A primary aspect of 'Hiscal' is economy of technique. Still the soul of the architect
comes to the surface when Thierry David describes his secret aim to build a nice
"I want to build a house that brings a smile," he says. "A house where
the synthesis of forms, colors, volumes, light, ventilation, and fitting makes you
feel good. Vaulted ceilings have the ability to avoid an overburdening effect. It
is a supple element."
Last November, David started to build Agir pour le Cambodge, a social center to take
in prostitutes and street children. Located on the outskirts of Battambang, the aim
of this work of architecture was also to deliver a message. With its eight-meter
mosque-like dome, or cupola, the construction site offers vivid proof of another
advantage of mud: its adhesive capacity. "We are able to make arches, cupolas,
and vaults. You couldn't do that with cement," says David.
Vaulted ceilings have an additional advantage in that they do not need a drainage
system and are therefore perfectly suited for Cambodia's climate with months of heavy
rains, he argues.
It took David about ten years to get from the concept to reality. "Everybody
here uses concrete, columns or square bricks because it is easier to design. Of course
it was not a piece of cake," he says. This type of architecture has nothing
to do with what is constructed locally. "But can you speak about a collective
Khmer architecture? You have to go back to Angkor Wat to find a pure Khmer identity,"
David and his team try their best to capture the Khmer spirit. Wrought-iron window
frames are manifestations of this state of mind. Apsara-shaped windows welcome visitors
and allow fresh air inside the structure.
"Phnom Penh has been invaded by concrete buildings," he observes. "The
Barangs - westerners - created the whole thing," Between the extremes of traditional
houses using wood and unplanned urbanism, Hiscal tries to forge a middle path.