The White Building

Text and Photographs by Riccardo Rocchi


 Phnom Penh, Cambodia (2009-11).

The White Building was built in the 60’s, from a project by the famous architect Vann Molyvann.
With its imposing size, at that time, changed the face of a “low” capital, composed by individual houses in an attempt to introduce a system of functional and comfortable low-cost housing units in a central area of the city.In the sixties, Cambodia was at the begin of its independence from France (1953) and was going to meet the atrocious regime of the Khmer Rouge (1975-79).
Under the rule of the Khmer Rouge, the capital was completely emptied, and then repopulate by the survivors of genocide in 1979.

The history of the White Building started again under a different light. 325 meters for three floors, long dark corridors broken by external stairs used as a place of rest.
Over 2000 inhabitants live in the building, a microcosm where cheap prostitutes, artists, drug dealers, families and students coexist. At the ground floor there are shops, the Ta Pran’s bar of chess, hairdressing salons for ladies of the night and even a doctor.
This cumbersome, dilapidated, uncomfortable presence won’t resist for much longer.

Under the motto ”Luxury Living” Phnom Penh is changing her face once again.