Compiled by Pari Syal
Photography: Courtesy ZHA
Zaha Hadid architects unveil their design for a pioneering new institute and genocide memorial in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh, which will bring together a museum, research centre, graduate school, document archives and research library.
The Sleuk Rith Institute, founded and chaired by Youk Chhang, a tireless human rights activist and investigator of the Khmer Rouge atrocities, will house the Documentation Centre of Cambodia’s one million documents - the largest collection of genocide-related material in Southeast Asia. It is proposed as a global centre for education and research into the documentation, causes and prevention of genocide.
Despite the tragic history explored at the institute, Youk’s research led to the very considered brief for a building that promoted reflection and reconciliation, and also inspired and innovated. “Cambodia will never escape its history, but it does not need to be enslaved by it. Post-conflict societies have to move on,” he says. Consequently, the brief necessitated a direction that breaks from some of the stereotypes associated with genocide memorial architecture to create a forward-looking institution that deviates from the distress-invoking, quasi-industrial, harshness of most existing genocide memorial models. “This is not to criticize or denigrate such models but, instead, to emphasize that in light of a Cambodia’s rich cultural and religious traditions, we must move in a different and more positively-oriented direction,” Youk concludes.
|Library Exterior & Reflecting Pool|
Located at the confluence of the Mekong and Tonlé Sap Rivers, the institute’s buildings will be built on raised terraces, to protect from Phnom Penh’s seasonal flooding. Accommodating the tropical climate of the region, the narrower lower levels of the institute are shaded by the building’s form, while louvers on the upper levels keep out strong sunshine. The building’s passive design - including measures to reduce energy and water consumption, while increasing system efficiencies, and the installation of renewable energy sources - will increase its ecological performance. The building form minimizes solar gain, and the external shading system will be varied on each elevation to reduce solar gain whilst maintaining sufficient daylight levels, where required. Thermal buffer zones will protect the archive and exhibition spaces and further reduce energy consumption.
Visitors will approach the building on causeways above reflecting catchment pools that mirror the building’s form and bring light deep into the internal spaces. As with the catchment pools of Cambodia’s ancient temple sites including Sras Srang and Angkor Wat, these pools - and those on the upper level courtyard and terraces - will be fed by harvested rainwater and would be integral to the institute’s water management processes that minimize the impact on the local environment and drainage systems.
Entering through the atrium at the centre of the building, visitors would be welcomed by exhibits from the Institute’s collection; from where they would be free to choose their path either to the museum, auditorium, etc. Offices for researchers and Institute administration are housed on the top levels, while a bridge is suspended above the atrium to connect the school and library.
|South Facade & Memorial Park|
The institute includes a 68,000 sq.m. memorial park for the entire community with sport fields, urban vegetable garden and fruit orchards, traditional meadows and a forest that will house contemporary Cambodian sculptures.