Meet the New Age INFLUENCERS
What industry do you work in?
Architecture, Design, Construction and Plant nursery.
You own and run your own architecture firm as well as work for the City Hall and council, please elaborate, what do you do in particular?
Vannak-Architect (VA) is the name of my firm; we provide architectural concept, design and project realisation. At the city hall I design, implement and supervise several urban projects especially the public work field related to the master plan of Phnom Penh.
Would you think you have a good balance of Khmer and European customs and traditions?
I think I have a great balance because I left Cambodia at a good age. I had the chance to acquire a good level of khmer language and culture but still young enough to be able to adapt myself in a foreign country despite some difficulties at first. I graduated Preah Sisowath high school in Phnom Penh
“Cambodia’s natural richness, diverse Cambodian culture and access to some innovating technology provide to us many possibilities to build a very green Cambodia in many senses”
in 1998, then spent 12 years studying and working in Paris.
Which do you identify with the most?
Even though I lived in France for a long time I would always come to Cambodia to see my family and friends. I stayed in touch with Khmer language, culture and history. Although I identify myself as a Cambodian I still keep my Paris habits and lifestyle.
What potential do you see here?
The past 5 years in Phnom Penh, many buildings are blooming around us. Renewal and construction are assets for this country to improve life conditions of Cambodian’s after decades of war. I think I can participate in this new era and provide my skills from abroad with local potential for a better tomorrow.
Are there particular services you cannot find here that would be easier to access in France?
Of course, everyday I work and find myself in difficult situations. Accessibility to information and data is a challenge for project studies. In my field, we need specific and diverse competence combined with good references, which are difficult to find in Cambodia, for that matter, Asia. It’s harder for me because I tend to be a perfectionist in my work. Excellent results are achievable but you need to be persevering.
What are your goals?
Firstly, improve the quality of architecture and construction for the local population because we live in a particular environmental habitat, hot and humid. Secondly, give the opportunity to the young generation to gain skills, competence and knowledge for their own future success. Lastly, prove that Cambodia has a real potential of green and sustainable growth. This said, including natural and human resources.
What is your core belief when it comes to architecture and your businesses- allowing people to be creative, yet create the home that they dream of, with practical and ecologically friendly benefits?
We live in a financially poor country but rich in a lot of other aspects like natural and human resources. This situation incites us to be creative if we want to find resilient solutions for many problems in societies development. I’m convinced that we can build affordable beautiful home if we have enough creative and innovative ideas, we should exploit the most of our potential. Cambodia’s natural richness, diverse Cambodian culture and access to some innovating technology provide to us many possibilities to build a very green Cambodia in many senses.
How has living and working in Europe influenced or changed your perspective on how things are done here?
ADAPTATION. You can’t expect European standards in Cambodia as of now but you certainly have people who are willing to learn, to practice then to succeed. Apart my academic experiences, I can get more from my life experience during those years in Paris. I was exposed to a different world where everything has gone far from where we are at here, Although, I’ve collected many good references to adapt to local context, to avoid errors of developed world in the past. Cambodia goes global very fast in a short time.
Any difficulties you have come across (in terms of construction, is it hard to find people who are specialised in areas you require?
During almost 5 years of my work experience in Phnom Penh, I have met so many difficulties when I want to reach high level of finishing. The lake of skilled labour is a very serious problem in the construction field. Most of workers have started their job on construction site, precisions and details are not their forte but they are persevering. Giving self-confidence to people working on my projects can be so constructive; this can pay back to me an ultimate satisfaction. I have to be very patient, comprehensive and pedagogue, and then results often have surpassed my expectations.
Do you have any advice for anyone who plans to set up a business in Cambodia?
Cambodia is a developing country; there are various opportunities of business. Lots of things need to done to respond to a fast growing population’s needs. Therefore it seems to be hard organise, hard to have efficiency etc… People who want to set up their business in Cambodia should study about inconveniences and advantages they can get in here but the truth is we have a lot of possibilities and opportunities. Capacity building is the key of access to a successful business. You need to be creative, original and suitable to the local situation because competition is rude in here nowadays.