The recent technological progress gives us whole new possibilities to use timber in architecture. Wood, as a material, is way more improved and sustainable towards environmental conditions than it was before, which gives a huge impetus to the new ambitious architectural projects. One of these ambitious projects is Sleuk Rith Institute by “Zaha Hadid Architects’’ in Cambodia, which will break ground in 2016. This spectacular building with wooden facades combines the cite history and recent architectural achievements within itself.

The Sleuk Rith Institute will house the Documentation Center of Cambodia’s one million document archive and, as the largest collection of genocide related material in Southeast Asia, meanwhile it will also include a museum, library and graduate school.

The institute’s design is presented as five wooden structures that are separate volumes at ground level, but interweave as they rise upwards; connecting the different departments within a singular whole. With an overall footprint of 80 meter x 30 meter at the base and 88 meter x 38 meter at roof level, the structures range between three to eight stories.

As the building rises upward it creates a complexity by combining and interlocking a multitude of geometric forms in a formal progression of connected enclosures. As they gain in height and coalesce, the Sleuk Rith Institute’s five buildings define an intricate spatial composition of connecting volumes. It must be noted that these 5 towers are inspired by Angkorian architecture. Angkor – was an architectural complex between 9-15th centuried in Cambodia, with stone terraces, cathedral ensembles and gate towers. Visitors approach the building on causeways above reflecting catchment pools that mirror the building’s form and bring light  into interiors. As with the catchment pools of Cambodia’s ancient temple sites (Sras Srang, Angkor Wat ) these pools – and those on the upper level courtyard and terraces – will be fed by harvested rainwater and minimize the impact on the local environment and drainage systems.

Exterior and interior spaces flow into each other to guide visitors through the different areas for contemplation, education, engagement and discussion. The building is constructed from sustainably-sourced timber that in accordance with exterior shading and interior partitions give natural scale, warmth and materiality to the building.To accommodate Cambodia’s tropical climate, the narrower lower levels of the institute are shaded by the building’s massive forms above.

Entering through the atrium visitors appear at the center of the building, where they are welcomed by exhibits from the Institute’s collection. Above the entry atrium, the Institute houses the Documentation Centre archive, with offices for researchers and Institute administration on the top levels. A bridge is suspended above the atrium to connect the school and library. From atrium visitors are directed to the museum where exhibitions continue to the school and auditorium. The auditorium is on ground level while classrooms and professors’ offices are organized around the outdoor courtyard above.

The building’s passive design – including measures to reduce energy and water consumption while increasing system efficiencies, and the installation of renewable energy sources – will increase its ecological performance.

The institute includes a 68,000 square meter memorial park with sport fields, urban vegetable garden and fruit orchards and a forest that will house contemporary Cambodian sculptures, many of these commemorating the women that helped to rebuild the country.

Zara Hadid thinks that this project will play a significant role in country development. “I think architects can sometimes influence the situation for the better. We are making cultural institutions, which are open for the people.”

Project official video link:



Author: Tamta Jugashvili




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