Occasionally we’ll take a trip to Southeast Asia to visit factories, source furniture, building materials, and, of course, experience the culture and take in the sights. A recent trip to Cambodia introduced us to some of the oldest and best-preserved architecture in the world and gave us some design and construction inspiration to bring back with us. Visiting preserved architectural sites are always a great lesson in building sustainably. We strive to build structures that will last as long as the Hindu Temples in Cambodia or Vietnam.
Khmer Architecture in Cambodia
Picture Cambodian architecture: You’re probably imagining something old and religious, covered in vines. These temples were built during the Khmer empire and include three distinct architectural styles:
- Sambor Prei Kuk (610-650 AD): Round temples, with plain colonettes with capitals that include a bulb.
- Prei Khmeng (635-700 AD): More grand than the Sambor Prei structures with larger colonettes. These were the McMansions of the Khmer era — They looked ornate, but often fell short in the department of architectural integrity. There was a steep quality decline.
- Kompong Preah (700-800 AD): These temples were also more decorative but were sturdier, featuring heavier brick construction.
Building Materials for Cambodian Architecture
Angkorian builders utilized brick, sandstone, laterite and wood, but what remains is brick, sandstone and laterite, while the wooden elements have decayed overtime.
Old world structures like Angkor Wat are always impressive given how they’ve been preserved, but also in thinking about how they were constructed: Today we take for granted the incredible technologies to assist us in transporting building materials to construction sites and with their installation.
Building Angkor Wat: The 7th Wonder of the World
Angkor Wat was constructed using 5-10 million sandstone blocks (some weighing 1.5 tons each)–more than all of the pyramids combined!
Angkor Wat is truly a sight to behold! As the largest religious monument in the world, Angkor Wat has undergone some incredible transformation (and preservation) since it’s initial construction as a Hindu monument in the 12th century.
Designed to depict ‘Mount Meru,’ or the ‘Mountain of the Gods,’ the structure is subversive in its depictions of Hindu epics on the walls and dedication to the god Vishnu. Since then, it’s transitioned to being a Buddhist monument.