Q&A: David Cole on the Festival of Sustainable Design in Cambodia

David Cole

At the end of March, local NGO Building Trust International will be hosting the first ever CAMBOO Festival over the course of a week in Phnom Penh’s Freedom Park.

The open festival will see six of Phnom Penh’s finest Architecture and Engineering universities battling it out in a sustainable building competition, each school’s students designing and building bamboo displays on site for the judges.

The festival -which gets its name from the combination of Cambodia and bamboo– will showcase the Kingdom’s environmentally friendly construction and architecture technology.


James Whitehead caught up with David Cole, the founder and director of Building Trust International to learn more about Cambodia’s first Sustainable Design fair.

David first came to Cambodia to deliver flood resistant housing to communities affected by severe flooding in 2013. Since then he has helped design health facilities, schools, recreation areas and community-based ecotourism infrastructure.

He lives with his wife and young daughter in the capital and the design office he opened here, COLE Architecture+Design, continues to grow and take on new projects and support sustainable development across the country and region.

David, tell us more about CAMBOO 2017

The CAMBOO Festival at the end of March will showcase Cambodia’s rich natural environment with spectacular bamboo buildings and structures providing spaces for people to get to know local industries and local artisans.


While promoting natural products and social enterprises that protect and promote some of Cambodia’s best assets: natural landscapes and traditional skills. Six of the top Architecture and Engineering Universities from Phnom Penh are collaborating with us to design and build pavilions for the Festival.

Building Trust are hosting an international design competition for the design of the temporary central hall space which will be a main feature of the Festival. The design challenge is already gaining the CAMBOO Festival international exposure. The week-long event will host stalls in an eco market space along with shows, demonstrations, and daily activities for people of all ages to get involved with.

What’s the purpose of the event?

We want to celebrate Cambodia’s natural resources and landscape and promote the amazing new industries working with natural products and providing sustainable development strategies that protect and enhance the environment for all those living in Cambodia and Southeast Asia.

I work in the field of architecture and development, we are getting asked more and more to think about sustainability. In fact it is this growing interest in materials like bamboo that has provided the name to the festival CAMbodian bamBOO.

Who is supporting the event?

We have the support of a number of organizations doing great work with Ministries of the Environment, Fisheries and Forestry. We also have the support of the Municipality of Phnom Penh who have been kind enough to allow us to use Freedom Park. We are looking for more people and organizations that would be interested in being part of the event holding classes, shows or reserving one of the market stalls to promote and sell their products.

We are also on the lookout for companies that may want to sponsor the cause and advertise their brand alongside such a worthwhile event that will attract a diverse mix of people to the central Phnom Penh civic space.

How about the architecture competition?

Building Trust international have just announced their 7th international design competition which seeks to find an innovative design proposal for a landmark pavilion structure made from bamboo. The bamboo piece will be the center of a CAMBOO Festival in Phnom Penh, Cambodia this March.

The competition challenges architects, designers and engineers to provide a design solution which has the chance to shape the future of building with bamboo globally. This is an open International competition hosted by Building Trust International to encourage wider appreciation of bamboo and its use in construction.

The goal is to generate progressive contemporary design ideas that Building Trust international and sponsors can actively work towards. We hope that the event will capture international media attention and perhaps even become an annual event.

And how can readers join the event?

Check out the CAMBOO Facebook event page, as we will post more information of daily events and make sure to keep the end of March free so you can drop by Freedom Park. We look forward to welcoming you there along with many other exciting organizations and brands.

For more info on entering the competition go here.

James Whitehead

James Whitehead

James is the director of Content at Realestate.com.kh, Cambodia's platform for real estate listings, news and investor information.

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