May 24, 2013

During a speech a year or two ago, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen announced, casually, that the country plans to construct the world’s second-tallest building, the 555-metre Diamond Tower.

Most people listening thought that this was just another of Hun Sen’s flights of lunacy, like saying his son was the offspring of a wood sprite, or that his government is protecting the forests, or his general ranting and raving in his seemingly endless speeches.

They looked at the proposed destination, on reclaimed land on a small island in the river. With only two small roads leading on and off it.

They thought about how badly Phnom Penh needs 100 floors of restaurants, office buildings, hotels and five-star luxury accommodation. (Hint: It doesn’t. It has two 20-storey tower blocks, neither of which is full. And another 40-floor monster on the way.)

They thought about who might be funding it: a shady company called OCIC which is responsible for half-building lots of projects around Phnom Penh, including one of the extant mostly-empty skyscrapers.

They noted that the proposed height, 555 metres, was the same as Hun Sen’s favourite type of cigarette (Also, interestingly, it’s always used as a form of theatrical shorthand in US movies and television in telephone numbers, as being recognizably fake).

So most people thought that Hun Sen was talking through his hat, and forgot all about it. Until this week, when pictures of the proposed building were published, in my esteemed journal. And this is what is planned:

01-Diamond Tower-June03,2010

So that’s got to be a joke right? No one could possibly want to look at, live, or work in such a hideous building, which is so bad, on so many levels, that it makes North Korea’s Ryugyong Hotel look like the Taj Mahal.


But no, it turns out that hundreds of people are hard at work dumping thousands of tonnes of rock into the river, as a base for Diamond Tower. OCIC says it plans to finish the building by 2017, which is insanely optimistic. And a comparable building, Taipei 101, cost $1.8 billion a few years ago – and Cambodia just doesn’t have that kind of money.03-Diamond Tower-June03,2010

A local real estate guy explained it to me as “the investors and the rich alike always want a change in their workplace, investment areas and places to live. They always show their superiority if they have a home or office building which is most prominent.”

Off the record, people tell me that the plans are entirely unworkable and borderline deranged. It’s not as if Cambodia doesn’t have a history of building wonderfully beautiful large-scale architectural gems. And I guess there’s no harm in being optimistic and ambitious about the future of Cambodia.  Just not that joke of a design though, please.


3 Responses to “Five-five-five”

  1. That is the most phallic building ever proposed. Also, might be worth making it a bit taller as we now have the Tokyo Sky Tree (634m) and the Abraj Al Bait Towers (Mecca, 601m) as well as the Burj Khalifa.

  2. Mark P said

    I think a building shaped like a massive dick is exactly the thing Hun Sen should be remembered by.

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