Vann Molyvann, the Father of Khmer Architecture​

Vann Molyvann is a late talented Cambodian architect, also known as the Father of Khmer architecture. He was born in Kompot province on November 23rd, 1926. Vann Molyvann passed away at age of 90 on September 28, 2017, at his home in Siem Reap city.

Vann Molyvann from Lok Serei [Free World], vol 7 no 5, 1958 obtained from

His Family 
His father was from a rural area and his mother was from Phnom Penh. He was the second child among three siblings. He had one older brother and one younger sister.   

He was married to a Swiss woman in France. He later had six children, three boys, and three girls. Currently, some of them are abroad while others are in Cambodia.  

His Education 
He graduated from Preah Sisowath High School in 1944. In 1946, he received a scholarship to study law in France, after studying law for a year, he changed to study architecture at Ecole des Beaux-Art. He then graduated from France in 1951. While studying there, he was interested and tried to learn about France architectures models.

His Return/Achievements 
He returned to Cambodia in 1955 and a year later he was appointed as the chief architect of Cambodia by Prince Norodom Sihanouk. He designed many famous buildings around the 1950s and 1960s. Those buildings include:

  1. The Independence Monument was built in 1958 as a testament to Cambodia’s pride in gaining independence from the French Colony in 1953.
  2. The Royal University of Phnom Penh was built in 1960.
  3. The National Olympic Stadium was built in 1962, with the capacity to hold up to 60000 people
  4. Chaktomuk Conference Hall

He also designed numerous private homes and smaller structures during that period.

In 1967, Mr. Vann Molyvann was appointed as the Minister of Education and he was the founder of the first School of Arts and Culture and the University of Fine Arts in Cambodia.

Between the year of 1955 and 1970, the father of architecture designed nearly 100 major projects.  

His Evacuation and Return 

After the 1970 coup, he and his family fled to Switzerland, on that occasion, he served at the UN Human Settlements Program for 10 years. After the Paris Peace Agreement, he returned to Cambodia in 1991 and continued to use his skills to contribute to developing Cambodia.

In 2015, he and his family moved to Siem Reap province to spend the remaining time there with peace. Lastly, he designed his stupa. He died at the age of 91 years old at his own house in Siem Reap Province at 9:45 am on September 28th, 2017.

His last words to Phnom Penh Post were that he was concerned toward the later generations, especially those who do not pay attention to Cambodia history. He also compiled documents for Cambodian children to do research such as “Phnom Penh Urban Planning and Ancient Khmer City Project.”

By: Hon SreyNit