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HKFP Venture: The ruins of Cambodia’s ‘Golden Age’ modernist French villas

The modernist villas of Cambodia’s elite and colonial authorities lie in ruins on the coastal town of Kep.

Cambodia’s ‘Golden Age’ modernist French villas

Dozens of “ghost villas” dot the landscape, slowly being consumed by nature.

Cambodia’s ‘Golden Age’ modernist French villas

Some of the former luxury residences are worthy of restoration. Others are inaccessible, covered in graffiti or have been reduced to rubble.

Cambodia’s ‘Golden Age’ modernist French villas

Many of the dilapidated properties date back to the mid-20th century and mix modern French design with Khmer architectural tradition.

Cambodia’s ‘Golden Age’ modernist French villas

Sharp angles, grand, sweeping balconies, sculpted stairs and decorative latticework were typical features of the stately villas.

Cambodia’s ‘Golden Age’ modernist French villas

The colonial retreat of Kep was founded by the French in 1908, according to the Phnom Penh Post.

Cambodia’s ‘Golden Age’ modernist French villas

Known as the “Cambodian Riviera,” the glamour, opulence and laid-back atmosphere of the coastal town attracted ambassadors, officials and even royalty seeking respite from the heat of Phnom Penh.

Cambodia’s ‘Golden Age’ modernist French villas

In the 1970s, the town fell victim to the war in Vietnam. In 1975, the Khmer Rouge ransacked Kep and destroyed what remained of the bourgeoisie. Anyone left behind was killed, and their villas were looted and burned down.

Cambodia’s ‘Golden Age’ modernist French villas

Today, some properties – such as Villa Romonea or Knai Bang Chatt – have been restored and are open to guests.

Cambodia’s ‘Golden Age’ modernist French villas

Other decaying remnants lie abandoned facing a new threat: the encroaching jungle.

Cambodia’s ‘Golden Age’ modernist French villas

Cambodia’s ‘Golden Age’ modernist French villas

Cambodia’s ‘Golden Age’ modernist French villas

Cambodia’s ‘Golden Age’ modernist French villas

Cambodia’s ‘Golden Age’ modernist French villas

Cambodia’s ‘Golden Age’ modernist French villas

Cambodia’s ‘Golden Age’ modernist French villas

HKFP Venture: The ruins of Cambodia's 'Golden Age' modernist French villas