Using an innovative method of casting concrete in lightweight fabric molds, the architects of Orkidstudio -- along with StructureMode -- teamed up with a group of Khmer women in Sihanoukville, Cambodia to rebuild a community centre in the city’s urban heart.
The construction technique was developed and tested by engineers from StructureMode using a combination of physical testing and computer analysis software, Oasys GSA Suite, to predict the stretch of a particular fabric when concrete is poured inside. Through three-dimensional sketches the seamstresses and building team could understand the construction sequence of the form, completing the entire project in just eight weeks.
The Bomnong L'Or project is located in the chaotic center of the port city of Sihanoukville, Cambodia, behind its busy market. For over 10 years, the center has worked to deliver further education to local children and adults, as well as functioning as a community meeting and work space.
With so many users, the original structure was awkward and uninviting; its central position reduced the space for children to play and offered poorly ventilated and dimly lit rooms.
The new building contains all areas of learning and teaching on a higher floor, leaving a series of outdoor spaces for play and interaction. This typology mimics the traditional local houses on stilts, but replaces wood with fabric cast reinforced concrete. Timber cannot be sustainably sourced locally due to uncontrolled deforestation.
Now, the center includes four large teaching spaces, a computer room, administrative and service spaces, and a colourful soap-production room. In order to encourage local families to send their children to the center, rather than force them to work, the facility provides women with the opportunity to learn a new skill and generate income.
The building is oriented to harness the seasonal winds that rush inland off the Gulf of Thailand, in addition to having large eaves designed to avoid excessive sunlight.
Adopting a completely passive climate strategy, the building seeks to present an example of affordable design and quality, combining traditional and modern techniques and seeking to establish a new type of Cambodian construction.
Architects/ Lead Designer: Orkidstudio
Location: Sihanoukville, Cambodia
Client: The Goodwill (Bomnong L’or) Centre
Project Directors: James Mitchell, Tom Woodward, Gaynor Duthie, David Fleck, Grace Mark
Site Team: Local community & volunteer team
Structural Engineers: StructureMode
Construction Period: 8 weeks, August / September 2015
Floor Area: 240 m2
Total cost: £48,000
Main contractor: Orkidstudio
Project Sponsors: Drum Property Group, Morris & Spottiswood, Jestico + Whiles
Photographs: Lindsay Perth