The architectural design of the Institute is anchored in a Cambodian treasury of values that encompasses the uncompromised beauty of its natural environment, the magnificent architecture of its Khmer temples, and the optimism of its people. Simultaneously, it interprets those values in an artistic vision that shuns the traditional models of memorial architecture whose primary focus reaches into and dwells on the demonic past. The Institute’s design motif, utilizing a nimble architectural framework that parodies light, fertility, and natural materials, soars upward into the light to convey aspiration in place of dejection, hope in place of remorse, pride in place of shame.


The Institute’s Planning Board sought a gifted architect with a powerful repertoire of projects that diverge from traditional architecture with radical expressions of creativity and vision. It also sought to break from the convention of male-dominated memorial architecture by searching for a female in honor of the myriad innocent women and children victims of genocide and mass crimes against humanity. Perhaps the only world-class candidate to meet these criteria, Dame Zaha Hadid accepted the Board’s invitation. As a native of Iraq, now based in London, Dame Hadid is the only woman awarded the famed Pritzker Prize for architecture.


The Institute will be erected on a large site in downtown Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s historic capitol. The Royal Government of Cambodia, an enthusiastic and committed supporter of the Institute, graciously donated this prime real estate with appropriate space to accommodate the Institute. In addition, government officials included in their grant an urban setting sufficiently spacious to enable the structure to repose in an environmental park setting rich in indigenous vegetation with a pavilion and an athletic field.