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Physical models, currently on display at Treeline Gallery, representing the work of the legendary architect Van Molyvann, including (from left to right) the National Theatre, the Olympic Stadium and a vintage Khmer House. GT2/Srey Kumneth

The Vann Molyvann Project is offering everyone – architects and architecture students especially – the chance to see the emblems of Vann Molyvann’s greatness. Dubbed ‘Learning From The Past’, the three-month exhibit is open at Treeline Gallery in Siem Reap.

Srey Kumneth visits the exhibit launch to trace the master architect’s storied career.

Architect Vann Molyvann lived an incomparable life. He was the man who shaped the capital; the man who built modern Cambodia as he designed many of the Kingdom’s most ambitious and well-acclaimed buildings and projects. When he died in September 2017, people knew his legacy would live on.

Pen Sereypagna and Vann Molyvann’s daughter, Vann Delphine.

Vann Molyvann Project, an international team of architects, students and researchers working to document the buildings of the master architect, and the Treeline Gallery in Siem Reap collaborated for a unique exhibition that proves that Vann Molyvann continues to be a significant name.

‘Learning From The Past’ offers opportunity to the public to see photographs, architectural drawings and models that represent building typologies in which Vann Molyvann worked on throughout his storied career. Set up in Treeline Resort’s distinct open-air gallery, the exhibition opened on April 7 and will last until June 30.

Pen Sereypagna, director of the Vann Molyvann Project, said that the exhibition is an essential platform for students to learn about the architectural phases of Cambodia, all thanks to Vann Molyvann who dedicated his life to his passion.

A physical model of the SKD Brewery situated in Sihanoukville. GT2/Srey Kumneth

“Even when I was still studying, I was already very fascinated by his achievements. I want other students to learn from him as well. By studying his designs, I have noticed how intricate his designs were. I can see that all his projects were planned thoroughly; for instance, how he made it possible for buildings to have natural air coming in and out. All his buildings were clearly made with wisdom and intelligence,” said Sereypagna.

As part of the project, Sereypagna added that it is the team’s objective to conserve and share Vann Molyann’s legacy.

“The exhibition is not only being held in Cambodia. His works are also displayed abroad, too. I hope the young generation will learn from him and his greatness, and try to get inspiration from Molyvann’s designs”.

Vann Molyvann died in Siem Reap in 2017. But most of his most notable works are still very visible in different parts of the country – the lotus-shaped Independence Monument, the Olympic Stadium, the Chaktmouk Conference Hall, the Preah Suramarit National Theatre and the Council of Ministers.

According to Molyvann’s daughter, Vann Delphine, her father spent many years in Siem Reap – the place he had grown to love and called home before his death.

“The talent and arts from my father is very important for me and my family. To help young Cambodians know about him and his works, I try to contribute to the research about my father and the architecture in general. Young people can look at the past, present and the future to create their own unique designs. Just like what my father did,” shared Delphine.

For Delphine, seeing the structures his father designed makes her the proudest daughter in the world. And as the Vann Molyvann Project grows, she is determined to not put his father’s contributions to modern Cambodia into waste.

The Treeline Gallery, part of the Treeline Urban Resort, for its part, said that hosting an exhibition that highlights the great works of a great man is a way of giving tribute to Vann Molyvann.

Art curator Moeng Meta said, “It really and deeply saddened me when I heard Lork Ta Molyvann died. And we knew no one will stay forever. But the only thing we can remember about him is his talent. This exhibition is a tribute to him and to all his achievements in architecture”.

As the founder of Treeline Urban Resort, Kang Hok, said that he wants to pay homage to the late Molyvann, and the enormous talent he had shown to Cambodian architects, ushering in a new era of contemporary design in the country. Molyvann, according to Kang Hok, is a legend that’s hard to surpass.

“I want to remember the works of Cambodia’s greatest icon, the late Mr Molyvann, and it is with great honour and gratitude that we are hosting the Learning From The Past exhibition.

“As guests navigate through the architectural models, drawings, photographs, information panels and maps, they were transported to the Sangkum era as the spirit of Mr Molyvann’s work comes alive,” Hok said during last month’s launch.

He added, “It is a privilege to host such a fascinating exhibition, and I believe a fitting tribute to the life and works of the Cambodian maestro.”

He was, indeed, a maestro in New Khmer architecture. And he still is. Vann Molyvann’s beautiful and innovative designs will continue to gain its well-deserved spotlight for the years to come – despite some of his buildings being demolished to give way to new edifices.

Through the exhibition in Siem Reap and through all the buildings that he built, Vann Molyvann will forever be considered the “man who built Cambodia”. And really, nobody else deserves to be tagged as such except for him.


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