MIT Design-Build _Cambodia

an MIT Architecture workshop designing and building a kitchen-dining pavilion for a rural school near Siem Reap, Cambodia

PTEASBAI (peh-TEH-ah-bye): n. Kitchen, literally meaning house ('pteas') + rice ('bai'), Khmer language


WHERE / Ampil Peam School, Siem Reap Province, Cambodia

WHEN / January 2010

12 MIT architecture students:
Zachary Lamb
Ethan Lacy
Adam Galletly
Andrea Love
Joseph Nunez
Julianna Sassaman
Lee Dyxkhoorn
Lisa Hedstrom
Lisa Pauli
Pamela Ritchot
Sian Kleindienst
Siobhan Rockcastle
Tiffany Chu
Yan-Ping Wang

3 MIT civil engineering students:
Alorah Harman
Rebecca Gould
Sam Cohen

1 Harvard GSD landscape architecture student:
Julie Gawendo

1 design-build guru:
Jim Adamson

3 MIT professors:
John Ochsendorf
Meejin Yoon
Marilyne Anderson

Supported By:
Jay Pritzker Academy
MIT Public Service Center
MIT Department of Architecture

Oct 27 2010

Alorah and I finished making a documentary of our build in Cambodia.

-Sam Cohen

Jan 25 2010

Before flying out Monday night, we planned to have breakfast with the school kids during their normal 6am mealtime.  We were particularly excited to see the structure put to its designed use… how would the cook use the spaces in the kitchen? … would the kids follow the circulation paths that we imagined? would the space be big enough to accommodate the whole school at once?

All in all, the structure seemed to perform really well.  The kitchen seemed to be intuitive and convenient to use. The stove drew well with only minimal smoke in the space.  After some prodding from Steve, the kids did follow the progression from washing up at the pump to the serving counter to the eating areas.

A few surprises: the planters with bamboo became an impromptu volleyball court; the kids managed to fit 12-15 people on each of the little rammed earth benches; after the kids ate there was first a puppy then several chickens that made there way through the site making their breakfast off of any spilled bits of rice.

Our estimates of ‘kids per linear meter’ of bench were far far exceeded.  Nearly the entire school was able to find a spot to sit to eat on the rammed earth benches (nearly exclusively boys) or the planter boxes out front (nearly all girls).  Though we did not have time to design or prototype the moveable furniture for the project, it seems safe to say that the kids will make the most of the available areas.


A couple of panoramas from the inaugural breakfast yesterday morning.


A few shots of some of the wonderful folks that we worked with during the course of the design-build project.

Without the truly remarkable logistical and material support from Steve, Mark, Yung and all of the other wonderful folks at JPA, there is really no way that we could have taken on such a project.

Likewise, we learned a tremendous amount and benefited mightily from the skill and efforts of the crew of local craftsmen and laborers that we worked with every day on site.

There are, of course, many many more people from MIT and elsewhere to thank, but this will have to be a start.


a few finished shots.

we fly out in an hour.

more photos and words to come.


Jan 24 2010

Finishing touches

We’ve been here long enough that Siem Reap has come to feel strangely like home.  The project is nearing completion, with all the major pieces in place.  Today we spent time refining some of the major elements including the countertop, pantry, and cistern.  Here’s the team testing out the cistern:

Removing the vault formwork, and building non-structural end-walls that let light into the pantry:

The completed vault and pavers, while roof painting is underway:

Jim can’t seem to get enough of sanding down the countertop:


Jan 23 2010
cistern plumbing
ceiling installation
____ vault formwork removal tomorrow… big day.


cistern plumbing

ceiling installation

____ vault formwork removal tomorrow… big day.


Jan 22 2010

The crew is down to 4. After sending off three more our team this evening, the crazy energy of the full jobsite has subsided a bit.  Our much smaller group is settling into a new pace for the final stretch: slower, quieter, but kind of nice in its own right.

The landscape pavers are nearly done.  Plumbing for the cisterns is well on its way.  The vault is eagerly awaiting its liberation from the formwork.  The last counter top has been poured.  The radiant barrier has been delivered, but we are still waiting on the metal team to return to do the ceiling installation.

We are really closing in on the end.  The project looks and feels great.

Everyday we are surprised and delighted to see how the school and village are taking to the structure… a few teachers taking a break on the rammed earth benches, a late afternoon conversation on the bamboo planters, a group of kids delighting in hopscotch-like fun on the grid of pavers. It is going to be a well-used and well-loved space.

More tomorrow.


Jan 21 2010

Initially we tested various corbel vaults similar to the ones found in temples around Siem Reap. To maintain a lower height, we switched to a ‘tilted brick egyptian vault’, which follows a catenary curve. This reduces the the thrust on the exterior walls, which would occur in a barrel vault. We will remove the formwork on Sunday. Stay tuned!

-Lisa Hedstrom (with the help of Zach Lamb)

Jan 20 2010

All About the Formwork

J testing out the concrete bench top. The formwork took longer than we anticipated but now that it’s in they provide an excellent place for occasional breathers.

Monk housing under construction. Notice the support system used to hold up the ceiling while it’s constructed. Yep, tree trunks and branches.

Back to the formwork. Formwork for the newly installed kitchen countertop. I think we all agreed that this countertop was bigger than most of the countertops we all have at home, but with all the students this cook will be feeding the size of the countertop is quite appropriate. Lastly, see anything familiar? Yep, bamboo support system. Picking up some of the local building techniques and working with what is available.


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