CHENLA STATE CINEMA

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In Designing this impressive building, Lu Ban Hap, chief architect of Municipality of Phnom Penh, was assisted by Chhim Sun Fong, who had just completed this architecture degree at the university of Adelaide in Australia. The concept was very similar to Lu Ban Hap’s diploma project in Paris, which was for a dance academy. The Chenla State Cinema , however , had only a small stage because it was designed for film projections and not for theatrical productions. The distinctive design has two massive buttresses at the side on which the two roofs are suspended. The result is an architectural statement that seem to defy gravity. The structure is of reinforced concrete and the roof appears to be metal cladding.

Lu Ban Hap said he was asked to design a small cinema on land provided by Phnom Penh Governor Tep Phan. The original sketch by Norodom Sihanouk was for a cinema that could seat about 20 people. Lu Ban Hap said he took the Sihanouk’s sketch and made a new drawing without any scale for “about Fifty ” people. The next time he showed  Norodom Sihanouk his drawing, Lu Ban Hap said the cinema would seat a hundred. The cinema eventually ended up accommodating 800 people, and cost four million instead of 400,000 Riel.

Named after a pre-Angkorian Kingdom , the cinema was inaugurated with the second Phnom Penh international Film Festival, presided over by Vann Molyvann in November 1969.

The Cinema was abandoned for 30 years and renovated in 2002 by Canadia Bank, which added a building to the site. As a result, one of Phnom Penh’s few public spaces has been fenced in.

Source: Building Cambodia: ” New Khmer Architecture” 1953-1970

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