PHNOM PENH —
Zaha Hadid, the renowned Iraqi-born British architect who has designed a new research center dedicated to the victims of the Khmer Rouge regime, passed away on Thursday aged 65.
She suffered a sudden heart attack after contracting bronchitis and died at a hospital in Miami, Florida.
One of the world’s leading architects, Zaha Hadid was known for designing many magnificent buildings around the world, and won the Pritzker Architecture 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 Aquatics Center for London’s Olympics.
In 2012, Zaha Hadid accepted a request from Youk Chhang, the executive director of Documentation Center of Cambodia, agreeing to design the ambitious Sleuk Rith Institute.
The design is already finished for the as-yet-unbuilt institute in Phnom Penh, which will be dedicated to “memory,” “justice,” and “healing” the wounds of the darkest part of Cambodia’s history. Sleuk rith refers to a leaf that was traditionally used in lieu of paper in Cambodia.
Zaha Hadid had planned to, but did not manage to visit Cambodia before her death.
“She had completed her work,” Chhang told VOA Khmer. “What we are missing is her presence when the building is completed. I think, however, that this could be spiritual force for us to make the place amazing for the sake of her reputation.”
Zaha Hadid’s name would be inscribed on part of the building, he added.
“It is not only the loss of a female architect who would build a place for more than 2 million people who died [in Cambodia], but it is also a loss for world culture. A capable woman like her, a woman who had no geographical or political barriers, but was attached with humanity, is very rare.”
Speaking in 2014, Education Minister Hang Chuon Naron said he hoped the Sleuk Rith Institute would enable the world to learn lessons from Cambodia’s history under the Khmer Rouge, whose brutal rule lasted from 1975 to 1979.
“I hope that with the establishment of Sleuk Rith Institute, Cambodia will play an important role to show hardship and be one of the leaders of the world by telling about hardship and painful lessons, and other important messages by compiling documents and broadcasting information promptly and professionally,” he said.