The Fall of the New Khmer Architecture Movement

The New Khmer Architecture Movement stopped sharply when the civil war and Khmer Rouge came. The movement could not be judged because it only lasted for 10 years. During this period, due to the civil war and “Autogenocide”, citizens of Phnom Penh forced out of the city.[1] It led to the abandon of lots of functional buildings. They are disrepair as well as appropriated and misused. Some on-going projects were halted. The plan of the city no longer existed. Though the Khmer Rouge had gone after 1979, the devastation remained in the urban planning and the architecture.

For architecture, some were destroyed, such as all the churches built during the movement except Sihanouk Ville’s church, the Community Development Center at Anlong Romiet, Water Sports Complex and the University of Kampot-Takeo. For most of the architecture, they were abandoned, such as Chaktomuk Conference Hall and the universities like Institute of Foreign Languages Khmer Rouge and Royal University of Phnom Penh (RUPP). Several cases were appropriated, for examples, Hotel Cambodiana became the house of refugees and Phnom Penh National Olympic Stadium became the site where execution of officials of the Khmer Republic held.[2][3]

The lack of regular usage and maintenance had led to the disrepair of the architecture. Moreover, the return of the people after 1979 brought a significant population growth, meanwhile, most of the intelligentsia were gone and killed. The architecture, then, was under improper management and the urban plan for the New Khmer Architecture Movement was abandoned. The Bassac Riverfront Complex never re-started.[4] The urban development was in chaos and the effort of the New Khmer Architecture Movement almost vanished. the official records of the New Khmer Architecture buildings were lost with only a few architectures, though renovated, remained.

[1] Kurt Jonassohn and Karin Solveig. Björnson, Genocide and Gross Human Rights Violations: In Comparative Perspective (New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers, 1999), 59.

[2] Benny Widyono, Dancing in Shadows: Sihanouk, the Khmer Rouge, and the United Nations in Cambodia (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2008), 242.

[3] Milton E. Osborne, Phnom Penh: A Cultural and Literary History(Oxford: Signal Books, 2008), 162.

[4] Vann Molyvann, Modern Khmer Cities (Phnom Penh: Reyum, 2004), 202.

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