Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Recapturing Vann Molyvann one model at a time

Recapturing Vann Molyvann one model at a time

Content image - Phnom Penh Post

Recapturing Vann Molyvann one model at a time

After five years of collecting dust in storage, little models of famous Cambodian architecture under glass boxes stand scattered across Sa Sa Bassac’s studio, while students work on recreating even bigger models of iconic buildings on nearby desks.

The Vann Molyvann Project 2015 has begun its latest project, including both American and Cambodian students, fellows and architects who will occupy Sa Sa Bassac over the summer as their workshop and gallery to recreate Vann Molyvann’s Olympic Stadium. Their work will also build models of three other buildings from Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville that the famed architect designed.

The students participating in the project come from four different schools: Phnom Penh’s Royal University of Fine Arts and Norton University, New York’s Parsons The New School for Design and Melbourne’s University of Melbourne.

The project aims to document Vann Molyvann’s remaining buildings in an effort to generate a database of measured drawings, as well as increase the possibility of his work’s preservation through exhibitions and publications. It also serves to connect young American architects and Cambodian architects together and provide educational materials that focus on the Kingdom’s historical monuments.

Tum Uryphol, a fifth-year student from the Royal University of Fine Arts, was introduced to Vann Molyvann and his work when she was 16-years-old by her parents. His worked inspired her to pursue a degree in architecture.

“I studied a lot of Vann Molyvann’s work [in university], and I am proud of his work because it made people [learn] more about Cambodia internationally,” she said. “I wanted to join this project so I could learn even more about his work.”

She said there is a benefit from working with American students, as well as other Cambodian students.

“I like to work with American or foreign students because they work differently, [and] it can enhance my knowledge. It creates an open-mind and introduces me to other techniques,” she said.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post

While the two American students from Parsons will join the project in July, Mikaela Kvan, a former Parsons student and current holder of the fellowship is already representing the USA. Kvan’s key role is conducting research on the way urbanization affects society. For Phnom Penh, Molyvann’s projects have made a huge and enduring impact on society.

As the students measure and study the structural aspects of Vann Molyvann’s work, Kvan will study the impact the structures have made on the locals surrounding the area through interviews.

“I’m hoping to gain a dynamic insight into a culture, one that is very foreign to me, with very different ways of living and understanding… [I will see how] people use the structure, what elements they like best, what their overall impressions are of beauty and the aesthetic side of things,” she said.

As an urban researcher, Kvan is interested in how architects build a structure. For this project, the details of Vann Molyvann’s work, is what she was most interested in.

“I was excited by the idea of coming to work on a project that focused on the new Khmer architecture and Vann Molyvann’s architecture. He didn’t just create the structures, but he really contributed to the whole culture of a country,” she said. “He’s an international icon.”

The team is led by an alumni from the Royal University of Fine Arts, Pen Sereypagna, who is now a freelance architect and urban researcher. After picking the candidates for the project, his role is to oversee all aspects of the project.

“I’m very honored and very proud to be part of something that is for the whole of Cambodian society.”


  • Draft law on state of emergency pending finalisation

    Prime Minister Hun Sen will lead a top-level meeting on Tuesdays to review the draft law on imposing a state of emergency. Meantime, he has decided to close all casinos in Cambodia effective April 1. In the press conference after the National Assembly met today, Hun

  • State of emergency on table amid pandemic

    Prime Minister Hun Sen, his deputy prime ministers and legal team will meet on Tuesday to review the draft law on declaring a state of emergency, as Covid-19 cases rose to 107 in the Kingdom on Monday. Speaking at a press conference after a parliament meeting

  • Stranded passengers petition UK for help

    Some 10,521 people have signed an online petition calling on British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and relevant officials to fly nearly 200 passengers out of Cambodia. The petition is targeted at 15,000 people. Most of the passengers are British nationals, who are stranded in Cambodia after airlines cancelled

  • Covid-19 Pandemic: Force majeure and legal consequences

    Is the Covid-19 pandemic considered an event of force majeure? The World Health Organisation declared the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak a pandemic on March 11. Following this declaration, the Ministry of Health and other ministries have taken various legal and administrative measures to prevent the rapid

  • Many in limbo as tension heightens

    As the Kingdom restricts travel and prepares for a state of emergency, some foreigners in Cambodia are scrambling for a way home. Foreign embassies in Phnom Penh are making efforts to get their citizens out, but cancelled flights have become common due to the coronavirus

  • PM set to mend ties with US

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has responded to US Congressman Ted Yoho, saying he is ready to improve Cambodia-US relations, and not take up issues of disagreements which have become a barrier between the two countries’ bilateral cooperation. His response to Yoho came after the congressman