Bomnon L’or Centre

by | 05. Sep 2016

Educational | Project | Public/ leisure | Sustainable

Upgraded Bomnong L’or centre by Orkidstudio. Image courtesy of Orkidstudio

Orkidstudio are a humanitarian design organisation who use architecture and social enterprise to benefit disadvantaged communities. Based in Glasgow, Scotland but practicing worldwide, all their projects are born from a collaboration with the local community, placing emphasis on the process of design and construction rather than just its output. Through community consultation and involvement, they aim to create social change and empowerment through sharing skills and knowledge.

Bomnong L’or centre is an important space in the community for both children and adults. Image courtesy of Orkidstudio

For the last ten years the Bomnong L’or (goodwill) centre has been providing further education for both children and adults in the urban-midlands of Sihanoukville, Cambodia. Over these ten years, the centre has become an important gathering space in the community for both education, work and play. Located on a cramped site, the original building had inadequate outdoor space and poor indoor environments that were dimly lit and badly ventilated.

Completed in September last year, the new Bomnong L’or centre lifts the functions of the centre onto the first floor, leaving the ground plane of the site open as a space for gathering and play. The new building houses four generous teaching spaces, a computer room, administrative and service rooms.

The ground floor provides space for play. Image courtesy of Orkidstudio

The stilted structure reinterprets local Khmer houses, typically raised off the ground by timber columns but instead uses concrete, currently a more sustainable material with Cambodia’s rapid decline in rainforest cover and a forestry industry that remains largely uncontrolled. In collaboration with UK based engineers StructureMode, Orkidstudio developed an innovative fabric concrete casting method that could utilize local trades. Khmer women tailored the formwork out of a durable geotextile material, with the remainder of the work completed by both skilled and unskilled local workers.

The fabric formwork. Image courtesy of Orkidstudio

Local Khmer women tailoring the geotextile formwork. Image courtesy of Orkidstudio

The entire project was completed in the tight timeframe of eight weeks, particularly impressive given it was built using an entirely original concrete casting method and a predominantly inexperienced local workforce.

The Bomnong L’Or Centre reconstruction has been a typically ambitious and successful project for Orkidstudio. To redevelop the building with such an innovative approach to materials and process, and in such a short time frame, in the face of very challenging conditions, is again testament to the strength and commitment of the team. As with other projects, the building will provide a practical and pragmatic solution to assist educational and economic development within the local community.”
/Fife Hyland – Director at Drum Property Group, key sponsor of the Bomnong L’or Project

Sitting on the striking soft, rounded concrete columns formed by the folds of the fabric are very simple steel structures, clad with bricks and bamboo. They are oriented to harness seasonal winds which are drawn in through the split roofs, with generous eaves preventing direct sunlight heating the masonry walls.

Lightweight, simple structure sitting on the concrete structure. Image courtesy of Orkidstudio

High level openings, low eaves and ceiling fans create cool, ventilated rooms. Image courtesy of Orkidstudio

Interpreting a local building typology with contemporary sustainable materials and utilisation of local trades, the new Bomnong L’or centre stands as an example of good, environmentally responsive, affordable design which seeks to establish a new contemporary Cambodian building typology.

First floor plan. Image courtesy of Orkidstudio

Section. Image courtesy of Orkidstudio

Diagram showing the assemblage of the fabric formwork. Image courtesy of Orkidstudio