​Our City: a festival celebrating urban art, architecture, and ideas | Phnom Penh Post

Our City: a festival celebrating urban art, architecture, and ideas


Publication date
17 January 2014 | 09:19 ICT

Reporter : Will Jackson

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Can you imagine a performance building like Sydney’s Opera House on Koh Pich? How about a skyscraping shopping centre next to the Japanese Friendship Bridge? Or a Toul Sleng memorial like the vast black waterfalls at Ground Zero?

Architect Hun Chansan has visualised how such monumental structures would look as part of a project for the Our City Festival’s Ideas for Our City: Phnom Penh group exhibition, which kicks off today.

The festival showcases ideas to improve the city from artists, architects, designers, performers and city planners through dance, art, video, photography, panel discussions, workshops and more at venues across town.

Chansan, the design director at Re-Edge Architecture + Design, is hoping his project will stimulate a push for similar buildings to be built in Phnom Penh.

“The new city needs this type of architecture because as it moves forward they link the past, the present and the future together,” Chansan said.

“We always mention, and depend our economy and culture, on the great temples but they should not be our only resource, the great history should be our source of inspiration to keep our nation up-to-date.”

With high-rises, shopping centres, apartment buildings and hotels haphazardly mushrooming all over the city, it needs to adopt a co-ordinated vision to avoid traffic congestion and retain its cultural legacy, Chansan said.

He believes the landmark buildings could anchor different “zones” – Riverside/Koh Pich (cultural development), Memorial Park (social development) and Gateways (landmark development).

“This work pinpoints certain buildings in Phnom Penh that are key factors in urban planning by mapping their locations on a city map, simultaneously referencing other cities around the world,” he said.

“As Phnom Penh develops, a unified vision for the city is essential. By envisaging its potential as a global city, we can create awareness for the new generation of Cambodians.”

Our City Phnom Penh curator Sovan Philong said the artists taking part in the festival were asked to propose ideas on the themes of urbanism, the city and its evolution.

“In the exhibition, entitled Ideas for Our City: Phnom Penh, the diversity of aesthetics, techniques and tools used to create the works are testament to the original and coherent language of thought developed by each artist in response to this theme,” Philong said.

“As a viewer, the purpose is not to compare or judge the works, but to examine and engage with each of the artistic proposals presented.”

Other exhibitions in the Ideas for Our City: Phnom Penh group show include a plan for a public transit system, a video demonstration of a modular compact living unit from Sweden, an art piece on waste disposal, a mixed media exhibition on the themes of home and security and photographs taking circus performance to the streets of Phnom Penh.

Phnom Penh Visions, a collaboration between architecture publication Lumhor Journal and artists Kong Vollack and Prom Putvisal, has visualised ideas generated from interviews with 50 citizens of Phnom Penh through drawings and a visual model.

“We believe that the urban development and design should not only be based on the architects or urbanists but also it needs involvement strongly from any kind of people such as students, sellers, people on the streets of Phnom Penh, artists and so on,” Lumhor Journal’s Pen Sereypagna said.

They also had 10 architecture students work on a project about re-thinking Diamond Island and its surrounding area as an arts district and Boeung Kak Lake as a public space, combined with existing development project proposals.

Various other venues around town are also hosting architecture-themed events during the festival.

Swedish architect Inari Virkkala and her team from Komitu Architects will present a video at MetaHouse about the Kouk Khleang Youth Center, which they designed as an example of sustainable design, and run a free bus tour to the site.

Virkkala said the principles used in the two-storey 15 metre by 30 metre multi-purpose building – such as the use of bamboo and compressed earth bricks – could be applied more widely in Phnom Penh.

The carbon footprint of earth blocks was ten times smaller than of red bricks per mass and didn’t require advanced technology or a large production plant, she said.

“In the beginning the contractor warned us that the laying of earth bricks is a strange technique for him and it might raise the costs but it seems that the cost of earth brick walls was $14 per square metre compared to $17 for red brick wall including bricks, labour, mortar,” Virkkala said.

The Ideas for Our City: Phnom Penh group exhibition is on at The Mansion, 2 Sothearos Boulevard, everyday during the festival from 10am-10pm until January 26.



The festival will kick off with a party at The Mansion featuring performances by musicians Ingolv Haaland (who wrote the theme song to the festival) and Ouch Savy and Pandemonium Dance. Complimentary food and drinks will be available and revellers are encouraged to wear yellow with the best dressed winning an OCF 2014 T-shirt.

The Mansion, 2 Sothearos Boulevard (behind FCC Phnom Penh). 7pm Friday, January 17

The Mansion serves as the main venue for the festival. DAVID PINHO


Choreographer Becky Devitt has worked with performers from Epic Arts to put on a show about the risks of driving motorbikes around the Kingdom using humour and physical theatre.

The Mansion, 2 Sothearos Boulevard (behind FCC). 3pm Saturday, January 18 and 10:30am Sunday, January 19


Every night during the festival, The Mansion turns into the Festival Lounge featuring live music, films and performances with food and drinks available to order.

The Mansion, 2 Sothearos Boulevard (behind FCC Phnom Penh). 6pm every night.

The White Building was designed in the 1960s to house civil servants. DAVID PINHO


Phnom Penh’s iconic White Building will host a festival within a festival with a series of cross-platform exhibitions and events taking place throughout the neighbourhood from sunset on the rooftop. Highlights of the event will be the opening of the White Building Archive, which aims to store visual and audio work created by White Building residents, a “pop-up exhibition” of artwork among the market stalls, shops and storefronts on the ground floor and a mini film festival.

The White Building, Sothearos Boulevard, 5:30pm Saturday, January 18


Over five nights during the festival the Bophana Centre will be screening films in The Mansion courtyard. The films focus on Phnom Penh over the years and its residents.

The Mansion, 2 Sothearos Boulevard (behind FCC Phnom Penh). 8.30pm Sunday, January 19 to Thursday, January 23

Romeet Gallery will show work from Battambang. DAVID PINHO


An exhibition of recently produced artwork from Battambang featuring portraits, public interventions, memes and shadow-play. The performances will be held on the balcony of Romeet Gallery, with guests encouraged to sit at the stalls on the opposite side of the street to try the local street food. Artists include Loeum Lorn, Kong Kosal, Make Maek, Mao Soviet, Michael Laub, Pip Kelly and Studio Revolt.

Romeet Gallery, #34E1 Street 178. 7pm Monday January 20.


An exhibition that highlights the work of the late artist Svay Ken. While attempting to avoid clichéd images of Angkorian temples and idyllic rural life, Ken aimed to document his everyday surroundings, including ordinary street life in Phnom Penh, survival under the Khmer Rouge and illness. “My paintings are like a camera of my life of sixty years,” Svay Ken is reported to have once said.

Meta House, #37 Sothearos Boulevard. 6pm Tuesday, January 21

Meta House hosts Phnom Penh Painter. DAVID PINHO


A group exhibition that aims to approach contemporary performance practices in the context of Phnom Penh life. A 90-minute screening features twelve videos by nine artists, while a reading station offers contextual material from the past and present. Featuring artists Amy Lee Sanford, Khvay Samnang, Lim Sokchanlina, Sok Chanrado, Svay Sareth, Than Sok and Tith Kanitha.

Sa Sa Bassac, #18E2 Sothearos Boulevard. 6pm Wednesday, January 22


A presentation from a performance art workshop facilitated by Anida Yoeu Ali with visual art students. Themes include regional exploration of performance art, dance, performing arts, theatre, and the search for meaning. The presentation will be followed by a series of films selected by Amrita Performing Arts on the theme of urban dance and a Q&A session.

Institut Français, #218 Street 184. 6:30pm Thursday, January 23

Hiroshima House is inside Wat Unalaom. DAVID PINHO


Advanced engineering consultants will hold workshops and hands-on activities to “reinvent” the city through workshops involving toothpicks and Legos. The public is invited to view the results, while children are encouraged to contribute their own structures.

Mith Samlanh, #215 Street 13. 2pm Friday, January 24


Jorng Jam brings together artists and members of the Cambodian community to reclaim, reinvent and remember their family photographs and stories from Cambodia’s vibrant past. Through the use of film, photography and mixed media, a collection of five young Cambodian artists aim to discover the intimate stories and historical photographs of those living in Phnom Penh during Cambodia’s “golden age” in the 1950s and 1960s. Each artist takes a journey to investigate, connect and re-interpret another persons’ vibrant past in order to create their own new works relating to contemporary Cambodian life.

Bophana Audiovisual Resource Centre, #64 Street 200. 3pm Saturday, January 25

Bophana Audivisual Resource Centre. DAVID PINHO


Last year, architecture students participated in a workshop that focused on vulnerable communities at Andong and along the railroad tracks. Participants were asked to invent design solutions that solved community problems at the two sites while maintaining the residents’ dignity. The resulting designs, models and 3D animations will now compete and the prize for the best will be awarded.

Hiroshima House, near Wat Unalaom. 3pm Saturday, January 26


A gathering of various performers, all from the Common Sole art collective, who will participate in improvisation performances with themes based on moon cycles and architectural forces. Common Sole aims to spread creative ways to perform, learn and teach.

The Mansion, 2 Sothearos Boulevard (behind FCC Phnom Penh). 7:30pm

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