Khmer Times’ Sum Manet sits down with Choeung Karot, the leader of the team that came out on top at the latest competition organised by the Cambodian Society of Architects (CSA).
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Mr Karot is a student at the Royal University of Fine Arts (Rufa) and competed as part of a team made up of fellow students Ly Ratanak Oudom and Hav Bakkhorn. The contest, organised by CSA, was held just a few days before the Cambodia Architect and Décor Expo, which kicked off May 24 in Phnom Penh.
KT: Why did you decide to team up with Ly Ratanak Oudom and Hav Bakkhorn for the competition?
Mr Karot: We decided to team up together because all of us have strong skills when it comes to design. Many students joint the competition, and it was a hard battle, but ultimately I am glad to say that we came out on top.
KT: Can you tell us about your project? What was the main idea behind it?
Mr Karot: Our project, called ‘Machine of Living’, is a residential building that seeks to capture and mimic the scenery of rural Cambodia and imprint it on contemporary architecture. The idea was to create a space that encourages people to interact and engage with nature as one community. The building is composed of interlocking units that give and divide space into public, semi public and private areas which are linked to allow the movement of people so that they can interact with each other.
We sought to highlight the relationship between people and nature, as well as connect people in a space marked by surprise and wonder.
KT: What inspired the idea?
Mr Karot: Machine of Living was inspired by the collective memory and experiences of local people in regards to a sense of space of what they call their home. It aims to deconstruct the essence of small little elements and fused them together, and be at the avant-garde of new Khmer architecture.
It is also inspired by the current situation in the country. As Phnom Penh grows, issues regarding city planning, the use of space and the role of nature, as well as how to preserve the country’s culture and traditions in the era of globalization, become more prominent.
In the physical plane, our mix-use building will stand somewhere in between the highly developed areas of the city and its outskirts. In a metaphorical sense, the building will stand in between the traditional and the contemporary.
Our focus and intent in designing this building it to mimic and capture the philosophy, spirit and behavior of the lives of local people and their traditions while taking into consideration the climate as well as people’s needs. It is meant to act as a bridge between different spaces: the public versus the private, for example.
KT: As the winner of the competition, do you have a word of advice for fellow students at Rufa who are also studying architecture?
Mr Karot: Winning this competition is not the end of the road for us. There is so much more for us to do, and we need to keep on working hard to finish our degree and have good marks. Also, winning this competition does not mean we are smarter than our classmates. We all have different talents and skills, but we all have great potential.
We need to take advantage of the fact that the construction sector is growing rapidly in Cambodia. There are many jobs in the industry, but there is also a big skills gap. Our mission after joining the market is to fill that gap and up standards in the industry.
KT: What are your plans for the future?
Mr Karot: After graduation, our plan is to find a job with a local company. In the future, we would also like to get back together at some point and start our own construction and architecture company.