Not much is known about the architectural movement known as the New Khmer style, which produced work of startling innovation and striking sculptural form. The work has roots in European Modernism in both style and social ambition, however it is distinctly contextual. Its often playful and eccentric expression is markedly Khmer and the result of a self-conscience desire to be non-western. The New Khmer Style refers to Cambodia’s ancient temples in its ornamentation and its planning strategies. The buildings responded to the country’s climate by elaborating on traditional means for natural ventilation and drew on ancient methods of irrigation to contend with periodic flooding. The Architects that practiced this style formed what could be described as a Bauhaus Asia, one that sought to provide the newly independent country with an architectural identity of its own.
On September 5th I will be leaving for Cambodia for a study of the New Khmer architectural style. Sponsored by the Architectural League of New York, this three month trip will take me through Phnom Penh, Sihanoukville, Siem Reap and Battambang. Along the way I will document what I see, write my report, and interview people who produced and studied the work. Much of that will end up here. So stay tuned.