Phnom Penh, a city about to lose its memory :
Thanks to the presence of buildings from different periods, Phnom Penh still owns many tracks of this past. However, this affirmation might be strongly challenged because of the increasing number of buildings, which are victims of desertion and destruction. Therefore this endangered heritage must be urgently defended.
That is precisely the goal pursued by the Heritage Mission, which had been working for four yeras on inventory, conservation and restoration of ancient buidings. As such, in order to improve the knowledge on this heritage that remains far too much forgotten, an article will be published every month on one of those witnesses of the past.
The Mansion was built between 1910 and 1920 by a rich Cambodian trader for his private house. Located at # 3 Sothearos Boulevard, this villa faces the Meru Square where the National Museum was constructed from the year 1917 onwards. An old map of Phnom Penh and photography both from 1925 attest the existence of this house at that time.
During its one century’s life, the Mansion had been used for different purposes. A private house between 1920 and 1975, it is abandoned between 1975 and 1979 under the Khmer Rouge regime. In 1979, the Vietnamese army took possession of the villa and stayed there for ten years.
Then, the building became the property of the Ministry of Interior for the Municipal Police Office. Since the year 2000, the Mansion is again a private house, owned today in 2009 by the Foreign Correspondant Club (FCC.)
@ Heritage MissionFront Elevation
This building is outstanding in many aspects. It is of great architectural, historical and urban interest.
- Architectural interest: The rich ornamentation of this villa makes it a model of the colonial style which has no other equivalent in Phnom Penh. The Mansion is characterized by a sophisticated decoration that exists both on the facades and inside the house.
Front Elevation North Elevation
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. Numerous architectural elements were sculpted: capitals of the columns, front facade pediment, windows, doors and ceilings.
In addition, the house stands out by the harmony of its proportions, the quality of its building materials and its ingenious adaptation to the tropical climate: numerous and wide openings alongside a floor covered by cement tiled favor light, natural ventilation and coolness.
- Historical and urban interest: the house was built during the French Protectorate between 1910 and 1920, almost at the same time as the National Museum which faces it. The construction materials and technics used for the two buildings are partly similar: load-bearings walls in solid bricks, base course, embankment, wood roof structure and terracotta scale tiles. The villa is located in the Royal Palace district, next to the center of the political power.
This privileged location assumes the high social standing of the owner. Because of the various successive uses of the building, a few parts of it have been modified:
Ø Between 1925 and 1945, addition of one building on the East facade, transformation of the original terrace.
Ø From 1945, addition of walls in the inside rooms which undermines the perspective.
Ø Between 1945 and 1975: destruction of the central staircase and construction of the lateral one + modification of two windows and a door on the front façade whose original style is then replaced by the Chinese style.
Ø Complete destruction of the wood shutters and original window-panes.
The last ten years ade by the successive owners modifications which have been realized since ten years or so by the successive owners have altered the authenticity of the villa although it still makes up a major element of the Phnom Penh’s architectural heritage.
The Mansion could be brought back to life thanks to the renovation project that the FCC, its recent owner, would intend to implement, based on the Heritage Mission’s studies. One should hope that the authorizations would be obtained very quickly.
November 2009, the Heritage Mission.
The Heritage Mission was created in 2005 as a result of a bilateral project between the Kingkom of Cambodia (FSP porject). From now on, it is a part of the Heritage centre, a public institution under the supervision of the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts of Cambodia.
Composed by five architects and one archiologist (Cambodians), the Heritage Mission team has decided to focus on the most threatened heritage : the urban heritage, the vernacular heritage and the religious heritage.
The Mission ambitions to carry out :
- Inventories and identification of the heritage,
- Implementation of emergency conservation measures and proposal of protected area,
- On field interventions, studies and follow-up of restoration works for private individuals and public institutions,
- Communication and awareness-raising actions on the protection of heritage (guided tours, lectures, seminars, documentary, exhibitions, etc...)
For more information, please contact:
Ms Théodora Burgeat