On January 9 and 10 this year, the Bophana Audiovisual Resource Center in Phnom Penh hosted a conference on “Time, Space,Voice: Phnom Penh’s White Building” co-organized by graduate student Lyno Vuth, who was also a speaker at the event.
Built in 1963 as part of an ambitious cultural and administrative zone designed by Lu Ban Hap and overseen by Vann Molyvann, the White Building is an icon of Cambodian modernist architecture and urban planning. Home now to more than two and a half thousand people, the White Building has become notorious, however, for its dilapidated exterior and for its reputation as a hub for illegal activities. Yet, it is also celebrated as a thriving home for the urban poor that is tight-knit, self-sufficient and enriched by a committed community of artists. Responding to the White Building’s uncertain future, the conference presented new research on the building’s history and discussed its current and future prospects in dialogue with neighbourhood communities. The conference was also timed to coincide with the research residency of architect and urbanist Pen Sereypagna in the White Building, sponsored by Sa Sa Art Projects, Phnom Penh, and Parsons The New School For Design, New York City.
Sa Sa Art Projects is Phnom Penh’s only not-for-profit artist-run space dedicated to experimental art practices. It was founded in 2010 by the Cambodian arts collective Stiev Selapak and is located in the vibrant historic apartment complex known as the White Building.