Tours of modern architecture in Cambodia

 

Our tours focus on buildings erected after Cambodia's independence in 1953, a style described as 'New Khmer Architecture', while setting these within the historical context of Phnom Penh.

Regular public tours take place on the second and fourth Sunday of each month.
Please scroll down for details of each tour and information on how to book.


Private tours are also available 7 days a week. We offer two main options; Central Phnom Penh by Cyclo Colonial Tour and 1960s New Khmer Architecture. Rates and further details are listed below, under the section on private tours.

All tours are conducted in English and are led by Cambodian architects and students of architecture.

 

Regular public tours:

 

Sunday 14 December 14, 8.30am
Central Phnom Penh by cyclo

Sunday 28 December 14, 2.30pm
New Khmer Architecture of the 1960s

Sunday 11 January 15, 8.30am
Central Phnom Penh by cyclo

Sunday 25 January 15, 8.30am
1960s Houses and Villas in Toul Kork (incl the White Building in Bassac)

Sunday 8 February 15, 8.30am
Central Phnom Penh by cyclo

Sunday 22 February 14, 2.30pm
New Khmer Architecture of the 1960s

Sunday 8 March 15, 8.30am
Central Phnom Penh by cyclo

Sunday 22 March 15, 8.30am
1960s Houses and Villas in Toul Kork (incl the White Building in Bassac)

 

How to book:

For all regular public tours, please email us at contact@ka-tours.org with your request for places. Please include:
1 • which tour and date you would like to book,
2 • your full name and total number of guests, and
3 • a local telephone number or name of hotel you are staying in.
We will email you back with a booking confirmation and meeting point details.

Tours tend to be fully booked, especially during the high season (December through March) so it is advisable to reserve at least a week in advance. Last minute bookings can also be accommodated depending on availability.

Cost for tours are shown below per person including transport. Discounted rates are offered for all Cambodian nationals. Fees are collected by the guide at the start of each tour; cash only please.

 

Details of regular tours :

Please note, all tours involve a fair share of walking outside, so suitable attire is advised.

Central Phnom Penh by cyclo
This tour explores central Phnom Penh and includes colonial buildings as well as modern, post-independence architecture. Meant to be a brief historical introduction to the city, the tour includes a selection of well-known buildings as well as some less obvious examples, ie of religious architecture. We explore the district around the old Post Office, then go to the area south-east of the Central Market.

Traveling by cyclo (a Cambodian pedal-powered rickshaw) is a special way of experiencing the streets and buildings of the city. We will enter some buildings and see others from the cyclo, as well as exploring on foot.

We start at 8:30 am and return after 2.5 - 3 hours. Cost is 15 USD per person including the cyclo hire.

The tour normally takes place on the second Sunday of each month, but can be arranged to run at different times on request. Please see 'Private Tours' below.
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New Khmer Architecture of the 1960s
The tour explores Phnom Penh’s landmarks designed by Vann Molyvann, Cambodia’s most famous architect. After independence in 1953, a far-reaching cultural and social vision for Cambodia was reflected in the new architecture of the time; uniquely this focused on integrating an international style with local tradition, materials and climate.

Discover the signature features of the 1960s 'New Khmer Architecture' movement with a visit to the Royal University of Phnom Penh (Institute of Foreign Languages), Vann Molyvann's 100 Houses Social Housing project, and the National Sports Complex (Olympic Stadium).

We meet in town at the Post Office and travel by bus. Start at 2.30pm, end around 5.30pm.
Cost: 15 USD per person. Children over 12 are welcome.

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1960s Houses and Villas in Phnom Penh (Toul Kork) + the White Building
This tour visits three locations:
• The well-known '100 Houses' development, designed by Vann Molyvann and commissioned in 1965 by the National Bank of Cambodia for its staff. These 100 or so identical houses are a thoughtful reinterpretation of the traditional Khmer house - some are still in their original state.
• A Doctor's House: A remarkable villa of the same period with an exuberant, three-storey high entrance hall which dominates the design. It is now a Health Centre.

• The Double Stair House: A family villa whose rich blend of materials, form, light and air creates a delightful residence - built to keep cool on the hottest of days.

• The White Building: the celebrated, innovative housing development designed by Lu Ban Hap as part of the Bassac River Front cultural complex - still in use and home for over 2,000 residentsbut facing an uncertain future.

We meet at MetaHouse, German Cambodian Cultural Center (#37 Sothearos Boulevard, Sangkat Tonle Bassac, Phnom Penh) and travel by bus. Start at 8.30am, end around 11.30am.
Cost: 15 USD per person. Children over 12 are welcome.

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National Sports Complex (Olympic Stadium)

The National Sports Complex, known as the Olympic Stadium (photos 3 and 4), was built in 1963-4 to accommodate the 1964 GANEFO Games and became the location for the reception of many visiting dignitaries and state occasions. Designed by Vann Molyvann, the remarkable and heroic complex has been renovated and brought back into popular use by sport-loving Cambodians. We will visit the stadium which seats 84,000, the sports-hall with its striking concrete 'mushroom' roof, and the Olympic-size swimming/diving pools.


We meet at the National Sports Complex. Start at 8.30am, end around 10.30am.
Cost: 8 USD per person. Children over 12 are welcome.
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University Buildings in Phnom Penh

We visit three remarkable 1960s campuses on the Russian Boulevard (photos 4-8): the Institute of Technology of Cambodia (Soviet designers), the 'modern baroque' Institute of Foreign Languages (a group of three buildings by Vann Molyvann, his last work of the 1970s) and the Royal University of Phnom Penh by Leroy and Mondet.

We meet in town and travel by bus. Start at 8.30am, end around 11.30am.
Cost: 15 USD per person. Children over 12 are welcome.

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The Front du Bassac and the Chaktomuk Conference Hall
This tour explores another public building designed by Vann Molyvann, the Chaktomuk Conference Hall. Its fan-shaped design is considered a highlight of early New Khmer Architecture. Completed in 1961, it was refurbished in 2000, principally as a conference hall but is regularly used as a theatre venue for special events.

We then take a short walk around the area known as the Front du Bassac, planned in the 1960s to be a 'civic and cultural centre', and look briefly at the Grey Building and visit an apartment in the White Building. The Grey Building, now altered, was designed by Vann Molyvann as an Olympic Village for the Southeast Asian Games; the White Building was designed as public housing by the municipality of Phnom Penh.

For private tours, due to tighter access restrictions, this building can be viewed from the exterior only.

Start at 8.30am and end around 10.30am.
Cost: 8 USD per person. Children over 12 are welcome.
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Private tours:

Private tours are also available 7 days a week. We offer two main options; Central Phnom Penh by Cyclo Colonial Tour and 1960s New Khmer Architecture. All tours are conducted in English and led by Cambodian architects and students of architecture.

1 Central Phnom Penh by cyclo

This tour explores central Phnom Penh and includes colonial buildings as well as modern, post-independence architecture. Meant to be a brief historical introduction to the city, the tour includes a selection of well-known buildings as well as some less obvious examples, ie of religious architecture. We explore the district around the old Post Office, then go to the area south-east of the Central Market.

Traveling by cyclo (a Cambodian pedal-powered rickshaw) is a special way of experiencing the streets and buildings of the city. We will enter some buildings and see others from the cyclo, as well as exploring on foot.

2 New Khmer Architecture of the 1960s.

The New Khmer Architecture tour explores Phnom Penh’s landmarks designed by Vann Molyvann, Cambodia’s most famous architect. After independence in 1953, a far-reaching cultural and social vision for Cambodia was reflected in the new architecture of the time; uniquely this focused on integrating an international style with local tradition, materials and climate. Discover the iconic works of 'New Khmer Architecture' heralded throughout southeast Asia in the 1960s.

Discover the signature features of the 1960s 'New Khmer Architecture' movement with a visit to the Royal University of Phnom Penh (Institute of Foreign Languages), Vann Molyvann's 100 Houses Social Housing project, and the National Sports Complex (Olympic Stadium).

The tour can be by tuk-tuk (a motorbike-powered rickshaw), car or mini-bus. Tours start at 8.30am or 2.30pm. It is usually recommended to take this tour in the afternoon so you have the opportunity to visit the Stadium in its full activity late in the day.
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If you are interested in a special 'custom' tour of selected sites or a 'combination' of both tours this is also possible. For a 'combination' tour, we usually recommend the first two sections of the colonial tour and one 1960s site - University Buildings or the Olympic Stadium. The tour is taken by tuk-tuk or minivan for larger groups.

How to book:

Please email us at contact@ka-tours.org with your request and include
1 • which tour you would like to book,
2 • your preferred date and time,
3 • your full name and total number of guests,

4 • your preferred meeting point (name of hotel/guesthouse or address of private residence).

For all private tours, the pick-up is made directly from your hotel or preferred meeting point, provided it is located in the central Phnom Penh area. Transport rates vary depending on location. The tour will end at the pick-up point unless otherwise stated.

Rates for private tours are as follows in USD for a 1/2 day (3 hours) tour; all rates are the total cost, not per person. The range of costs depends on the type of transport chosen and the actual number of guests.

1 guest, $55-60 : $45 for tour + $10 for 2 cyclos, or $15 for a tuk-tuk.
2 guests, $60 : $45 for tour + $15 for either 3 cyclos or for a tuk-tuk.
3 guests, $60-65 : $45 for tour + $20 for 4 cyclos or $15 for a tuk-tuk
4 to 6 guests, $75-85 : $50 for tour + $25-35 for cyclos or $30 for tuk-tuks.
7 to 9 guests, $110-120 : $70 for tour + $40-50 for cyclos or $45 for tuk-tuks.
10 to 12 guests, $155-165 : $100 for tour + $55-65 for cyclos or $60 for tuk-tuks.

Please note:
A cyclo will carry one adult. Tuk-tuks accommodate up to four people, ie three guests plus the guide. Car or mini-bus transport can be arranged: the cost is $25-50 for 1/2 day. For reasons of good communication we divide groups of more than 12 people into smaller groups (ie maximum 12 people per guide). Our cancellation policy is notification 12 hours before the tour, otherwise the full tour fee will be payable.

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Custom tours:

If you are interested in a special 'custom' tour of selected sites or a 'combination' of both cyclo and 1960s tours this is also possible. For a 'combination' tour, we usually recommend the first two sections of the colonial tour and one 1960s site, the University Buildings or the Olympic Stadium.

The tour is done by tuk-tuk or minivan for larger groups. Tours usually takes one hour per site (or colonial section) including travel time, so we usually recommend three sites to be practical within a 3 hour period.

A private tour including sites from '1960s Houses and Villas in Toul Kork' is also possible pending permission of the private homeowners.

Lastly, tours can also be curtailed to 2 hours or extended to 4 hours depending on your site preferences and time availability. Costs of tours are as Private Tours above.

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Walking maps:
Do your own tour of
Phnom Penh or Battambang

The maps are free for personal use. Download and print them for handy, full-of-info guides to some of the most interesting streets in Phnom Penh and Battambang. All comments/suggestions gratefully received. Copyright notice: please note that reproduction for commercial use is not allowed.

Maps of Battambang are available in both Khmer and English; these have been produced by KAT in partnership with the City of Battambang and GIZ Land Rights Programme. Our Phnom Penh Central map, first released in 2006, was updated in 2013.

Phnom Penh Central Map (English)
To download, click here

Battambang Central and South Maps (Khmer)
To download, click here

Battambang Central and South Maps in (English)
To download, click here

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Background info...

1 Notes on cultural context:

For Cambodia, the late 1950s and 1960s was a period of dynamic cultural and political ambition, which resulted in an extensive programme of building. A far-reaching cultural and social vision for Cambodia was reflected in the new architecture of that time which focused on integrating an international style with local tradition, materials and climate.

The resulting style has been called ‘New Khmer Architecture’ and is beginning to be recognised as an important artistic milestone in 20th century Cambodian culture. Darryl Collins, Helen Grant Ross and Hok Sokol carried out extensive original research into the architecture of the 50s and 60s; see Building Cambodia: New Khmer Architecture 1953-1970 listed below.

The innovative cultural scene of the late 50's and the 60s is discussed in Cultures of Independence published by Reyum: "The period following independence in Cambodia seems to have been marked by a willingness to expand and incorporate new elements, looking both outside and inside the newly independent nation for available methods and materials with which to build a modern culture. An emerging urban elite undertook the task of conceiving, defining, and building a "modern Khmer culture". Whether consciously or not, most of their work took up questions of how to create forms that would be recognised as both Cambodian and modern. In other words, for example how to create a contemporary architecture which incorporated ideas of international modernism while still keeping a local specificity, or how to take forms established elsewhere - such as the novel or cinema - and produce these forms as part of Cambodian culture."

 

2 Reference material:

Strolling around Phnom Penh
Jean-Michel Filippi, published by KAM Editions, 2012.

Building Cambodia: New Khmer Architecture 1953-1970
Helen Grant Ross and Darryl Collins, 2006, ISBN: 974934121X

Before Kampuchea
Milton Osborne, published by Orchid Press, Bangkok, 2004.

Modern Khmer Cities
Vann Molyvann, published by
The Reyum Institute of Arts and Culture, Phnom Penh, 2003.

Phnom Penh a l'aube du XXIe siecle
Phnom Penh Bureau des Affaires Urbaines, published by Atelier Parisienne d'Urbanisme, Paris, 2003.

Cultures of Independence: An introduction to Cambodian Arts and Culture in the 1950s and 1960s
Edited by Ly Daravuth and Ingrid Muan, published by The Reyum Institute of Arts and Culture, Phnom Penh, 2001.

Phnom Penh developpment urbain et patrimoine
Ministere de la Culture and Atelier Parisienne d'Urbanisme, Paris, 1997.

Phnom Penh Then and Now
Michel Igout, published by White Lotus, Bangkok, 1993.

 

 

3 Links:

Contemporary film and images of the 1960's White Building in Phnom Penh by its residents:
www.whitebuilding.org

Fans of Modern Khmer Architecture - images:
www.flickr.com/photos/32421609@N07/sets

Blog: New Khmer Architecture:
http://newkhmerarchitecture.blogspot.com

The Vann Molyvann Project - drawings/models of buildings through measured surveys:
www.vannmolyvannproject.org

Reyum Institute of Art and Culture - research and publishing on cultural issues:
www.reyum.org

Mi Modern Architecture (MIMOA) - free online architecture guide:
www.mimoa.eu

Architecture Link - info on architecture tours internationally:
http://architecturelink.org.uk/ArchTours2.html

 

T

 


 


1 Chaktomuk Conference Hall.

 

 


2 National Sports Complex

 


3 National Sports Complex

 


4 Institute of Technology (ITC)

 


5 Institute of Foreign Languages (IFL)

 


6 Inst of Foreign Languages (IFL)

 


7 Royal Univ of Phnom Penh (RUPP)

 


8 Royal Univ of Phnom Penh (RUPP)

 


9 100 Houses

 


10 Double stair house

 


11 Sihanoukville Station

 


12 Sihanoukville Station

 

The buildings pictured in 1-10 above are included in our tours. 11-12 are Sihanoukville Station - go see it yourself!


Thanks to Astrid Diehl for photo 2 (National Sports Complex, swimming pool block). Other photos by Geoff Pyle.

 

 

 

News update:
3 Dec 14

 

Please see new dates for tours into 2015!

 

People say...

> "Thank you for the tour of New Khmer Architecture in Phnom Penh. I can't tell you how much we enjoyed it and found it a brilliant introduction not only to a fascinating architectural period... but also to Cambodia and Phnom Penh in general. KA Tours is a very impressive organisation. Your knowledge, professionalism and especially your love and enthusiasm for your subject is infectious." - RV

> "We had a terrific tour this morning, - my colleagues said that it was the best thing they had undertaken in Phnom Penh." - SH

> "So far, I have attended three of your tours and the only thing I can say is that you are doing a wonderful job. The service is perfect, with clear explanations, guides passionate about their subject, great organization! Well done!" - SB

> "I went on the cyclo tour this afternoon and I just wanted to let you know that my guide was excellent... He is one of the best guides I've had in my three months of traveling. I had a wonderful afternoon." - VM

> "We downloaded the map and had a wonderful morning, 8am to 1pm looking at all the buildings. As an introduction to Phnom Penh it was magic. The subject matter was fascinating, the notes short but very informative and it took us down streets we would never have visited if we had kept to the main tourist sites. We looked at the street scenes with heightened interest and saw more than we would have done withour the guide. An excellent experience. Please pass on our appreciation to the architects in your group who have done such a good job." - JS

> "I just wanted to let you know that we've done the architecture walking tour - downloadable version - last Friday and we loved it! it's a beautiful walk, just long enough and gives you a total different perspective on Phnom Penh! After that walk, we paid a lot more attention to the buildings in PP and that was a true enrichment!" - JO

 

Updates by email

> If you register with us, we will email occasional reminders about tour dates, but not too often. Your email details will not passed on to any one else; and you can unregister at any time. Please let us know if you would like to be on our list via:

contact@ka-tours.org

 

More ideas?

> We welcome comments and suggestions about buildings, tours etc. Have you seen any architectural gems which might be worth visiting?

 

Who are we?

> The aim of KA Tours is to promote the understanding of colonial and modern architecture in Cambodia. Started in 2003 as an independent, not-for-profit organisation, KA Tours is an operation of Space for Architecture which is also located in Phnom Penh and promotes dialogue about urban heritage and design as part of Cambodia’s cultural heritage. space for architecture

> In addition to arranging tours and guiding, KA Tours researches buildings and provides training in preparing data about important buildings. KA Tours' guides/researchers are all Cambodian architects and students of architecture. The Tour Coordinator is Ms. Chanthy CHIP. Our guides are Virak ROEUN, Pagna SEREY, Danith VUTH and Sokly YAM.

> Funds raised by donations or tour fees are directly channelled into covering costs of the tours, which include guide fees, as well as sponsoring additional activities such as lectures and tours to Khmer and international schools, research and guide training.

 

Patron:

> We are highly honoured to have as our Patron His Excellency VANN Molyvann.

 

Collaborators:

> Khmer Architecture Tours relies on the enthusiasm and efforts of our team of collaborators which includes students of architecture and graduates employed as tour guides and researchers, local and foreign architects, and architecture fans who support KA Tours as advisers, map-makers and lecturers. A mention to past researchers/guides HANN Lina, CHEAM Phanin, HOU Sarith, HOK Vichet and SOTH Sothea; researcher Stefanie IRMER, all-round advisor Jane MARTIN and map-maker Tobias OLSSON.

> If you are interested in assisting with research or guiding please contact us.

 

Contact us:

Khmer Architecture Tours
Tours of Modern Architecture in Cambodia

Phnom Penh
Kingdom of Cambodia
contact@ka-tours.org

KA Tours is an e-association of independent architects. We do not have an office. All bookings, enquiries and confirmations are communicated by email.

For last minute enquiries ONLY, please contact our Tour Coordinator based in Phnom Penh, Ms. Chanthy CHIP on mobile +855 (0)17 369 743.

Advance bookings recommended!