokha’s megaproject is also situated on the riverside adds credence as to why one would draw parallels between the two developments.

Perennial Real Estate had also won a tender to build the Beijing development, and had made public its design three years ago after successfully emerging the winner. The Beijing Tongzhou Integrated Development broke ground last year, and will be constructed in two phases, concluding in 2018.

Tong, however, maintained neutrality about Sokha’s project, citing that Perennial has chosen to look at the matter objectively.

“People can see for themselves the merits of each product. We leave it to the market to decide; it’s a very big market, and we are a very connected world,” she said.

SG Hyfort also shed more light on the nature of the project and outlined the differences between its design and that of Perennial’s.

Slated to be a mega HOPSCA – hotels, offices, parks, shopping malls, convention centers and apartments – accompanying Sokha Hotel on the vast peninsula, the design competition brief had required a minimum of five towers to fill up two separate plots of land, excluding the riverside wharf.

Because of its visibility from the Royal Palace once built, height limitations were imposed on the towers as well as the definitive positioning and facing of each tower, according to SG Hyfort’s representatives.

“The development requires specific geographical orientation, and an alignment with the master plan,” said Moses Yeo, director of SG Hyfort, adding that “to create a unique and original identity for Cambodia, our design and research team set off in pursuit of elements in light of the rich Cambodian culture, heritage and religious traditions.”

According to Yeo, the form of its towers takes after Cambodians holding hands, representing peace and unity, and non-individually grouped in twos and threes. Its connecting sky-bridges, which the public have been quick to point out to be a direct replication of Perennial’s Beijing project, signify this particular hand-holding.

While a few select photos have been released by Sokha showcasing the upcoming development and drawing the affinity between the mega development’s design and Khmer culture, SG Hyfort is holding off on divulging too much information on its project.

“It is still going through a fine-tuning process. The conceptualisation process and the different elements that go into the evolution of this iconic landmark will be publicly unveiled in an official event.”

No estimated date of groundbreaking has been specified, but the project has been approved by the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction, and both Sokha and SG Hyfort continue talks on calibrating the mega-project’s concept in detail.

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