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Vann Molyvann

Pnom Penh, Cambodia
1 of 6

Vann Molyvann (born November 23, 1926) is a Cambodian architect. During the Sangkum Reastr Niyum regime (1955-1970) Prince Norodom Sihanouk enacted a development policy encompassing the whole kingdom with the construction of new towns, infrastructure and architecture. Molyvann was the foremost of a generation of architects who contributed to the unique style of architecture that emerged during this era and that has been coined New Khmer Architecture.


Born in Ream, Kampot province in 1926, Vann Molyvann obtained a scholarship to pursue his studies in Paris, France. After one year of law, he switched to architecture at the School of Fine Arts in Paris (Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux-Arts) and was a student of Le Corbusier. He studied in the Arretche studio and returned in 1956, the first fully qualified Cambodian architect, keen to put his talents to use. He was promptly appointed Head of Public Works and State Architect by Sihanouk.


Molyvann's architecture could be described as a mixture of Bauhaus, European post-modernism blended with traditions from Angkor. During this era known as the "Golden Age", Molyvann built such famous landmarks as Chaktomuk Conference Hall, the Council of Ministers Building and the State Palace in the capital. He supervised the design and construction of new towns such as Tioulongville (Kirirom) and Sihanoukville (Kompong Som) and important town plans such as the Bassac development in Phnom Penh, where a mix of cultural facilities such as the Preah Suramarit National Theatre and the Exhibition Hall which neighboured with large housing experiments. He also designed many of Cambodia's embassies and exhibitions abroad.

In 1962, Molyvann designed the 60,000 capacity Phnom Penh National Stadium which was a prized arena throughout Southeast Asia. The stadium, built to Olympic standards, is still the largest venue in Cambodia. It was built at break-neck speed to house the 1963 Asian Games that were then cancelled, it was inaugurated in 1964 to an enthusiastic crowd. It hosted such important events as the GANEFO games and the President of France, Charles de Gaulle's state visit, in 1966.

In 1970 the Sangkum Reastr Niyum came to a brutal end with the coup d'etat led by General Lon Nol. Vann relocated to Switzerland with his family. He worked for the United Nations Human Settlements Programme for 10 years before eventually returning to Cambodia in 1991 where he served as President of the Council of Ministers, Minister of Culture, Fine Arts, Town and Country Planning.

Many of his buildings are now under threat due to redevelopment and speculative land deals. His landmark National Theatre and the Council of Ministers building have been ripped down. The National Sports Complex was sold to a private developer in 2001 who has filled up its vital hydraulic system, consisting of moats and water treatment stations, with shoddy constructions, hence compromising its survival.

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Pnom Penh, Cambodia
  1. Wikipedia
ziggurat, March 7th, 2013
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