Along with the rapid growth of the Kingdom’s construction industry, use of architectural services has also dramatically increased.
With more than a decade of work experience, Thorng Linthong, the director of A-SmileArt Architecture & Construction – an architectural design and construction company – met with The Post’s Hin Pisei to discuss the progress of Cambodia’s architectural sector.
How is the current market for architecture services in Cambodia?
I can say architectural skills currently have a bigger market compared to about 10 years ago when Cambodians used to design homes and other things by themselves.
At the time, houses and other buildings were similarly designed, which is totally different from now. Previously, when owners of houses or buildings took delight in a style, they would ask a contractor to completely duplicate it, even if the locations and terrain conditions of the two projects were not the same.
I can say that currently the concept of do-it-yourself designing has changed tremendously. Even for the construction of small houses or shops, people also come to the architect to help design for them.
I would even dare say that a plan designed by a professional will make better use of a building’s or house’s space and reduce construction costs as well.
Along with the progress, what challenges does the market face?
There are many challenges. But two main issues currently facing the Kingdom are limited professional competence and price competitiveness.
In terms of human resource issues, over the last few years, I have noticed that some of the newly graduated Cambodian architects do not seem to have a remarkable ability to create new or attractive plan designs. Interesting, isn’t it? This flaw requires them to work harder to reinforce their capacities.
The cost of designing a plan depends on the size of the project and duration. Previously, homeowners and project owners believed that they would spend a lot of money if they sought services from an expert. But in fact, they can enjoy plenty of benefits from enlisting the services of a company.
A properly designed plan not only brings sufficient lighting and ventilation, but it also divides space for efficient use.
How much time is needed for each plan design? And how much does it cost?
Plan designs are based on the size of the project and the project owner’s demands. While prices vary accordingly – ranging from a value of $100 to millions of dollars.
What does the term ‘Khmer architect’ entail?
As experts, we must strive to preserve and conserve Khmer-based styles which are the heritage of our ancestors – by incorporating Khmer-style designs in our plans. Preservation and conservation of Khmer-style designs are essential ideas that Khmer architects should abide by, integrating them into any part of the building or into the whole building. It is also a source of Khmer pride.
Do you plan to expand your company?
With about 10 expert staff, we are planning to expand the company’s operations soon to obtain a bigger market share. Progress in the Kingdom’s construction industry will continue for a long time to come.
What do you have to say to those who want to study architecture?
I always say to those who are willing or are currently studying architecture that to succeed in learning and working, they must focus on the subjects of descriptive geometry and rapid sketching.
These two subjects can help those who study architecture to imagine the image, and in doing so, express new and varied ideas, avoiding copying others.
On the other hand, those of you who have newly entered the architectural field . . . please bring the skills you’ve learned and make an all-out effort to provide fitting ideas to customers to materialise their projects as radiant and as comfortable as possible.
In addition, architects should avoid going along with the customer’s idea too much. Since we are the experts, we can actually know and foresee the customer’s idea is sub-standard.
This could lead to the customer’s evaluation of the degree of knowledge of Khmer architects as a whole.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.