lectures in phnom penh,

12 october 2019

Besides film screenings and city tours, a public lecture event on 12 October invited the public to delve deeper into the modern history of Phnom Penh and Cambodia. The talks on Phnom Penh’s urban changes since postcolonial independency and the story of Cambodian architect Lu Ban Hap attracted an interested audience.

First, local curator, architect and urbanist Sereypagna Pen reflected on Phnom Penh’s development and the city’s changes through colonial and postcolonial city planning and architecture. In his talk, he examined amongst others two distinguished projects, the Olympic National Sports Complex and the Bassac Riverfront Project from the Sangkum Reastr Niyum era, that reflect both ideas of Cambodian modern movement and urban changes in Phnom Penh from the early French town planning to the post-independence period up until today. Especially the comparison of the historical maps from the 19th century with the urban development plans drawn by the French colonial government showed a significant change in urban planning parameters. Looking at today’s urban development only the complete lack of qualified urban planning processes can be diagnosed.

Moritz Henning from the Berlin team, architect and independent researcher, gave a talk on the life and work of Cambodian architect Lu Ban Hap who, as head of the new “Service Municipal de l’Urbanisme et d’Habitat“, was responsible for planning and construction of the city after independence. Moritz Henning met the mostly overlooked, but eminently important architect several times at his home near Paris, France, where he found a new home after he fled from the regime of the Khmer Rouge in 1975. By means of personal material from Lu Ban Hap and historic postcards and photos as well as construction and development plans, he highlighted the close connection of Lu Ban Hap’s biography with the political circumstances as well as the interplay of European Modernism and Cambodian motifs in his buildings. Further, Moritz Henning drew attention to the fact that although Lu Ban Hap was hugely influential for the New Khmer Architecture movement, today little is known about his work which is in danger of being forgotten.

The talks were followed by a lively and fruitful Q&A in English and Khmer.

A short overview on Lu Ban Hap’s life and work, written by Moritz Henning, can be found on the website of the Phnom Penh Post.