Sleuk Rith Institute Zaha Hadid Architects
The best memorials are not objects we visit once, contemplate, and file away. The best memorials evoke reflection and commemoration, but are also living, dynamic public places that engage with all generations in the community,” Says Chhang, the human-rights activist and the director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia (DC-Cam).
The Sleuk Rith Institute is Chhang’s vision for the commemoration of the Khmer Rouge era, built for the sake of keeping the memory of Cambodia’s genocide alive; a genocide in which two million Cambodians lost their lives. The institute will house a vast archive of documents; it will act as a research center for genocide studies across Asia, and will provide a base for educational and cultural aspects by housing a graduate school focusing on human rights, an auditorium, and a research library.
The Institute is a very poetic architectural piece by Zaha Hadid Architects . It is a radical shift in the language of architecture often displayed by the architect. The transition from violent futuristic geometries to warm, locally-sourced timber, which “will weather and take on a more a natural-looking feel” Says Zaha, will bring this institute closer to nature, thus bringing humans to a more familiar space. The five wooden towers, inspired by ancient Angkorian architecture, will start off as distinct spaces on ground level, linking and interlocking as they rise. As the towers interweave they will provide for an interaction among different departments of the institute to act as a whole.
The Institute consists of a complex of spatial organizations that flow through multi interior and exterior spaces and volumes. The structure ranges from three to eight stories in height, providing the users of the space with a unique experience where they can engage, learn, discuss and reflect on the past experiences, giving the institute its goal to bring “new life and a bright future to a site that holds traces of the great tragedies of the past”
The institute will link to its surroundings through pedestrian paths, thereby drawing people into the experience. “I want the institute to break the silence, but it must be optimistic and look to the future. So many of these memorial museums are depressing, and you leave with a sense of anger, not forgiveness. They are usually designed by men, so I thought may be a woman could do it better.” says Chhang. Indeed, Zaha has brought an aesthetically rich building into the centre of the capital, Phnom Penh. The Sleuk Rith Institute complex will start construction on site next year.
Architects: Zaha Hadid Architects
Courtesy of Zaha Hadid Architects