Carlo Santoro

Associate Professor at AUPP

“Research allows me to formulate; teaching allows me to convey; experimentation and practice allow me to validate my theories.”

Originally from Vasto, Abruzzo, Carlo Santoro has been in Cambodia since 2017. He is now an Associate Professor at the American University of  Phnom Penh (AUPP) and founder of the artistic experimentation lab Metaestetica.

He graduated with a degree in Construction Engineering. He received a Doctorate in Architecture and Construction from the Tor Vergata University of  Rome, followed by a fellowship in Conservation of Cultural Heritage at the Beijing Academy of Chinese Sciences.

He continued as a researcher at the Beijing Academy of Chinese Sciences and an urban design expert. In addition, he collaborated with international architectural firms in both Shanghai and Beijing, dealing with Residential Construction and Multifunctional Districts Design, respectively.

Santoro later moved to Bangladesh to work as an advisor for Southeast Asia and as Assistant Professor at the North-South University di Dhaka. Lastly, he moved to Phnom Penh, where he still lives today.

Hi Carlo, why did you choose to relocate to Cambodia?

I came to Cambodia for a consulting job with the Architype Group. As a design manager, I was responsible for designing The Royal Condominium of the Orkidé Villa Group, a design and build contract awarded to China State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSCEC). 

What is your role today?

I have always combined consulting architecture and construction activities with teaching and research at the university and artistic experimentations.  

I am an Associate Professor at the American University of Phnom Penh, where I teach Art, Architecture, and Urban Design.

In addition, I also carry out consulting activities for design firms by coordinating multifunctional building plans, mainly high-rise, of vast suburban spaces and rehabilitating the existing urban fabric.

Lastly, I carry out artistic experimentation with the Metaestetica workshop, partnering with Jartrakor of Psychology of Art Research group. We mainly deal with participatory art and digital art. 

How has the global pandemic affected your work?

The introduction of remote working has had a pervasive impact across all the activities I am involved in.

Generally speaking, I have spent much time on my computer, more than I used to. The students had to adapt to new teaching and e-learning methods at the University. There has been a 20 to 30% decrease in the nominal sale of property prices in the real-estate sector, while land values have not faltered. As a result, new building planning has suffered an arrest and has remained limited to infrastructure and public construction.

In the Contemporary Art sector, which already was a small niche in Cambodia, the closing of art galleries has forced the exodus to commercial spaces, such as hotels and bars.

I had to give up the traditional indoor exposition space setting for my Metaestetica workshop and switch to public spaces, too.

What do you particularly love about living in Cambodia?

I thank this Country for allowing me to cultivate all my professional interests. I am equally passionate about university teaching, consulting jobs, and artistic expressions. What also makes Cambodia a fascinating place is the day’s unpredictability ahead of me.  On the other hand,  I am missing places dedicated to International cultures, such as libraries, archives, galleries, and museums.

Have you adopted a Cambodian habit since living here?

As most Cambodians do, I frequently ride a motorbike here in Phnom Penh.

Do you have an Italian tradition you’ve brought here?

I have kept the ritual of starting the day with a cup of Italian coffee.

Do you have a special place in Cambodia that has captured your heart?

I love to visit buildings from the colonial and post-colonial eras in Phnom Penh. To quote a few, the Railway Station in Phnom Penh, whose renovation work followed a preliminary design of mine; the  Raffles Hotel Le Royal, whose renovation work I was responsible for, or the buildings near the Central Post Office the alleys around the Central Market.

Those places bring memories of Asian and European heritage and help me connect with the territory and my roots.

?Click here to know more about Carlo Santoro’s work at Metaestatica Workshop.

? Royal Station Phnom Penh. Concept Design by Carlo Santoro. Archetype Cambodia