Cambodian Dorm Project

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Leon recently went to Cambodia, here’s a post on his trip:

During the first week of March, I had the incredible opportunity to travel to Cambodia with a group of good friends to participate in a design trip and site visit for a dormitory that we have been designing for the past many months. With a desire to use our professional and creative talents for good, we sought an architectural need and ultimately discovered an opportunity to design a dormitory for a unique group of students in Cambodia.
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A diagrammatic study of the 2-story dorm building.
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We met on weekends over the course of several months, gathering ideas, information and inspiration for the dorm.

Sheltering what matters

In the city of Poipet, a children’s center has been established by Imparting Smiles, a group whose desire and commitment is to create opportunities for impoverished children. In a country stricken with poverty and a history of genocide, to say there is much need in Cambodia is an understatement. The children’s center is a haven, where the mission is to provide more than just adequate food to eat, clean water to drink and a place to live, but to nurture a strong education and understanding so each child would be equipped to make a better future for themselves and an impact in their communities and country.

For the first time, a generation of students at the center are ready for higher education, but are in need of a place to live near the university. Our design task was to develop a dorm building to fit the needs of this next generation. We were invited to visit Cambodia to survey the site, observe local construction techniques and help make significant design decisions.
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Spending time with the kids.

Our week in Cambodia

Our weeklong journey was fast, yet so full.

We met the children and future students at the children’s center. It was a memorable experience, spending time with the kids, playing guitars, volleyball and other activities. I even got to speak with a few of the senior students, who would be attending university in the coming year, and who would be living in the dorm we designed. It was a special time, listening to the students talk about dreams for the future, and seeing how truly unique the opportunity for education is for these courageous guys and girls. Though they have very little by the world’s standards, I was impressed by their steadfast joy and sincere hope.

During our time there, we also visited other building projects, a local mason, plant nurseries and historical architecture, including the monumental temples of Angkor Wat. Though the weather was hot and humid, the mango smoothies helped ease the heat, and all of the meals we had were nothing short of delicious.
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A glimpse of the construction site. Almost all of the laborers were women, their children enjoyed playing around the construction and brought a youthful energy to the site.
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The perimeter fence (in the background) was the first thing to go up. Foundations were being dug out and poured while we were there.
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A sample of the local stone… a showcase of the natural beauty of the site.
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Wandering the ruins of Angkor.
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A sample of Cambodian cuisine. We ate like kings (this was breakfast!)
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A typical hotel-room work session.
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The traveling team.

What’s next?

We are currently continuing work and design efforts to finalize a masterplan for the dorm site, which will include a sports field, garden spaces and designs for metal grillwork and masonry, as well as plots for future building growth. It’s been really fun to use my passion for design and education in architecture to be able to provide for a building need, and to perhaps inspire the Cambodian students in the pursuit of their own passions.

I’m so grateful to RSM for their support in making this trip a reality for me. It’s awesome to think that the efforts of our team were not limited to the 5 who traveled, but the many who were involved in contributing, collaborating, praying and cheering us on. I’m excited to see how this journey progresses.

-Leon
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Look at that smile