The history of the traditional Khmer wooden house traces back to the Khmer Empire, spanning from the 8th to the 15th century. During this era, societal status greatly influenced one’s living accommodations. Individuals of high rank inhabited expansive houses adorned with roof tiles, a sign of affluence and power. These houses were architectural marvels with intricate carvings and designs that represented the rich cultural heritage of the Khmer people. The commoners, on the other hand, resided in smaller abodes with thatched roofs constructed from perishable materials. Due to the transient nature of these materials, these modest homes have not stood the test of time and are absent from the present-day landscape.
This dichotomy extended to religious institutions as well. Royal residences were grandiose in design, reflecting the stature and authority of their occupants. Buddhist monk residences, too, were reflective of their spiritual significance and were built with attention to tranquility and simplicity.
The architecture of traditional Khmer housing evolved, resulting in several distinct types of residential dwellings. Among these were Pteas Pit, a modest single-room home; Pteas Rongdorl, a more spacious house with a veranda; Pteas Rongdeung, a large family home; Pteas Kontaing, characterized by its elevated structure; and Pteas Khmer, a quintessential Khmer wooden house that encapsulates the essence of Khmer architectural style.
Despite the passage of time and modernization, the essence of traditional Khmer wooden houses are still evident today. These houses are recognized for their unique architectural features such as raised platforms, steeply pitched roofs, and intricate wood carvings. They serve as a testament to the resilience and adaptability of Khmer architecture.
In terms of geographical concentration, the provinces with the most ancient Khmer architecture include Siem Reap, Battambang, Kampong Cham, Preah Vihear, and Kampong Thom. These provinces harbor numerous ruins and relics of the Khmer Empire, including temples, palaces, and traditional houses. Siem Reap, in particular, is home to the renowned Angkor Wat temple complex, a symbol of Cambodia’s vibrant historical heritage.
The traditional Khmer wooden house is a significant part of Cambodia’s cultural history. It reflects the socio-economic disparities of the past while showcasing the ingenuity and aesthetic sensibilities of Khmer architects. Despite the inevitable tide of modernization, these traditional houses continue to hold their charm, offering a glimpse into Cambodia’s rich past and its architectural legacy.