An Art-Filled Watch Day at the National Sports Complex in Phnom Penh
The complex, which was recognized as part of the 2016 World Monuments Watch, raised awareness for the protection of the site with an exhibition and interactive art creation.
The National Sports Complex, designed by Vann Molyvann in the early 1960s, is one of the most prominent examples of modern architecture of Cambodia and important social programs of the time. Today, the complex serves as a meeting place for Phnom Penh residents, including practicing sports, socializing, and escaping the city’s bustling streets and polluted air. Because of its central position, a section of the property was sold and redeveloped into high-end condominiums, raising growing concerns about the possible destruction of the site while a new stadium is being constructed. For these reasons, the National Sports Complex was included on the 2016 World Monuments Watch, calling attention to the threat of encroachment and loss of an important resource for the local community.
In the months that followed the Watch announcement, WMF met with Cambodians who welcomed the Watch nomination and expressed their desire to see greater acknowledgement of the value of Cambodian modern architecture, as well as the need to safeguard it. This call for protection is now even more urgent after the recent demolition of another modern landmark in Phnom Penh, the White Building.
As a way to raise awareness among the people who use the site on a daily basis, a Watch Day was organized in June 2017 by Vann Molyvann Project, the same organization that brought the Stadium to our attention. With support from WMF, an exhibition, The National Sports Complex: Legacy and Vision, was installed at the site to highlight the architectural history, legacy, and social impact of the site as an important public space. The exhibition presented archival research and materials from the Vann Molyvann Project. A contemporary art work from Cambodian artist Khvay Samnang was also presented, featuring photographs of two traditional fighters (Bokator) portrayed at the city’s landmarks and new construction sites. Participatory workshops featured artists interacting with the public to understand their favorite elements and future vision for the Stadium, and then translating these words into drawings.