Phnom Penh’s Iconic White Building Set For Demolition

Just days before its planned demolition by the government on July 17, 2017, almost ninety-nine percent of the 493 families had left Phnom Penh’s iconic White Building after they agreed to sell their dilapidated apartments at a price of $1,400 dollars per square meter—a controversial level of compensation set by Minister of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction Chea Sophara.


This 54-year-old building with an open sky bridge is now completely shut down. Only trash and some leftover household materials are now seen inside the building. Nevertheless, seven families who owned apartments in the building remained defiant as they refused to abandon their apartments and accept ‘lower-than-market-price’ compensation, while other residents from four families residing along the right of way within the building complex also decided not to abandon the building.

Inaugurated in 1963 as a low-cost housing complex, also known as the ‘Municipal Apartments,’ for Cambodian middleclass and poor families, the building was designed by Cambodian architect Lu Ban Hap and a Russian-born architect Vladimir Bodiansky as part of the then-King Norodom Sihanouk’s vision for new Khmer urban transformation. Consisting of six blocks where 493 families resided, the building is located in the Tonle Bassac neighborhood along Sothearos Boulevard, just a couple of blocks away from Cambodia’s National Assembly and Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ buildings.

Due to its dilapidated condition, the building where prostitutes, heroin addicts, nuns, students, children and business owners lived side-by-side was transformed into a notorious slum and crime area in modern times. The building often caught the attention of artists, dancers and photographers. The government plans to develop the area into a 21-story multi-purpose complex under a build-operate-transfer (BOT) concession with Arakawa, a Japanese company, at a project cost of $80 million.

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