All images courtesy of the Sleuk Rith Institute, Zaha Hadid Architects
Zaha Hadid has announced the completed plan for the new Sleuk Rith Institute in Cambodia, the permanent successor to the centre, in Phnom Penh. The latest development has been developed to embrace the rich culture of Cambodia and redefine the traditional approach to the design of commemorative architecture.
The office’s first project in Cambodia and its first ever wooden construction will be the leading centRE for genocide studies in Asia – a place for the organization to continue its work compiling, analyzing and preserving information related to the khmer rouge era. The site, adjacent to a new public library and law faculty of the royal university of law and economics in Phnom Penh, was donated by the Cambodian government in 2008.
The documentation centre of Cambodia (DC cam) was established in 1995 to chronicle the brutality of the Khmer Rouge era. With an archive of nearly one million documents, DC cam has aimed not only to record Cambodia’s tragic history, but also to help the nation recover.
‘Youk chhang’s (director of DC-cam) vision is inspirational,’ said Zaha Hadid. ‘His brief for the Sleuk Rith Institute calls for beauty and an optimism for the future to heal and reconnect a country, with the Documentation Centre of Cambodia being key to that process. Working with Youk Chhang and the institute, we have brought together an excellent team of Cambodian and international consultants that share this vision to carefully plan the Sleuk Rith Institute.’
Visitors to the Phnom Penh facility will learn the tragic legacy of the Khmer rouge, remembering the helpless victims caught in the vortex of war, extremist ideology, and irrationality. The new institute will focus on ensuring against a resurgence of those conditions through a variety of instructional programs. Those inside the intricately designed space will learn how the values associated with knowledge, forgiveness, reconciliation and understanding; they will also understand the events precipitated by the khmer rouge regime into the larger context of Cambodia’s lengthy history.
The complex comprises five locally sourced wooden structures, rising from the ground as they interweave in an upward spiral. The timber support system directly references the architecture from within the region such as the ancient temples of Angkor Wat. Ranging from three to eight storeys, each of the buildings contains a different spatial function: the Sleuk Rith Institute, a library, a graduate school focusing on genocide, conflicts and human rights studies, a research centre and archive, a media centre and an auditorium.
The institute is built around an extensive archive of original Khmer rouge documentation that sits at the very heart of the building. Researchers and institute staff pass through this space on a daily basis as a reminder to learn from the past while looking to the future. Sheltered classrooms provide large spaces for learning that still have a strong visual connection to the surrounding inspirational environment. informal breakout areas encourage chance interactions and cultivate an atmosphere of study throughout the complex.
The library houses the largest collection of genocide related material in Southeast Asia. The library interlocks with the institute and the museum, and connects to the school via a bridge. In this way, knowledge is always accessible to all who visit the building. The hall of contemporary arts auditorium will house lectures, music, dance, and performance on genocide and leadership issues as well as from contemporary cambodian artists. A sense of openness prevails in the design of the hall, allowing events to use both indoor and outdoor space when weather permits.
The museum will house exhibitions showcasing Cambodian artefacts, documents, and artworks spanning from Angkor heritage through Khmer rouge documents to contemporary artworks. These will be shown alongside travelling exhibitions on genocide and contemporary art from around the world.