Phnom Penh is home to an increasing number of modern skyscrapers which are replacing Khmer-style architecture that long dominated the capital.
Fuelled by an ever-growing number of Chinese investors, the Kingdom’s construction sector is booming and seems poised to jumpstart an overall economic growth.
Tower complexes, similar to the Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and other famous ones from around the world, have started cropping up in Cambodia’s capital, where low-rise buildings were previously the norm.
Plans for a new Ministry of Defence complex illustrates this push towards the skies.
Ministry of Defence spokesman Chhum Socheat said in order to save space, several buildings are being demolished to make way for a new project.
“The ministry decided to demolish a few buildings, then rebuild the largest ones to more than three storeys, to ensure the new ones have enough space for officers to work in.”
Hem Thoeun, a 64-year-old retired professor of architecture at the Royal University of Fine Arts, said many prominent buildings in the capital were designed by famed architect Vann Molyvann as a manifestation of the Khmer style.
He said the style occupied more space as the capital’s population was much smaller at the time they were built. With an increase in population today, more homes and business centres are needed.
Kim Heang, president of the Cambodian Valuers and Estate Agents Association (CVEA), said that more modern and twin-tower-style complexes are becoming the trend in the country’s largest metropolis.
Currently, Phnom Penh is home to several impressive skyscrapers, with many more in various stages of completion. And work resumed early this year on the long-dormant 42-storey Golden Tower building, which will reportedly be completed by early 2020.
The Bridge and The Skyline, which were completed this year, stand as two of the capital’s tallest twin-tower complexes at 45 and 39 storeys respectively.
Nonetheless, they are still dwarfed by Vattanac Capital Tower, the Kingdom’s tallest building at over 180 metres.
High-rise buildings in the capital now include the long-delayed 42-storey Golden Tower, the 45-storey The Bridge, which is one of the tallest buildings in the capital, the 32-storey Canadia Tower and the 39-storey Vattanac Capital Tower.
Two particularly lofty projects have also turned heads in the real estate sector.
The Thai Boon Roong Group has floated plans to build the TBR Twin Tower World Trade Center Complex which, at 133 storeys, will become Southeast Asia’s tallest structure.
Similarly, a project backed by a $150 million investment from OTK Royal One, a subsidiary of tycoon Kith Meng’s Royal Group, promises to site a 62-storey mixed-use twin-tower complex on 4,000 square metres.
It will be located at the intersection of Russian Federation Boulevard and Monivong Boulevard in Phnom Penh.
Hok Sokol, an architect well known for carrying on traditional Khmer designs, agreed that twin-tower complexes are a convienient and efficient use of space.
Referring to the signature bridge connecting the two structures, he said: “Higher buildings need conectivity for strength and also to bring convenience to users”.
An annual report from the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction released earlier this year showed that 3,052 construction projects were approved last year, with a total value of $6.42 billion.
That’s up from 2,405 projects valued at $5.25 billion in 2016.
However, Kim Heang told The Post the construction boom doesn’t appear to be helping Cambodian homebuyers.
He noted that while an increase in the supply of new residences should result in a gradual lowering of prices, that isn’t the case in Phnom Penh, where the majority of buyers are foreign investors.
He expressed regret that the unique style of Cambodia’s architecture was being left behind, noting that most structures were being inspired by foreign structures.
“The achitects and developers are mostly foreigners, and most of the [design] decisions are made in other countries,” he said.