Cambodia, despite, being one of the poorest nations in the world, has announced plans to build the second tallest building in Asia, a 1,820-foot skyscraper in its capital, Phnom Penh. Some may applaud the idea as a step toward development, but for others the announcement is radically unnecessary, given the country's vast poverty and struggling socio-economic indicators. Wouldn't the $200 million dollars be better spent elsewhere?
"Coupled with the country's push with mining there certainly is concern that social services may be overlooked with a need for economic advancement," Architecture for Humanity founder Cameron Sinclair tells Fast Company—he was recently in Cambodia working on design for the poor and marginalized. "Cambodia is fueled by thousands of micro-entrepreneurs and supporting this community would bring as much stability as luring in international business."
There is a precedent for building in uncertain times, such as the Empire State Building's construction during the Depression, but "economic development does not mean having the biggest companies or tallest buildings. It is worrying to see Cambodia take a Dubai approach to plant a foot on the world map," says Sinclair. But it seems Cambodia wants Siam Reap to be the next New York City and is willing to risk the well-being of millions of its citizens to reach that goal via a vision for Asia's tallest building.
Asia's current tallest building is Dubai's Burj Khalifa, followed by Taiwan's Taipei 101 Tower, the Shanghai World Financial Center and Malaysia's Petronas Towers.
[Note: We originally published this article stating Cambodia's proposed building would be the tallest in Asia, but Dubai's Burj Khalifa will in fact still remain the tallest]