The demolition of the White Building will take about four months before the Japanese company starts to develop its new project on the site of the iconic old building.
Some demolition work started on Monday, but the site needs to be fenced off before the building is pulled down. The last of the 492 unit owners finally signed contracts to sell their properties last Friday.
According to the Land Ministry website, the White Building development will cost $70-$80 million, including temporary accommodation for residents.
The developers plan to make the new building 21 floors, with three floors of parking, one floor for shops and five floors for accommodation – all of which they claim will be 10 percent larger.
Investors Arakawa will own everything from the ninth floor up and it is unclear what they plan to put there.
Peng Hong Socheat Khemro, the general director of the Housing Department in the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction, said the demolition will be done using modern technology in an effort to make sure that there is as little disturbance as possible to people in the surrounding area.
“It will take four months for the whole demolition of the building and the important things are that there is not too much noise and dirt and the people doing the demolition obey the daily time schedule,” he said.
There was no problem with the former residents after the payments were completed and they decided to move from the building, according to Mr. Khemro.
The White Building was built in 1963 when the country was run by the Sangkum Reastr Niyum, or the People’s Socialist Community, and the building was meant to be a symbol of a modern, fast-growing Cambodia. Until 1979, the building was also a prominent residence for many civil servants.
Heng Bunny, who is in charge of demolition of The White Building, said the job needs more machines than workers.
“For the labour, we may need from 50 to 60 people because there is a big demolition machine placed in the building and the demolition is scheduled from three to four months only,” he said. “If the labour is manual, it cannot be done on time.
“Technically, we don’t use big machines to demolish buildings all at once. But we use machines that are sound-proofed, we also use water and scrap to make sure that there is not too much noise and dust,” Mr. Bunny said.
The White Building, originally known as the Municipal Apartments, has been a prominent, large apartment building in Phnom Penh, one of the major works of what was known as New Khmer Architecture.
Design precedents included Le Corbusier’s Ville Radieuse. Its architects were Lu Ban Hap, a Khmer, and Russian-French engineer Vladimir Bodiansky, with oversight by Cambodian state architect Vann Molyvann.
The White Building was designed to house moderate-income tenants, mainly artists, while the nearby Grey Building was for more prosperous tenants.