Architectural implications of the Independence Monument
The Independence Monument, or Vimean Ekareach was designed by Vann Molyvann, a Cambodian-born architect who studied under Le Corbusier in the 1940s and returned to his home country in 1955. Under King Norodom Sihanouk, Molyvann became the chief national architect and undertook various projects in the city. He and fellow Cambodian architects such as Lu Ban Hap collaborated to birth a movement called the New Khmer Architecture Movement, where they interpreted traditional Khmer architecture into modern Cambodian construction. They designed multiple national buildings – one being the Independence Monument in March of 1958.
The 37 meter high, seven tiered structure takes the shape of a lotus on the top portion. Taking the form of a stupa, the building has connotations of meditation and reflection, and every year on the 9th of November, processions are held to commemorate Cambodia’s Independence and for fallen soldiers who fought for freedom. Characteristic of traditional Khmer religious architecture, the building uses motifs such as the lotus as well as 100 serpent heads, or naga. These cultural symbols are present in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism traditions within Southeast Asia, representing a protagonist mythological race associated with treasures and bodies of water.
Rigorous geometries are also a sign of past architectural associations, and the highly symmetrical design is complemented by the surrounding infrastructure, with major roads and streets all converging around the monument. Projects such as these represented the short era of the New Khmer Architecture Movement, as the architects only managed to deal with mostly civic buildings and a few residential projects before the Khmer Rouge took power.
Norodom, Soma. Royal Rebel. Phnom Penh, Soma Norodom. 2016
Palmer, Beverley; and Rough Guides. The Rough Guide to Cambodia. London, Rough Guides. 2002.
Pegrum, Mark. Independence Monument, Phnom Penh (February 2012). https://www.flickr.com/photos/ozmark17/7044024663. December 28, 2018.
Ross, Helen; and Collins, Darryl. Building Cambodia: New Khmer Architecture, 1953-1970. Bangkok: The Key Publisher Company Limited, 2006.