Yeng Sereyroth, 19, knows Zaha Hadid’s work well. The fourth year university student, who studied Zaha Hadid’s work on the internet, is particularly impressed by the use of curves, a signature of the work that brought the late British architect huge success during her life.
“She is different to other architects. Other architects are good too. [Hadid] was a woman, yet she changed the way people look at the world,” said Sereyroth.
“I first saw her works of art online. They were very influential on my perception of contemporary architecture and design.”
Iraqi-born Zaha Hadid won architecture’s coveted Pritzker Prize in 2004. Among her best-known designs are the Vitra Fire Station in Germany, the Lois and Richard Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art in Cincinnati, Ohio, Rome’s MAXXI art museum, the Guangzhou Opera House in China and the ’s Olympics.
Zaha Hadid died last week from a heart attack aged 65. But thanks to her involvement in Cambodia, members of a new generation of architects in the country say they will try to carry on her legacy.
Young women architects in the country, especially, are inspired by the achievements of Zaha Hadid, who outshone the men in her field.
"That's what inspired the female young generation, who are studying architecture to strive to do better," Sereyroth said. "She once said that she was happy to have more women than men in her office.”
Another youngster inspired by Zaha Hadid is 21-year-old Lim Yonghuort, from Koh Kong province. "I remember what people used to call her: the Queen of Curves,” he recalled.
Yornghuort is one of about 50 students from Phnom Penh’s Royal University of Fine Arts who applied for an internship on the project to build the Sleuk Rith Institute.
Zaha Hadid Architects is still working on the institute, a design for which was produced by Zaha Hadid after a request from Youk Chhang, the executive director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia. The institute will be dedicated to the memory of those who died during the Khmer Rouge era, and to learning the lessons of that time.
Now in his fifth year of studying architecture, Yonghuort said he aspires to work for Zaha Hadid’s firm.
"I learned a lot and I gained new experience and ideas. I was studying people and helping society,” he said of his time as an intern. He went on to win a competition to go to Shanghai for further architectural training.
"In the future I'll study the curves and the triangle style,” he said. “But the important thing is that we study her achievements, and then combine her ideas with our own to create a new style that Cambodian society will accept," he said.
"Her contribution is huge because the [Sleuk Rith Institute] building will teach Khmer people, and others in Asia, about the genocide in this country.”
"Recently I have heard that she passed way. I feel very sorry for the loss," he added.