In the Cambodia ACLEDA Institute of Business Campus project, we sought methods that would effectively strike a balance between the vernacular and the modernity. While conducting this project, we tried to compose a future-oriented educational space that simultaneously understands and respects the traditional context, rather than imposing new architectural concepts and artificial solutions. Spatial concepts were sought from traditional Khmer architecture, colonial architecture, and Cambodian vernacular architecture, in order to appropriately respond to the climate and the environment. A ‘Modernised Vernacular’ is established through a harmonious mixture of modern educational needs, local heritages, sociocultural context and our architectural challenges to boost communicational interactions. By integrating these elements, we tried to create an educational space in which the values of tradition, the present, and the future could coexist.
Globalisation: A Subtle Act of Destruction
The dissemination of western education systems can create conflict with local traits and needs. Not only do they transform the region’s unique cultural systems, they can also lead to the dissolution of traditional lifestyles. The globalisation of architecture, led by star architects and large Western architectural firms, has progressed in a commercial way, have been created as a type of product and exported to developing countries without critical reflection on cultural co-existence. These issues impede a sense of continuity in local cultures as well as enable their subtle destruction. As such, there is a need for greater understanding and identification with a conciliatory architecture, which could establish a sense of harmony between two disparate characteristics, as well as a need for design methods that pursue co-existence rather than indiscriminate decision making.
The Vernacular and the Architecture of Cambodia
While conducting this project, we tried to compose a future-oriented educational space which simultaneously understands and respects the traditional context, rather than imposing new architectural concepts and artificial solutions. Spatial concepts were sought from traditional Khmer architecture, colonial architecture, and Cambodian vernacular architecture, in order to appropriately respond to the climate and the environment. Diverse contexts were discovered, such as galleries and emptied courtyards, corridors arranged adjacent to the open air, the moderation of direct sunlight through the use of depth in the space of the outer wall, the rough surfaces which add a sense of the archaic, the colours and textures of the local materials, and the people who gather in small groups to actively participate in discussions. By integrating these elements, we tried to create an educational space in which the values of tradition, the present, and the future could coexist.
ACLEDA Institute of Business Campus Project - Vernacular Modernity
The ACLEDA Institute of Business Campus project planned a courtyard of 90 × 56m at its centre. As of early 2019, the first stage of the design has been completed, with the four buildings, the Administration Building, School Building-1, School Building-2 and Library, surrounding the courtyard. Upon entering through the Administration Building, one comes face to face with the courtyard. Following the boundaries of the courtyard, a gallery continues connecting the surrounding buildings, and the regular arrangement of the gallery columns adds to the stillness of the atmosphere. A multi-dimensional and visual interaction between the courtyards and the void spaces was intended by turning the voids of the surrounding buildings towards the courtyard. The most outstanding architectural feature of this project is the ‘diverse interaction spaces composed of dimensional voids’ (hereinafter void spaces) in the educational blocks and libraries. These void spaces are intricately tied to the courtyard of the campus from the ground floor, or even on each floor of the buildings. The void spaces in terrace form have been designed for the multiple uses of seminars, class prep, and rest. This was an attempt to activate small-scale communities as educational spaces of convergence, at a time in modern education where informal education spaces have become more important. The educational block has been designed to take into consideration traditional colours and textures, extended void spaces, and the use of light and shadow, while evoking a sense of depth and rhythm from the outer wall through the louvers and void spaces. The internal spaces are configured in a variety of intersecting voids. Such a decision is a reflection of the recent trend to re-evaluate libraries as public spaces, and of the efforts to increase accessibility to information. The internal book storage space visually opens up as it comes face to face with criss-crossing open voids. On the upper level, a horizontal skylight has been placed to allow sunlight to extend into the library through the voids.
For a Modernized Vernacular
This campus project followed the process of not only responding to the physical environment but also articulating the social conditions established by the local culture and history. The campus was realised by negotiating and reconciling the opinions of interest groups from a variety of backgrounds hailing from across the state and the wider region. In this process, the architect was called upon as a mediator to consider the inherent socio-cultural significance of the site and the new programmes. A modernised vernacular must be established through a co-existence based approach, which opts for a plentiful conciliation rather than a clear-cut concept. These are values that must be embraced by sustainable architecture, transcending generations and regions.
Kim Sungwook is a professor at Ajou University Department of Architecture in Korea and a co-founder of aDLab+. He received his bachelor’s degree at HongIk University and his M.Arch degree from Yale University. His major achievements include the Grand prize at the 13th National Exhibition of Korean Architecture and the AIA/AAF Scholastic Award.
Jeon Youchang is a professor at Ajou University Department of Architecture in Korea and co-founder of aDLab+. He graduated Inha University with honours and received a master’s degree from Columbia University in New York. He is a registered architect in New York City and LEED AP.
Han Mankyung received his bachelor’s and master’s degree at Inha University. He worked at UAD Architect and Wondoshi Architect Group. As the CEO of HSnK Architecture & Engineering, he ran branch offices in Russia, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Cambodia, carrying out multinational architectural projects.
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