Genealogy of Bassac


This project will map the genealogy of Bassac area, Phnom Penh as a community based, participatory exercise. A key objective is to discover ways to visualize the differences of urban form rather than continuities, and the characteristics of urban ruptures through various historical eras. The mapping exercise will take place within and be informed by the artistic community of the famous White Building, currently under threat of demolition. The project aims to learn what is existing now in Bassac, and what was in the past, creating a new dialogue which can serve as a basis for ideas about the future of the city. Bassac is a place of memory; how can this be visualized, as expressed in the city’s changing urban forms?

The project will be based in the White Building which has been occupied by many kinds of people including artists, tuk-tuk drivers, construction workers, etc. The project is initiated by Pen Sereypagna, an architect and scholar of urban studies based in Phnom Penh, and a 2012-2013 Visiting Scholar at PARSONS, with the support of the Asian Cultural Council. He audited courses in Theory of Urban Form with Professor Brian McGrath in the fall of 2012 and Urban Design Senior Studio in the spring of 2013 with Professor Victoria Marshall which focus on the exchange experience of urban design between Phnom Penh and New York City.

The project is a development and extension of Sereypagna’s work with Professor Brian McGrath in Theory of Urban Form class at the New School. Moreover, the project provides a counterpoint and foundation to Phnom Penh Visions, an ongoing project which Sereypagna initiated in 2013, comprising a website (

The project will be hosted by Sa Sa Art Projects, Phnom Penh’s only artist-run space, in partnership with School of Constructed Environment, PARSONS the New School for Design. Sa Sa Art Projects engages with Cambodian and visiting artists, creative individuals and groups, students, and the White Building’s residents to realize art projects and events that are accessible and enjoyable. Pisaot is an experimental arts residency program for Cambodian artists, as well as selected visiting guests, to undertake a period of usually six weeks living and working in the Sa Sa Art Projects space, located in the historic White Building in central Phnom Penh. Artists-in-residence are encouraged to try new ways to use different media and/or to explore new ideas that expand the artists’ current practices and challenge the possibility of art. Mapping genealogy of urban form will contribute as an informative data for artists, architects, urbanists and local people to understand the city through taking the White Building as a metaphor of urban change through periods. The project will also engage with the White Building community by encouraging them to participate and interact in the mapping progress.​​​​​​​​See

Research Team :
Catherine Carter Sims: M. Arch and MFA lighting design candidate
Danielle Bowler: M.Arch candidate
Michael McDowell: BFA architectural design and BA urban studies graduate
Research Assistants:
Roeun Virak: architect
Thlang Chhairath: architect
Khem Darain: BFA Architecture candidate, RUFA
Puy Vicheaveng: BFA Architecture candidate, RUFA
Sok Taotek : BFA Architecture candidate, RUFA
Seng Navin: BFA Architecture candidate, RUFA

See the progress here:

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