Retail distribution began Tuesday of a new book on Cambodian wooden houses, considered to be the first monograph entirely devoted to the subject.

Published by Sipar Books, a division of French non-governmental organisation Sipar, the 296-page volume is by Australian art historian Darryl Collins and Cambodian architect Sok Sokol, who both reside in Siem Reap.

The book — “Cambodian Wooden Houses: 1,500 years of Khmer Heritage” — covers the historical context and current architectural process of building timber dwelling.

With photographs, illustrations, maps, plans and drawings, it focuses on the heritage values of wooden houses and the decreasing numbers of fine examples remaining in the country today.

H.E. Chea Sophara, Minister of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction, describes the book as “a rich document that showcases the history, evolution as well as techniques, traditions and elaborate motifs developed by Khmer workers of wood over the past fifteen centuries.”

In his preface to the book, the minister says it is “crucial” for Cambodians — especially younger people — “to ensure they understand, and appreciate the need for preserving their heritage.

“In addition, my wish is that this book will become a useful resource for appreciation, exploration and research in the ASEAN region as well as throughout the world,” he writes.

Collins — who co-authored the highly acclaimed “Building Cambodia: ‘New Khmer Architecture’ 1953-1970” published in Bangkok in 2006 — has resided in Cambodia since 1996.

He first visited Phnom Penh in 1994 to work on an Australian government project to revitalise the National Museum of Cambodia. Over a 10-year period, he oversaw the museum’s entire collection being digitally recorded, photographed and entered on a database.

Sok Sokol graduated from the Faculty of Architecture and Urban Planning at the Royal University of Fine Arts in 1999. Since 2020, he has been certified as an ASEAN Architect with his firm Sok Sokol Architecture.

The architect contributed to the earlier book by Collins and his research was included in “Wooden Architecture of Cambodia: A Disappearing Heritage” published by the Center for Khmer Studies in 2006.

In addition to working together on books, the authors collaborated on relocating a house on an island in the Mekong River in Kampong Cham province to Siem Reap in 2007. They also conserved two other houses which are now located on the outskirts of Siem Reap.

Unlike the previous book published and printed in Thailand in 2006, the new book has been printed in Cambodia — by Sok Heng Printing House in Phnom Penh.

The book went on sale at the cafe of the National Museum in Phnom Penh on Tuesday afternoon. It is expected to be available later this week at Monument Books, the largest chain of bookstores in Cambodia with outlets on Norodom Blvd and Exchange Square as well as the two airports serving Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.

Publisher Sipar Books has produced more than 200 Khmer-language books since 2000, with more than 2.4 million copies distributed. The Versailles-based parent has meanwhile established libraries in 310 schools and trained more than 2,600 librarians since arriving in Cambodia in 1992. It has also set up libraries and “reading centres” in villages, hospitals, prisons and garment factories while operating nine mobile libraries.

Source: Agency Kampuchea Press

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