Star architect unveils designs for Cambodia genocide museum
PHNOM PENH // The British-Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid has unveiled designs for a museum that will chronicle the crimes of the 1975-1979 Khmer Rouge regime responsible for the deaths of up to two million Cambodians.
The Sleuk Rith Institute, scheduled to begin construction next year, brings together a museum, research centre, graduate school, public memorial park and a vast body of archives from the Documentation Centre of Cambodia.
Images and details released last week show a centre comprising of five interweaving wooden towers, between three to eight storeys high, surrounded by reflecting pools of water – borrowing from the geometric forms and connected enclosures of Cambodia’s famous Angkor temple complex.
Ms Hadid said she hoped the complex would “have a truly transformative effect, bringing new life and a bright future to a site that holds traces of the great tragedies of the past”.
The site is located in the grounds of a former school which, like many during the regime, was used as a re-education camp by communist rulers who dismantled modern Cambodian society in their quest for an agrarian utopia.
Youk Chhang, who is director of Documentation Centre of Cambodia and founder of Sleuk Rith, said the new institute aims to educate people about the atrocities while also looking forwards.
“The best memorials evoke reflection and commemoration, but are also living, dynamic public places that engage with all generations in the community,” said Mr Chhang, who is a survivor of the “Killing Fields” era.
Led by “Brother Number One” Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge wiped out nearly a quarter of Cambodia’s population through starvation, overwork or execution.
In August the two most senior surviving leaders of the regime were handed life sentences for crimes against humanity by Cambodia’s UN-backed court.
“Brother Number Two” Nuon Chea, 88, and former head of state Khieu Samphan, 83, will resume a second trial on Wednesday in which they face charges including genocide of Vietnamese people and Muslims, forced marriages and rape.
In 2004, Baghdad-born Ms Hadid became the first woman ever to win the Pritzker prize, architecture’s equivalent of the Nobel Prize.
* Agence France-Presse
Updated: October 12, 2014 04:00 AM