visiting doctors housing

a project by ingvartsen

Rural malaria research clinics often struggle to maintain long term staff due to their location in geographically isolated, low-income regions and lack of adequate accommodation on site. Hospital staff may live within the clinic itself, in wards converted into bedrooms, or stay long term in guesthouses, which can lead to a feeling of social isolation and being unable to escape from work.


Many clinics are therefore susceptible to a high employee turnover as hospital staff leave to seek opportunities closer to the city. 

The Rural Doctor’s Housing project, by Danish architecture studio Ingvartsen Architects, offers comfortable long term accommodation for both hospital staff and visiting medical researchers in Siem Pang village, Cambodia. 

Located on the banks of the Tonle Sekong river, the project celebrates the unique opportunities which rural living can offer, such as solace from a hectic modern urban life, proximity to nature and a local community. The project will be undertaken in two phases: firstly, the construction of a common house with adjoining residence (completed late 2019), followed by three further homes. 

The site plan includes an access route for patients arriving by boat to the hospital as many of the surrounding villages are connected only by the river. Care was taken when laying out the buildings and elevated walkways so that no mature trees are required to be felled during the construction.

The project is built from timber sourced in Siem Pang village and constructed by local carpenters. Architectural inspiration was drawn from an exploration of neighbouring historic buildings and vernacular homes, with a focus on traditional timber construction detailing. 

The height of the buildings (around 2.5m above ground level at certain points) was transcribed from a survey of the oldest structures on the Tonle Sekong riverbank. This appreciation of the Cambodian vernacular had unexpected benefits—in September 2019 the river level rose by over 12m, and, despite many local buildings being severely flooded, the project escaped damage due the height of the pillar foundations.

Each 41m2 home includes a small kitchen, dining room, en suite, personal workspace and a private balcony. Orientation, shading and natural materials are among a range of passive design strategies applied to ensure inside spaces are comfortable and low maintenance in the hot, humid climate. All openings have been designed specifically to screen for mosquitos and to allow for maximum cross-ventilation, eliminating the need for air conditioning. Openable louvred shutters provide privacy whilst maintaining natural light and ventilation indoors. 

The homes are connected to a 58m2 common house via a series of timber pedestrian bridges, designed to facilitate chance encounters between residents, while respecting privacy. With a communal eating area, shared balcony and private guest room, the common house offers a semi-private space for the hospital staff to socialise, relax together and build strong connections outside of the hospital environment. The angled balconies located on the western façade catch the morning sun and offer residents the chance to relax with stunning views of the Tonle Sekong river.

project start date: 04.2018

phase one completion date: 02.2020

01 View of the project from the Tonle Se

view from the tonle sekong river showing the boat access jetty

03 The layout of the buildings is organi

the project will be constructed in 2 phases, the first completing in 2020

02 The communal building and private hom

the buildings are designed for optimum airflow to eliminate the need for air con

04 Elevation showing raised access and t

elevation showing raised access and the river facing balcony

05 The communal building has a shared ki

the communal building has a shared kitchen and areas for doctors to socialise

06 View showing phase two of the constru

view showing phase two of the construction

07 The raised floor level and louvred sh

the raised floor level and louvred shuttered windows promote natural ventilation

08 Spaces are designed to be multifuncti

spaces are designed to be multifunctional and comfortable throughout the year

09 The timber construction and detailing

timber construction and detailing was crafted locally in siem pang village

10 A raised walkway connects the buildin

a raised walkway connects the buildings and entry is via a covered porch