Special NRM Guest Lecture: Sustainable Preservation of Cambodian Wooden Houses – A Case on NbS

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Special NRM Guest Lecture: Sustainable Preservation of Cambodian Wooden Houses - A Case on NbS

Date: 28 March 2024 from 15:00-17:00
Venue: Room S101, SERD Building
Organizer: Natural Resources Management, SERD, AIT

Speaker and Author: HOK Sokol, Registered ASEAN Architect
Position: Freelance Architect


This seminar will discuss the rich tapestry of Khmer civilization, once a beacon of prosperity and creativity, has left behind a legacy encapsulated in its architectural marvels. This legacy spans from the enigmatic temples, testaments to a glorious past, to the intricately designed private dwellings that equally contributed to the societal fabric of villages and cities. Among these, the traditional Khmer wooden houses stand out, showcasing a remarkable blend of style and design deeply rooted in Cambodia’s cultural heritage. However, this invaluable patrimony faces threats of decline due to various factors, including civil unrest and a shift in societal values, risking the erasure of a significant chapter of Khmer civilization due to negligence in preservation efforts.

In contrast to the early 20th century, where houses symbolized social distinction, today’s scenario reveals a stark deterioration of these architectural gems, particularly in rural areas, where they are on the brink of disappearance. This research endeavors to counter this trend by adopting nature-based solutions for sustainable forest management, which are crucial for preserving the materials and techniques intrinsic to Cambodian wooden houses. By documenting and analyzing traditional Khmer construction methods and integrating sustainable practices, this study aims to safeguard this architectural heritage for future generations.

Through extensive fieldwork and collaboration with various research programs, including significant contributions from Darryl Collins and the author’s investigations, this project culminated in the publication of “Cambodian Wooden Houses” in 2022, with subsequent English, French, and Khmer editions released in December 2023. This body of work not only highlights the architectural significance of Khmer wooden houses but also underscores the importance of integrating environmental sustainability into cultural preservation strategies, offering a blueprint for conserving Cambodia’s wooden architectural heritage in harmony with nature.

About the Speaker

Speaker and Author: HOK Sokol

Hok Sokol, born in Kompong Cham, Cambodia, is an accomplished architect and urban planner with a degree from the Royal University of Fine Arts in Phnom Penh, obtained in 2000. His professional journey began with significant UNESCO research projects in Phnom Penh, focusing on Cambodia’s endangered architectural heritage from 1999 to 2004. Sokol’s passion for preserving traditional Khmer wooden architecture has led him to document and safeguard ancient structures in collaboration with the Ministry of the Royal Palace and as a key member of Architecture Research Khmer and the Vernacular Khmer Architecture research program at the Center for Khmer Studies. Registered as an ASEAN Architect in 2020, his work has been crucial in restoring traditional Khmer houses, combining sustainable practices with traditional methods to ensure their preservation for future generations.

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