The Desert Sentinel Memorial

“May it be a light to you in dark places, when all other lights go out"

The project studies the intricate relationship between two elemental forces of Fire and Water. Having analyzed Lebbeus Woods "Four Cities" different conditions of temperature fluctuation, evaporation, light as a medium of communication and atmospheric qualities of a burning underground city, are extrapolated into a design proposal.

Situating on a former lake in the heart of Phnom Penh City, Cambodia, the environmental and socio-political conditions are utilized to define an intermediate architecture that is partly underground. Due to governmental concessions, the site as a lake had been artificially filled with sand creating a derelict landscape within the urban context. The former community had been forcefully evicted, and the homes of the inhabitants left buried under sand.

Through a What If Scenario the project studies an alternative reality where the desolate landscape becomes activated, allowing a glance into the past by descending within ground whilst providing an opportunity for the community to practice their livelihood of fishing.

These design parameters were translated as an insertion within the ground, where a body of water can be stored. Taking into consideration the climate of Cambodia, the project is active on two levels during the two drastically different seasons: The Monsoon season and the Dry Season. During the first, the water stored within the confines of the sinkhole provides an opportunity for the community to practice fishing as their former livelihood. However, when the water levels recede over time, a descending ramp uncovered different chambers that are partly underground, serving as windows into the buried context. By this means, the project can be interpreted as a memorial that captures and reveals the past to the wider community. The information collected from the surrounding, is revealed at the core of the structure where the notions fire and light as a medium for communication take place. The architecture of verticality describes a relationship between the past and the present where the design acts as a lantern for the city. Here, the traditional notions between Fire and Man are elevated to a different level of practice that generates different architectural compositions of secret chambers, allocated pathways, and social platforms.

The architecture is defined on a horizontal and vertical axes, where the urban context is drawn into a single point leading into the secrets of the underground. The vertical descent occurs through a pathway as a circulatory ramp that allows an interaction between the interior and exterior. Here a system of bridges that lead into the core, creating an opportunity of interchange of interior and exterior spaces on different levels. Hence, another horizontal expansion takes place through allocating the key architectural features of intermediate chambers that define the proximity of the landscape and the central core.

An essential focal point takes place within the proximity of private and public, when the underground context that is confined in a time capsule re-surfaces into the eyes of the former inhabitants, and the wider public, while allowing a plasticity of activities to occur. Using the features of temperature the difference, and light as the output of the fires the proposal acts as a burning lantern that reflects on to the city.

The final feature of the project is its presence over time, where the desolate landscape is affected by the presence of water, in both natural and man-made conditions. As an congregation point that attracts the city life, the sentinel memorial would also provoke a change of the limits of the urban context.


The translation of Heat into a mobile performance through the medium of light.

The choreography of a performance


Desert Sentinel

A Seasonal Change