By: Danielle Bowler
This project maps the colorful array of approximately 300 out of 468 patio spaces, built-out by individual residents of the White building is an element that makes the White Building a spectacle in Phnom Penh. Originally designed by Lu BanHap supervised by Vann Molyvann, the White Building was built based off of European modernist and Khmer ideas that were re-designed to fit the needs of the tropical climactic conditions in Phnom Penh. Through the proliferation of the built-out patio spaces, we can see a critique of the original building brought about by the needs of individual residents. These patio spaces, originally designed to increase light and air circulation into the apartments lack a shading device to protect from the hot sun in the dry season, and frequent rain in the wet season.
The study pulls apart each patio space to understand the tectonics of the build-outs. Through categorization of the basic elements of the structure, it was clear that there were essentially only three structures that can be spatially categorized: the shade space, the extended living space, and the enclosed space. The differentiating factors of these structures are merely the materials used for construction.
This study is part of Pen Sereypagna’s research project, “Genealogy of Bassac”, mapping the genealogy of the Bassac area in Phnom Penh as a community based, participatory exercise. A key objective is to discover ways to visualize the differences of urban form rather than continuities, and the characteristics of urban ruptures through various historical eras. The mapping exercise will take place within and be informed by the artistic community of the famous White Building, currently under threat of demolition.
The project is hosted by Sa Sa Art Projects (www.sasaart.info), Phnom Penh’s only artist-run space, in partnership with School of Constructed Environment, PARSONS the New School for Design.