Architecture, Phnom Penh
A Frizz Restaurant web page has an interesting discussion of the French Colonial architecture in Phnom Penh. It talks about the famous rococo palace "fixer-upper" that I used in my introduction. The building is in a decayed state, but evidently it has been purchased by the FCC Hotel Group. Restoration was supposed to have started in mid-2008, but nothing had happened by March 2009, when I was there (probably because of the bad global economy). The plan is to make it a luxury hotel with a French bistro downstairs and a connection to the FCC complex just behind it. The exact history of the house is unknown, but it was probably built in the 1920s. It's a typical French colonial building, but incorporates a whole combination of styles, including impressive Corinthian capitals and intricate sculptural designs.
The old part of the city along Sisowath Quay and along Norodom Boulevard was built during French colonial times and many of the old buildings still remain. Some have been restored (like the UNESCO building next to the old rococo palace) but quite a few are neglected and some may be beyond repair.
This is the Art Deco looking train station that was built in 1932 but don't expect any trains to be running from here today, (at a railway station? Come on!), as they stopped running a few years ago. Instead all you'll find are rows of wagons lined up on the tracks and an old steam engine built in France in 1912.
Built in 1894, this wonderful French colonial building has undergone extensive renovation, and is the key edifice in a small square that is bordered by a number of once important public buildings. This formed the heart of the quartier Européen, or ‘French quarter’ centred on banks, postal services, administrative offices, hotels and traders.
The French, who were the colonial masters from the 1800s to the 1940s, left their mark, with various colonial villas, French churches, boulevards, and the Art deco central market. Like in Vientiane, capital of Laos, many of the villas have shutter doors and windows, verandas and balconies but are in dire need of some TLC. Some have been boarded up and closed off from view with high metal fences.
If you are brave enough to stroll down the streets of the capital you'll come across these wonderful old french colonial buildings of the former ruling french empire... Alas they are crumbling into the ground....
What I was surprised to see here at the museum are the many sculptured figurines & heads of Buddhas.
We hardly see many at Angkor Wat.
I supposed they are here so that it won't be stolen by the thieves.
Pilferage is a big problem in this part of the world & there is just not enough resources to guard them at the actual temples.
Khmer architecture looks similar to Thai at first glance.
However, if you take a closer look, there seems to be less ornamental as those of Thai.
Less gold, less metallic but more wooden.
This is not an expert opinion, just my casual observance.
Phnom Penh is in the midst of rapid change, but the history of the city is impossible to ignore. It's a city filled with beautiful old colonial architecture, the ornate pale pastel-colored buildings that are a legacy of the French colonial era. The colonial villas of Phnom Penh are often in a state of decaying splendor.
Although its looking fairly run down now, Phnom Penh was once regarded as the most beatiful of the French colonial cities in Indochina. The riverfront still shows the influence of this time.