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Zaha reveals proposals for Cambodian genocide institute

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Zaha Hadid Architects has revealed proposals for a new museum, research centre, graduate school, research library and genocide memorial in the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh

The proposed new Sleuk Rith Institute scheme, which has been designed with Arup and Aecom, will house the Documentation Centre of Cambodia’s 1 million archive items.

The concept features five wooden structures, ranging between three to eight storeys, which ‘link together as they rise upwards’, connecting the different departments ‘within a singular whole’.

Hadid’s scheme is backed by Youk Chhang, a human rights activist and investigator of the Khmer Rouge atrocities, who wants the institute to become a ‘focus for reflection, healing and reconciliation as well as an enlightening educational and research facility dedicated to commemorating the lives of the past by building a better future’.

Chhang was taken prisoner by the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s at the age of 15 and has spent more than a decade gathering details of atrocities committed by the former Cambodian regime, The Democratic Kampuchea (DK).

He said: ‘Cambodia will never escape its history, but it does not need to be enslaved by it. Post-conflict societies have to move on.’

Describing the designs, Chhang said: ‘We were keen 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.’

‘The best memorials are not objects we visit once, contemplate, and file away. The best memorials evoke reflection and commemoration, but are also living, dynamic public places that engage with all generations in the community.’

Project team

Architect Zaha Hadid Architects
Design director DaeWha Kang
Lead designer/project leader Brian Dale
Project team Malgorzata Kowalczyk, Michal Wojtkiewicz, Torsten Broeder, Fernanda Mugnaini
Arup - project director Chris Carroll
Arup - project manager/structure lead Ben Lewis
Arup - MEP lead Emmanuelle Danisi
Arup facade lead Jonathan Wilson

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