Humanitarian design organisation, Orkidstudio, supported by Drum, has completed the reconstruction of a community centre and school in Sihanoukville, Cambodia.
The coastal port city of Sihanoukville, Cambodia, is a well-known tourist spot, with long-stretching golden beaches and a busy central strip. Behind the paradise of sun, sea and foreign tourism lies a chaotic, throbbing downtown area eventually petering out along a line of Buddhist-pagoda-topped hills. It is in these urban midlands, nestled behind a busy market street, where the reconstructed Bomnong L’or (Goodwill) Centre sits.
The Centre has been running for over ten years and provides much needed supplementary education to local children and adults. Now a cornerstone of the community the centre is used on a daily basis, as a place to meet, play, learn or work. Built on a cramped site accessed by a small dirt track, the original single storey structure sat awkward and uninviting; its central position reducing play space and offering only poorly ventilated and dimly lit rooms throughout. With so many daily users, the Centre struggled to function effectively and required a re-think in design and layout.
The new building lifts all learning and teaching spaces immediately up to first floor level, clearing the full site area which is then articulated by a twisting and turning landscape, creating a range of spaces for different ages to interact and play. This raised typology mimics the traditional Khmer stilt house, typically constructed from timber, but in this case from fabric-cast concrete.
In recent decades, driven by civil war, Cambodia has seen a rapid and shocking decline in rainforest cover and its forestry industry remains largely uncontrolled even today.
The use of fabric-cast concrete enabled a significant reduction in timber use on site, with only a lightweight sub-frame required to hold the fabric in position.