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Dignity of colonial houses

Published Jan 03, 2023
Updated Jan 03, 2023

📍 🇰🇭 Dignity of colonial houses

As it is often the case in South-East Asia, in Cambodia, the urban landscape of small towns has been transformed many times throughout the last centuries. 

The traditional houses, gracefully made of wood in most of their parts, once ubiquitous, now almost disappeared in favor of concrete, steel, and other modern utilitarian materials. This slow but inexorable change has brought with it obvious aesthetic repercussions. The spaces, in modern houses, due to an increased population, have remained narrow. The heat, due to the alteration of thousand year-old ventilation systems and heat-repulsive construction materials, renders the use of fans or air conditioning necessary, for those who can afford it..

As a consequence, desolated shacks already decaying a year or two after they have been erected, dot the urban landscape, or in alternative disproportionate building of uncertain origin or soul, financed by, again, uncertain speculators of avid means.. However, a most felicitous version of the fable is, alas! The French colonial remains of a somewhat decadent dignity, most of them made of warm, pastel-like colors of brown to light red hues that are found in conspicuous numbers around the tranquil town of Kampot, in South-East Cambodia.

For a nostalgic European, which I am not, these old colonial villas bring with them an aura of romantic classicism, together with a certain tropical leisure, that doubtless their retainers must have enjoyed in their times of silent, pervasive exploitation of their domains. Indeed, they are evidences of history, with all its contentions, that is otherwise often denied by chaotic development.

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