World-renowned architect Zaha Hadid has unveiled designs for for the new Sleuk Rith Institute, a leading center for genocide studies in Asia to be located in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Conceived by activist Youk Chhang, the Director of the Cambodian Documentation Center, the new institute will not only continue the organization's work of compiling, analyzing, and preserving information related to the brutal Khmer Rouge era, but will also act as a forward-looking work of memorial architecture that inspires hope for the future.
Hadid, typically known for her flowing concrete buildings, envisions a unique aesthetic for the institute in the form of five wooden structures that interweave and link together as they rise upwards. The five buildings will house spaces for different functions, including a museum, a library holding the largest collection of genocide-related material in Southeast Asia, a research center and archive, a media center, an auditorium, and a graduate school focusing on genocide, conflict, and humans rights studies. These independent establishments will be connected at various levels throughout the structure, allowing for interaction and collaboration underneath a complex, interlocked structure inspired by the architecture of Angkor Wat and other ancient sites.
“Our hope is the Sleuk Rith Institute and its Memorial Park can 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,” says Hadid. “An inviting place where reflection, interaction and connectivity are not only its spatial expression, but also embedded within its covenant to the people of Cambodia.”