Inspired by the Rumduol, Cambodia’s national flower, and following the design principles of the traditional Khmers, the Rumduol Cabin is a re-interpretation of vernacular architecture that combines sustainable design with the actual environmental needs of this country. Nowadays, deforestation is a major concern, and Cambodia is a significant victim; the systematic destruction of the tropical forest, which has dramatically accelerated in the latest decades, is devastating the ecosystem of several endemic species and reducing the environment capacity to balance CO2 levels in the atmosphere.
In light of these events, eco-tourism becomes a valuable ally; the human impact that previously affected nature negatively now is wisely managed by architecture, creating a positive impact, which regenerates the tropical forest.
The shape, inspired by the local flower, which is a symbol of conservation too, carefully integrates weather and human activity. The base petals of the flower form a large roof that collects monsoon rainwater, which is stored in barrels at ground-level, and then treated to be re-used in the cabin, as well as for drip irrigation in the surrounding terrain during the dry season. Like old rural Khmer houses, these cabins keep the indoor environment comfortable despite the hot and humid climate by means of natural ventilation.
Site and community:
The materials and techniques are inspired by local traditions. The rice palm leaves comprise the main component of the wall, and the bamboo structure emerges as a flourishing, flexible and sustainable material that is rapidly growing in Southeast Asia. For example, the Green School in Bali offers training in bamboo carpentry and the Camboo Design Festival showcases modern bamboo designs by Cambodian architecture students from six universities across Phnom Penh, on a mission to elevate the status of bamboo. Bamboo, which has been used in Cambodia for centuries, is rapidly renewable compared to timber.
Thanks to the tropical location, solar power covers the energy demand, which makes the building net-zero energy. Additionally, the biomass resulting from the dry toilet and other organic residues are used to produce composting, which is selectively spread around to provide nutrients to the growing plants. The cabin balances the water from the monsoons with the water storage capacity of the barrels. Moreover, the cabin is totally recyclable; once its contribution to reforestation is complete, it can be easily dismounted and reused or responsibly deposed. Notably, Bambusa Global Ventures, a bamboo specialist company in Cambodia, have found a way to recycle bamboo waste to use as soil amendment.
Nina Edwards Anker, Carlos Cardenas