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A New Visitor Experience at Preah Khan

The fascinating monastic complex of Preah Khan has been a focus of World Monuments Fund’s activities at Angkor since 1989. Throughout the years, WMF has conducted extensive surveys, stabilization projects, and restoration of Garudas along the enclosure wall. Most importantly, Preah Khan is where WMF’s first trainees learned the job of architectural conservation and became skilled heritage professionals.

WMF built a modest visitor center at Preah Khan in the 1990s to guide people through the history and significance of the temple as well as our conservation approach at the site. The original structure was enlarged and renovated over the years. A few years ago it became clear it was time to rebuild the structure and make it more stable.

Our Cambodian team produced plans for a new design concept for the visitor center. WMF engineer Phirum Chiv drew inspiration from the traditional vernacular architecture of Cambodia. Besides the use of timber, this includes a specific roof slope and roof tiles. A light timber frame is traditionally used for fencing, but our team took inspiration from this model to design the walls to allow ventilation and natural light, which is also brought in from the skylights installed in the roof. The project began at the end of 2017 and was completed earlier this year. The result is a very light and bright structure, which also requires very limited maintenance.

On January 31, a ceremony was held to celebrate and officially open this new visitor center. Participants included three monks, WMF’s Cambodian staff, and WMF trustee Wendy Brandow. Following Khmer custom, the ceremony thanked Buddha and the spirits for granting safe working conditions during the construction of the center. After the monks’ blessing and a speech from the achar—a master of ceremonies—the group enjoyed local delicacies such as curry chicken and cow’s head with ants.

WMF’s visitor center at Preah Khan is at present one of the few information centers within Angkor Archaeological Park, receiving approximately 10,000 visitors throughout the year.