architecture : urban : visual culture

Muddy Waters - Meditations while sailing Asian waters

Architect Gábor Sánta designed a school extension in three phases as like 32 classroom teaching unit, a large hall and a new canteen into Siem Reap. This town in Cambodia is the closest one to Angkor Vat; and since the jobs related to the two million tourist arrivals are constantly increasing, its population has multiplied in the last 20 years. According to the architect's opinion, there is a remarkable symbiosis of Siem Reap and Angkor possible. In the golden age of the medieval Angkor was much more urbanized than Siem Reap is now, perhaps this is the reason why he feels that there is a unique opportunity to create a particular educational development program in the region. Today 2,600 students are studying in the EUV Samdech High School in Siem Reap. Students are learning in six grades; the number of students finishing upper grades are half of the number of the start-ups.

The architect developed not only a building but a complex educational model based on a kind of ancient-holistic world view and on the method of learning together with the students. As he states: “ Architecture is not self-contained individual art but ancient community rituals. The building process itself is becoming a way of learning. I'm not thinking of the hierarchical teacher-student relation but in the two-way information flow. My intent is no more and no less than to find the ways of rituals and experience them together with the Khmer students. […]

The EUV Samdech High School in Siem Reap lies at the intersection of the road to Angkor International Airport and the number 6 main traffic road. By its position it is an institution with reference values. Its courtyard is flooded with water every year during the rainy season, and sometimes the flood interrupts the lessons for days. We have to reserve this water, since the water is purified in the sky and falling back as blessing. I design a new canteen building implying compressed information of iconography; its funnel-shaped roof collects rainwater, and than the water is driven through a three level settling system to make it available for the chefs and the students as well. This is a mandala-shaped overflowing container system. The fragile beauty of the Khmer Buddha sculptures, the silent and quiet smile was born from the confidence of spiritual richness. Its material base was not money or gold but water. “

These plans are organic part of the architect's physical and spiritual journey. Text and images are here to present this journey otherwise representing his architectural concept indirectly and poetically. Unfortunately only tiny fragments of this rich and exciting road we are able to flash in this summary.

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