Death of an unknown architect

Of course, you don’t get a full-page obituary in The Guardian if you are truly unknown.

But I suspect that the level of awareness of most of the architecturally aware in the UK of the work of  Vann Molyvann, who has died at the age of 90,  is pretty low – and it is only with a moderate degree of shame that I confess that his name is entirely new to me.The fact that Molyvann’s obituary is written, not by one of the usual architectural Illuminati, but by a freelance foreign correspondent, Tom Fawthrop, is another indication of our general lack of awareness.

Molyvann was the architect of the regeneration of Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital, in the 1960s, leaving for Switzerland (and working for the UN) when the Khmer Rouge took over. Later, he returned to the country, and battled, not entirely successfully, to preserve some of his work in the face of rapid development and westernisation. For those who want to know more, there is an interesting website devoted to his work.

Architecture is supposedly international in its spread, yet there are still people like Vann Molyvann who have been hugely significant but remain little known beyond their own patch.


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