The following is a summary of research conducted in 2011-2012, funded in part by the Fulbright Program and entitled City of Water: Architecture, Infrastructure and the Floods of Phnom Penh. This work documents the relationships between water, architecture, and infrastructure in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The objective of the project is to record the architectural and urban conditions sustained by and subject to the cyclical floods of the city’s rivers, to describe the challenges faced by Phnom Penh as it rapidly urbanizes in a flood plain, and to explore the nature and agency of design in relation to these topics.

This work also explores the challenges of information access, documentation, and knowledge dissemination within and beyond the Mekong River Basin. Consequently, a tenet of this research was to share all documents, drawings and statistics gathered or produced via as an open sourced and public resource.

Thank you to the Fulbright U.S. Student Program for funding this project, to Khmer Architecture Tours for their support, and especially thank you to the countless architects and students who shared their thoughts, resources and time during my time in Cambodia.

Pan Asia Mekong University of Houston
Water, Politics, and Art Parsons the New School for Design

Article in Nakhara: Journal of Environmental Design and Planning
ACSA Subtropical Cities

Book Chapters
Phnom Penh Rescue Archaeology (ed. Erin Gleeson 2013)
Genealogy of the Bassac (ed. Brian McGrath and Sereypagna Pen 2020)
Way Beyond Bigness: The Need for a Watershed Architecture (Derek Hoeferlin 2020)

Phnom Penh Maps
Spatial Data
Print Collection

Print Resources
Web Resources
Manolis House Book Collection donated to Bophana
Selected Films – Architecture in Phnom Penh
Phnom Penh Urban History Short Version

Model of Phnom Penh (1:5000)
Urban Interventions

New Khmer Architecture
Rainy Season
Olympic Stadium
Canals + Wetlands 
Phnom Penh Green Space + A0 Board
Our City Festival + Urban Lab
All – Cambodia
Friends Center – Siem Reap – by Cook+Fox Architects [NY, NY]

Mekong Flux 
Installation Photos + Drawings
Information Panel
River Time Lapse Video (rough cut)
Time Lapse Photos

Driving Videos (rough cuts)
Night Driving
Rain Driving
Sewage Canal
Day One Driving
Day Two Driving

Preliminary Conclusions
Many of the advancements necessary in Phnom Penh – an agreed upon master plan, redeveloped flood and sanitation infrastructure, a building code – rely upon thoughtful governance, careful law making and independent lobbying. The following are proposals for the future of urban development in Phnom Penh.

1) Increased access to publically accessible urban data in English and Khmer, including: a) elevation and topographic maps demonstrating at-risk flood areas, b) lake infill environmental impact reports and information regarding future planned infill. c) A disaster management plan for future flooding events, particularly an emergency response plan for high-risk areas. d) Information about current flood protection projects and reports on the effectiveness of these projects. e) Public discussion and feedback regarding this information.

2) An agreed upon and enforced master plan and building codes, including: a) require existing and new projects to have a percentage of penetrable surfaces designed to absorb the impact of rainwater b) Require additional open public space and parkland in dense areas of the city.  c) Pursue long-term infrastructure projects. For example, the city could purchase high-risk flood areas, prevent future development in these areas and create nature preserves.

3) Improved access to design education, including: a) Improved Urban Planning and Urban Design training in Cambodian universities b) Introduction of Landscape Architecture programs to Cambodian universities c) Development of workshops, conferences, exhibitions,  and competitions focused on urban development and water in Phnom Penh

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