For the past two weeks, a team of civil engineering students has been sizing up the buildings in the Old Market area in Siem Reap. They are working as part of a project to conserve the character of the locale,
where much of the architecture dates back to the 1920s. The project is a collaboration between the Apsara Authority and the Heritage Mission, part of the Phnom Penh-based Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts.
But rumours are buzzing that they are sizing the buildings up for demolition, and this is creating great concern amongst owners and local businesses.
The Apsara Authority assures everyone that this is not the goal at all. “The objective of the work is to create an inventory of what is there,” said Ms Tep Vattho, the director of the Department of Urbanisation and Development in Siem Reap Angkor Region.
“At this stage, we are working to preserve these buildings by creating an inventory of what is there.”
She said the engineers are recording all of the details associated with each building including their dimensions and distinct architectural features. This record will help to ensure that the buildings remain, and remain as they are.
Ms Tep added: “In fact, we can help building owners and advise them on how to create a more harmonious environment than exists now in the area.”
Katia Chmielczyk, a French architect attached to the Heritage Mission says that under a similar project carried out in the Post Office area of Phnom Penh last year, there was a fantastic response from buildings’ owners.
The Heritage Mission has on its staff six architects, trained at the Royal University of Fine Arts, who have completed a special one-year course in heritage protection. “The job is to work with building owners, give advice and help them to achieve their ends, while respecting the integrity of the building.”