Thursday, March 2, 2017

TAKE A PEEK: THE WHITE BUILDING

Last up in our little around-town round-up: Phnom Penh's White Building. When we first moved here, we heard several references to the White Building, but had no idea where it was or what made it the center of so many tales of intrigue. It was months later when we saw a picture of the White Building and realized, Oh. We know that place! It was just that the White Building...isn't so white anymore. 

We visited it a while back with our language teachers (when we also went to Olympic Stadium and the Royal University of Phnom Penh). We learned about the building's history, met a resident or two and found the whole thing really interesting. 

The White Building is the last remaining building in a public housing complex built by the government in 1963 as a part of their plan to develop Phnom Penh (the Khmer Rouge took over the city in the late 70s and derailed all of those plans). It was built to house mostly state bank employees, artists and traditional dancers. It's hard to tell how big the building is from picture below, but the building stretches 6 blocks and includes over 450 apartments with about 2,500 residents.  

Today there's lots of talk of tearing the building down because it is no longer structurally sound, yet there are also people who think the building should be saved because of its iconic status and because the people who live there have a strong sense of community. This community is often stereotyped with drug usage and other seedy practices, but it is also known for its artists. It's definitely an interesting community and building right in the middle of a bustling area of Phnom Penh.  


Small shops and cafes line the alley in front of the building selling a bit of everything

Massive construction projects take place just behind the building giving the location a strange mix of past and present

The walls of the long corridors used to be covered with murals. They had been painted over somewhat recently, but we found a few hallways where art was returning to the walls.