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Cambodian architect Vann Molyvann dies at 90

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Cambodian architect Vann Molyvann, whose innovative modernist style was admired by colleagues the world over, died Thursday at age 90.

An assistant to Vann Molyvann, Chuong Cheurn, said he died of ailments related to old age at his home in Siem Reap in northwestern Cambodia, site of the famous Angkor archaeological complex.

Vann Molyvann, who studied architecture in Paris, designed many public buildings and monuments in the capital, Phnom Penh, from the 1950s until civil war with the communist Khmer Rouge broke out in 1970. The country’s then-leader, Prince Norodom Sihanouk, was his patron, and appointed him head of public works and state architect.

He sheltered in Switzerland after the war started, working with the United Nations’ housing and urban development agency, before returning to his homeland in 1991.

His best-known structures included Phnom Penh’s National Sports Complex, Chaktomuk Conference Hall, Independence Monument and the National Theater, but he also designed housing developments. His style was dubbed New Khmer Architecture.

Many of his structures survived war and the brutal 1975-79 rule of the Khmer Rouge, but economic development since then has threatened his legacy, with several buildings destroyed to make way for new real estate projects.

Vann Molyvann was the subject of a 2017 documentary film, “The Man Who Built Cambodia.”

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