London's Zaha Hadid Architects have released designs for the Sleuk Rith Institute, a new complex and genocide memorial to be sited in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Founder Youk Chhang, who was himself a prisoner under the former Cambodian Khmer Rouge regime (also known as the Democratic Kampuchea) during the 1970s, envisioned the Sleuk Rith Institute as both an educational facility for research on causes and prevention of genocide, and a place of reflection that commemorates victims of the Khmer Rouge regime.
Chhang’s brief for the institute promoted the idea of an uplifting memorial, despite the grim nature of its subject matter. “In the context of genocide and mass atrocity, memorial architecture has tended to reflect the evil and misfortune of the historical period it represents,” Chhang said in a release from the architects. “In this sense, the architecture’s legacy is dark, sombre, and firmly oriented to the past.”
Five wooden structures, discreet at their bases but merging as they rise upward, house the research center and its library, an archive, a museum, and a graduate school on a 68,000-square-meter (731,946-square-foot) memorial park sited at the confluence of the Mekong and Tonlé Sap Rivers. The project's designers describe the interweaving structures as recalling Cambodia’s Angkorian architecture, which combines forms to connect enclosures. Sustainably-sourced wood forms the primary structure as well as exterior shading devices and interior partitions. Concerns over seasonal flooding from the nearby rivers led to landscaping measures that include large retention ponds and raised terraces for the building footprints.
“Our hope is that the Sleuk Rith Institute and its Memorial Park can have a truly transformative effect,” Hadid said in the release, “[We hope it will bring] new life and a bright future to a site that holds traces of the great tragedies of the past. An inviting place where reflection, interaction and connectivity are not only its spatial expression, but also embedded within its covenant to the people of Cambodia.”
Construction on the Sleuk Rith Institute will begin in 2015.
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