Imagining a modern Angkorian metropolis

The uber-modern Lucky Bayon super department store melds in with​ ancient structure. BRUNO LEVY
The uber-modern Lucky Bayon super department store melds in with​ ancient structure. BRUNO LEVY

Imagining a modern Angkorian metropolis

One of the most outstanding exhibitions staged during last weekend’s Our City Festival of Art, Architecture and Ideas was the work of Siem Reap computer artist and techno geek Bruno Levy.

A variety of vehicular conveyance modes plies transport lanes – minus the dust. BRUNO LEVY
A variety of vehicular conveyance modes plies transport lanes – minus the dust. BRUNO LEVY

Levy’s exhibition, which only showed fleetingly at Sofitel Angkor Phokeethra Golf and Spa Resort was titled, Mohanokor …And if Angkor was never abandoned.

Typical of Levy’s creative outbursts, the work married ancient mysticism with futuristic modernity.

The premise was what would have happened if the temples of Angkor were lived-in edifices that had been meticulously restored over the centuries and became a part of, not apart from, an emerging modern Siem Reap metropolis.

The marvels of the old and the new combined. BRUNO LEVY
The marvels of the old and the new combined. BRUNO LEVY

Levy says his exhibition was pedagogical rather than artistic and adds, “We will imagine a Mohanokor, a ‘big city’ that developed with all the ‘normal phases’ of Siem Reap architectural history since the Angkor era until our modern time, but in a context where the antique Khmer capital pursued its development from the peak of Khmer civilisation until today, and became a modern megalopolis such as Bangkok (Mohanokor is the third term used in the very long official Thai name for Bangkok.)

He also points out that Mohanokor, in Sanskrit-Khmer, means ‘big city’ and is a term used in Khmer literature to designate the ancient Khmer Imperial City, now known as Angkor.

The council of ministries office straddles part of the Angkorian complex.x BRUNO LEVY
The council of ministries office straddles part of the Angkorian complex.x BRUNO LEVY

The fashionable politically correct stance seems mostly to shun the contemporary architecture of Siem Reap. But Levy lovingly embraces the past, present and imagined future in breathtaking panels and says, “Residents of Siem Reap are frequently astonished at the rapid and seemingly anarchic urban development and many wonder how it will appear in another 10 years. Almost everyone is aware that the ‘romantic era of the ruins lost in the jungle’ is now over and the impact of tourism seriously asks the question of how the Angkor Archaeological Park can progress with a ‘positive mutation.’

“Millions of visitors in Paris, Rome, London (in any city with centuries of history), are not offended by the presence of a modern city surrounding the gorgeous monuments. So, the question is if the natural progress for Angkor is the destiny of a modern city then does it have the potential to become the most amazing third millennium city in the globe? As ambitious a vision as that of the Ancient Khmer kings! ”

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