A temple for contemporary dwelling

The project aims to create a new low-income neighborhood in a rural district just outside the city of Phnom Penh. The design focuses on open spaces, climate comfort, and urban resilience, taking inspiration from ancient Cambodian architecture and vernacular dwellings. Particular attention has been paid to the image of the district as a unique and site sensible design, specifically intended for the region and its cultural heritage.

The urban layout is based on a chessboard scheme covering the whole site, with main directions dictated from the two most regular perimeter sides. Each building occupies nine basic modules in the form of a 3×3 square. Then each tower rises 6-7 and 9 floors, being able to host from 28 to 35 units. Buildings can be aggregated in many ways, creating a complex and unpredictable urban pattern that spontaneously sprawl on the area, defining irregular alleys.

The whole residential level is uplifted to the first floor to protect homes from river flooding, so the basement is made of a durable brick coating which covers a reinforced concrete structure. The massive brick basement of buildings acts as passive thermal mass, shades water pools, and keeps temperature low at ground level. Breeze entering the basement is freshened thanks to the high thermal inertia of materials and air is then channeled through towers stairwells. The cover element is made of glass fiber+PTFE tensioned fabric, which allows natural lighting into the stair shaft, but also protects internal space from rain.

This creates an open ground plan generated by modular vaulted ceilings on a frame of columns, ensuring airflow and permeability under the site. Moreover, ground floor contains vehicle roads, car and bicycle parking, access to each tower, market spaces and pools. Also, communal services such as kindergartens, supermarkets, and a clinic are located at ground level around squares and along roads.

Inside the stair shaft, draft effect is generated by an aerodynamic element located on top of towers, working as a reverse wing that increases wind speed on the lower side and determines a negative pressure which sucks air out. A cool breeze is constantly available and produces cross ventilation in the apartments.

Phnom Penh, Cambodia


Residential / District


Giacomo RIGHI