Aleppo Archive in Exile

Urban morphological ground-plans of the development of old city Aleppo

The pictures became viral and spread around the world: Once one of the largest trade centres in the Middle East, now a city remained in ruins. Scientific researchers of BTU Cottbus – Senftenberg have worked out on foundational documentations for future planning toward reconstruction of the city, particularly including a detailed digital map of the old city of Aleppo.

Aleppo, second largest city in Syria and one of the oldest continuously inhabited settlements in the World, has been suffering for six years under the civil war. Prior to the clashes 2,5 Million people lived in the city. Today more than half of the population have fled their homes. During the civil war large parts of the city, in particular the old city which was declared as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO since 1986, have been severely damaged.

Under the supervision of the project manager Christoph Wessling, researchers had to deal with a never-ending task. Around 20 Gigabyte data were systematically worked out and further included within the map of the old city on the printing scale of 1:1000 (working scale of 1:500), which illustrates the urban structure and built status by the year 2011.

Until shortly before the outbreak of the civil war, the urban planners and architects of the university were involved in a cautious renovation and revitalization of the old city which was threatened by decay and depletion. In 2004, the German-Syrian project which was supported by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (German Corporation for Technical Cooperation) with € 20 million of funds, was awarded the Harvard School of Design prize, in the category of urban design and planning. At present the collected data of that time have been instrumental in facilitating the reconstruction process. The map has been created based on the cadastral plans of Aleppo and includes 16000 parcels of the old city, around 400 ground-plans of significant buildings such as the Souq area, the Citadel, the buildings south of the Citadel and numerous buildings, among others in the quarters of Bandarat Al-Islam, in Al-Jidayda as well as in Al-Bayade and Jibqarman.

Numerous maps and planning documents with ground floor plans and the recently designed public spaces have been included in the map. Moreover, the most significant urban transformations of the 20th century could be further traced through overlaying the urban and parcel structures of the 1937 cadastral plans with that of the pre-war cadastral plans. As a result, the urban structure that is currently hidden under the building ruins became visible. Where today only rubble can be seen, the map shows the foundation walls, paths, alleyways and parcel structures underneath.

With downloads!

Source: https://www.b-tu.de/middle-east-cooperation/research/research-projects/aleppo-archive-in-exile

 

The Red Hall in Bergama.

The Red Hall in Bergama (Turkey)

Bergama is a small town in Turkey, 80 kilometres north of Izmir. Its archaeological fame derives above all from an altar, the remains of which are displayed in a Berlin museum that even bears the town’s ancient Greek name: Pergamon. Not quite so famous as the altar is the enormous temple dedicated to multiple deities and situated in the heart of Bergama; together with a forecourt it covers an area almost as large as that of Trajan’s Forum in Rome. The towering structure threw much else into the shade and inside it were sculptures on the same colossal scale. Figures eight metres high and wearing bulky headdresses held up the stoa roofs, creating the right atmosphere for worship of the gods and practice of the probably imperial cult – for the temple was Roman, dates from the 2nd century AD and the involvement of the Emperor Hadrian in its erection is very likely. The support figures were inspired by images of Egyptian deities and it is suspect that they found their way to Pergamon through the well-known trip of the emperor  to the Nile and his following travel through Asia Minor. The building project radically changed the urban landscape; even the river Selinus was channelled through two tunnels, and today the ancient ruin is still a dominant feature of modern Bergama, which accordingly can boast one of the most significant Roman monuments in all Asia Minor. The main temple building is known as the “Red Hall” after the red bricks from which it is made.

The round tower.
The round tower.

Unlike the ruins of the Hellenistic citadel, the Red Hall was absorbed into the modern town. It therefore never became covered by earth, but was reused for various purposes over a period of more than 1500 years. This repurposing necessarily left its mark. The southernmost of the two round towers, for instance, once accommodated an olive processing factory, among other things, and was particularly at risk. Rainwater entered the building through the original Roman dome, while archaeological finds weighing several tons were stored on a fragile, vault-borne floor which had already collapsed at several points. In 2006, the Istanbul Department of the German Archaeological Institute (DAI) launched a long-term project – directed by Felix Pirson and Martin Bachmann and supported by the Studiosus Foundation e.V. –  to restore the tower and to consolidate and re-cover the original Roman dome construction. In 2008, with funding from the Foreign Office’s cultural heritage preservation programme, a durable lead covering was laid on the dome to protect the ancient fabric for the coming decades.

Roofers at work.
Roofers at work.

Once this part of the project was finished, visitors could be admitted for the first time to the impressive interior of the rotunda. The opening ceremony took place in September 2009. In the same year another project began in one of the side courtyards of the Red Hall – likewise with the assistance of the Studiosus Foundation. Here, one of the support figures which formerly lined the courtyard in place of columns and fragments of which are now exhibited inside the rotunda was reconstructed in its original height and using some of the original pieces. The Egyptian deity Sekhmet was re-erected in Bergama on 26 September 2013.

The combination of research and preservation as practised by the DAI produces lasting and sustainable results and has created milestones in the preservation and presentation of archaeological monuments in Turkey. Modern urban and social contexts are playing an increasingly important role in this. The Red Hall was chosen as a core project because it fulfils a key function in the new tourism development plan for Pergamon.

The support figures were inspired by images of Egyptian deities.
The support figures were inspired by images of Egyptian deities.

In future, the old town of Bergama with its many monuments of Ottoman and multiethnically influenced architecture will be integrated to a larger extent in the sightseeing programme. Visitors will thus be able to experience 4000 years of settlement and urban history in the eastern Aegean in and around a modern Turkish town. The new presentation plan for the town of Bergama spans the epochs and encompasses the surrounding area. That was central to Bergama’s addition to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 2014. The past, present and future of the town are consequently woven together in this DAI project in a way that benefits not only archaeological research but also the town itself.

Project: Prof. Dr. Felix Pirson, director of the Istanbul Department of the DAI and director of the Pergamon Excavation.

Promoted by: Foreign Office’s cultural heritage preservation programme, Studiosus Foundation e.V., Ernst Reuter Initiative, Culture Foundation of German-Turkish Business

Cooperation partners: German Archaeological Institute (direction and implementation), Institute of Building History, Building Archaeology and Conservation at the TU München (structural documentation), Ulrich Mania – Kiel University (conceptual planning), Josef Steiner – Construction Engineering Group, Karlsruhe (support structure planning), Adnan Elidenk, Bergama (steel construction), Christof Kronewirth, Berlin (stonemasonry), Semih Uçar, Istanbul (lead roofing)

Source: Archaeology Worldwide, the magazine of the German Archaeological Institute

Cinema of Hope.

Cinema Jenin – Cinema of Hope (Palestinian Territories)

As the stars ascend over the West Bank, the neon light goes down in the open-air cinema’s projection house. The projector flickers into life and the rotating beam hits the screen. The moment everyone has been waiting for has come: 23 long years since the last screening, films are showing once more in Jenin.                                                     Cinema Jenin’s renaissance was made possible by funds from the Federal Foreign Office and numerous other foreign sponsors. On the ground Palestinian and international volunteers, supported by local experts and business people, worked together for nearly two years on the reconstruction of the only cinema in the north of the West Bank.

The projection booth with old inventory. © Fabian Zapatha
The projection booth with old inventory. © Fabian Zapatha

It was not always easy to get this kind of project off the ground in Jenin. There are still many people here who reject any form of “normalization” in the form of cultural and partner projects. The mistrust of the Israeli authorities sits too deep in the local population.

However the number of those prepared to make peace on a one-to-one level is growing. This is also thanks to Cinema Jenin and the team of international and Palestinian workers.

The history of the cinema is closely connected with the history of the Middle East conflict. The cinema had to close in 1987 during the first Intifada. In the years that followed, the building, with its broadly international style, fell more and more into disrepair.

German volunteer working on the mosaic on the exterior wall.
German volunteer working on the mosaic on the exterior wall. © Fabian Zapatha

In 2008 the German film-maker Marcus Vetter came to Jenin to tell the story of Palestinian Ismael Khatib. Khatib’s son was shot by the Israeli army in the former refugee camp of Jenin. His father decided to offer up his organs for donation – including to Israeli children. The case attracted a great deal of international attention. In April 2010 Vetter’s documentary “The Heart of Jenin” won the German Film Award 2010.

During filming Khatib drew the director’s attention to the empty building. An idea was soon hatched to make the town’s cinema accessible to the public once again. When the Federal Foreign Office heard about the project, it provided start-up funds, which were later considerably increased. Soon supporters for the project appeared from all over the world.

The cinema after reopening.
The cinema after reopening. © Fabian Zapatha

A cooperative project was born which is based on dialogue and the idea that participants organize themselves. The project involves local people at grassroots level and facilitates follow-on projects. As such it could serve as a model for sustainable development in the Middle East.

In around two years amazing things have been achieved. The stage has been restored and a total of 400 seats refurbished in the stalls and upstairs gallery. New sound and lighting equipment makes for a professional sound. A German cinema chain donated projectors, and soon even 3-D films will be shown. A summer garden with projection house sprung up from nothing.

The yard behind the cinema before reopening.
The yard behind the cinema before reopening. © Fabian Zapatha

Palestinian Prime Minister Fayyad came to the opening on 5 August 2010. Young Palestinians and international guests crowded together in front of the red carpet. At the last minute the “Cinema Jenin” sign was fixed above the entrance. The town was in a state of frenzied excitement.

On the opening evening, as one looked at the faces of the people sitting together in the open-air cinema watching “The Heart of Jenin”, one could not but believe in the power of cinema to bring peace. The cinema theatre is a magical space of dreams and illusions  – and there is a grateful audience in Jenin ready to enjoy it.

Author: Ruben Donsbach, Journalist, Berlin

Promoted byCultural Preservation Programme of The Federal Foreign Office

Source: Worlds of Culture, Ed. Federal Foreign Office

Emir`s Pavilion.

Kuti e Baghtsha – the Emir`s Pavilion (Afghanistan)

Situated in the heart of the Afghan government quarter in Kabul, Kuti e Baghtsha, the “house of the little garden”, contains exquisite examples of Afghan art. Abandoned for many years, the Pavilion is now used by the Afghan President when receiving guests.

The Afghan Emir Abdur Rahman Khan – the Iron Emir – had his seat of government built in the centre of Kabul in the form of a fortified citadel (Arg). As the “nucleus” of the Afghan nation, the Arg was of historical importance. In the last century, the palace complex was the seat of several generations of rulers who wrote Afghan history. Kings were crowned and rulers assassinated here. In the southern corner, a small pavilion was built with rich decorations consisting of lavish wall paintings, stucco, carvings and gold leaf embellishments of the highest artistic standard. An oriental garden was created around the pavilion. Known as Kuti e Baghtsha, the “house of the little garden”, the elaborately decorated pavilion was constructed between 1880 and 1901 to plans by Emir Abdur Rahman Khan. From 1924 to 1931, the Emir’s Pavilion Kuti e Baghtsha housed part of the Afghan national museum.

Kuti e Baghtsha before the restoration.
Kuti e Baghtsha before the restoration.

After the invasion of Soviet troops in 1979, the Arg complex was damaged and fell increasingly into disrepair. The restoration work undertaken in 1990/91 was destroyed in the prolonged civil war that followed. After the end of the Taliban regime in 2001, work on the Arg complex began with a view to using it again. However, Kuti e Baghtsha was not included in this project until 2008 and became increasingly dilapidated. Due to its uniqueness, the Afghanistan Rehabilitation Group, a German society established for this purpose, carried out restoration work from 2008 to 2012 with the support of the Federal Foreign Office and the Gerda Henkel Foundation as well as with the expert assistance of the Department of Restoration at the TU München under the direction of Prof. Emmerling.

Parallel to the restoration work, a training programme was set up to enable young Afghan men and women to take part in a two-year further training course to qualify as conservators specialising in artisan skills.

The Afghan Rehabilitation Group is keen to provide women with vocational training and employment.
The Afghan Rehabilitation Group is keen to provide women with vocational training and employment.

Due to the very different kinds of damage, the restoration required expertise from diverse disciplines. In addition to traditional building techniques using clay, the conservators had to relearn traditional painting techniques. The original plaster was not replaced but fortified. Irreparable stucco was re-formed. Damaged wall paintings were also repaired, while gaps were laboriously filled.

Today Kuti e Baghtsha is used for receptions hosted by the Afghan President.

Project: Sekandar Ozod-Seradj, Head of the project and chairman of the Afghan Rehabilitation Group; Werner Müller, Deputy chairman of the Afghan Rehabilitation Group

Promoted by: Cultural Preservation Programme of The Federal Foreign Office

Source: Worlds of Culture, Ed. Federal Foreign Office

Mehrangarh Fort.

The Queens’ Palace (India)

Mehrangarh Fort stands majestically high above the Indian city of Jodhpur. Its scale, the filigree details and its unique situation make the fort a cultural gem on the subcontinent and a valuable heritage for future generations.

The fort was founded by Rao Jodha of the Rathore dynasty in 1459 and in terms of both its dimensions and its construction is an outstanding example of Rajput architecture, which was perfectly oriented to the climatic conditions in this desert region: horizontally and vertically staggered rooms, open and closed areas ensure optimum ventilation of the buildings, made of local red sandstone. The exterior is characterized by filigree sandstone jali screens, which let light and air flood in.

Mehrangarh fort
Mehrangarh fort, in the foreground Jaswant thada, the mausoleum of the rathore royal family.

The existing palaces and temples were largely built between the mid-17th and mid-18th centuries, with the Zenana, or Queens’ Palace, forming the heart of the ensemble, both in historical and in spatial terms. Since then the fort, built of red sandstone and set high on a rocky plateau, has been continually extended and altered. Up until about 1890, the fort served as the residence and seat of government of the rulers of Jodhpur-Marwar. Not until the 1940s were parts of it again inhabited; the ladies of the court still resident there finally left the Zenana in the 1960s. Mehrangarh Fort has been a museum since 1974 and has become a prime attraction offering outstanding exhibitions.

View of the central courtyard of the Queens’ Palace.
View of the central courtyard of the Queens’ Palace.

The fort’s sandstone facades in particular are at risk from material fatigue owing to the severe climatic conditions. Decades of inadequate maintenance work have led to serious damage to the facades and interiors of the Zenana. The project of preserving the Zenana began in 1997 with initial preparatory measures including an architectural survey, the listing of recommended conservation measures for each room and urgent repairs to make the ceilings and roofs safe. Conservation and restoration work was carried out between 2006 and 2008. All work was carried out by the indogerman team following the principle of minimal intervention but with the goal of preserving the historic structures, materials and surfaces in as authentic a manner as possible in order to retain for future generations the splendour of the fort in its original state.

Project: Christine Becker-Koob, Project Director, KALEIDOSKOOB® (formerly Becker & Koob), Berlin

Promoted byCultural Preservation Programme of The Federal Foreign Office

Source: Worlds of Culture, Ed. Federal Foreign Office

The Great Temple of Yeha.

The Great Temple of Yeha (Ethiopia)

About 3000 years ago in the province of Tigray in what is today Ethiopia, an entity named Di’amat emerged which was the result of immigration by population groups from Saba in modern-day Yemen. In the early 1st millennium BC, these groups together with the indigenous population established a network of settlements dotted along the trade routes. The Sabaeans brought a range of cultural techniques and expertise – their language and writing system, practical knowledge in agriculture, architecture, arts and crafts, as well as their religious, political and social institutions.

Yeha was the administrative and religious centre of this society. If one approached the settlement from the trade routes, the ancient palace and at least two religious buildings would have been visible from a long way off. One of the temples preserved to a height of 14 metres  was built around the middle of the 7th century BC and dedicated to the main god of the Sabaeans, Almaqah. In the 6th century of the Christian era the building was converted into a church and is today still a sacred place.

Restoration work.
Restoration work. (Photo: Wagner)

Iris Gerlach, Director of the Sana’a Branch of the DAI’s Orient Department, and her colleagues have been working together with the Ethiopian Antiquities Authority since 2009 on a project to preserve the substance of this unique building. First of all they produced exact and detailed structural documentation and a damage assessment map. In the process traditional methods were supplemented by the most modern technologies including 3D laser scanning. The structural documentation served as the basis for the thorough restoration that followed as the next step. Restoration was essential as the structure was at acute risk of collapsing. The Great Temple was already in a partly ruinous state when the famed German Aksum Expedition visited Yeha in 1906. A  disastrous fire had badly damaged the temple probably in the middle of the 1st millennium BC. The fire completely destroyed the entrance porch, originally supported – by six pillars, as well as the temple’s upper storey and its inner wall shell. This was the part of the building that needed urgent restoration and the installation of a steel supporting structure. In cooperation with the Ethiopian Antiquities Authority and the DAI ‘s own advisory committee on historical monuments, the DAI sought to identify solutions through discussion, so as firstly to provide static stability of the frail temple walls and secondly to ensure the restoration measures were acceptable from both a conservation and an aesthetic point of view. A workshop was organized in Adua, to which specialists from the Ethiopian Antiquities  Authority and the Ministry of Culture, architects and statics experts from various Ethiopian universities were invited, who discussed different possibilities of stabilizing the Great Temple with construction history specialists and monument conservators.

The village of Yeha in northern Ethiopia.
The village of Yeha in northern Ethiopia. (Photo: Mechelke)

It was important to involve the priesthood and the local population in Yeha. As the building is still considered a sacred place, every step in the restoration process had to be explained and permission for it had to be sought. All the institutions and individuals involved in the process were finally able to agree on a reversible plan that complied with good conservation practice and was also acceptable in aesthetic terms. The plan envisaged the installation of a high-grade steel structure to support the interior walls upwards of a height of six metres, allowing the Great Temple to be continuously used in the future by worshippers, pilgrims and tourists. Since it is a principle of the DAI to work in a sustainable manner, the project included training for local craftspeople.

Archaeological and historical research into the region around the religious centre of Yeha has been ongoing since 2009, and since 2016 as part of a twelve-year Ethiopian-German project funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG). The project is being carried out jointly by the DAI and Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena and augments the DAI ’s research into cultural contacts that existed between southern Arabia and eastern Africa.

Project: Iris Gerlach, Director of the Sana’a Branch of the DAI’s Orient Department

Cooperation Partners:

Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena

Chair of Semitic Philology and Islamic Studies

(Prof. Norbert Nebes)

Authority of Research and Conservation of

the Cultural Heritage (ARCCH)

Tigray Culture and Tourism Bureau (TCTB)

HafenCity Universität Hamburg – Universität

für Baukunst und Metropolenentwicklung,

Geomatics Laboratory

University of Leipzig,

Egyptian Museum – Georg Steindorf

Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-

Nürnberg, GeoZentrum Nordbayern, Palaeoenvironmental

Department

TU Berlin, Construction History Research Unit,

Master’s Degree in Heritage Conservation and many others.

Source: Archaeology Worldwide, the magazine of the German Archaeological Institute

 

Mshatta Palace.

Mshatta Palace – the Caliphs’ Desert Palace (Jordan)

The Islamic Umayyad dynasty constructed impressive buildings in the Middle East which remain a source of fascination to this day. Indeed some of them still pose puzzles. The most mysterious are the desert palaces built in the countries of the Levant. Almost a dozen such complexes were built in remote places, and academics still cannot agree on their function.

Mshatta Palace (in arabic Qasr al-Mshatta), situated south of Amman in Jordan, is one such palace and, in artistic and archaeological terms, the most valuable. The main facade and the audience court were decorated with intricate stone carvings. The detailed foliage scroll work on the facade illustrated the gradual emergence of an independent islamic style of ornamentation. In 1903, as a result of work on the construction of the Baghdad railway, a section of the palace’s facade was brought to Berlin to the Pergamon museum, which was just being established. There the wonderful facade is today one of the jewels in the collection of the museum of islamic art.

But what became of the original site?

It was forgotten, and not “rediscovered” until the 1960s. Today, lying to the north of Amman airport, it has been rehabilitated and is to be promoted as a further highlight of Jordan’s burgeoning tourist industry. However, a great deal of work remains to be done. The brick walls have been hollowed out by the effects of the weather and need to be repaired using a special mortar made of lime, brick dust and ash. Missing bricks in the style of the old ones will be manufactured specially. Finding the right firms for this requires a good local knowledge, and the formulae and technology require specialist know-how in the field of conservation. So the preservation and restoration of this unique monument in Jordanian history is an ideal opportunity for a joint project by Jordan’s antiquities authorities and Technische Universität Berlin and the National Museums in Berlin. As soon as the walls have been made safe, the arches, which collapsed as a result of earthquakes, will be rebuilt so that visitors can gain an impression of the palace’s former splendour. Finally, a viable solution needs to be found for the gap left by the facade now in Germany. Then, at the beginning of the 21st century, this authentically restored palace will be another highlight on the Jordanian tourist trail. In 744 the luxurious palace complex became the ruin of Caliph al-Walid II, whose ambitious construction projects so angered his people that he was assassinated.

Project: Prof. Dr. Ing. Johannes Cramer, Project Director, Technische Universität Berlin; Prof. Dr. Günther Schauerte, National Museums in Berlin

Promoted by: Cultural Preservation Programme of The Federal Foreign Office

Source: Worlds of Culture, Ed. Federal Foreign Office

Historic village centre of Tran Dang.

Historic village centre restored to its former glory (Viet Nam)

The historic village centre of Tran Dang in north-east Viet Nam is testament to a rich cultural heritage. Here, where for centuries people have met, traders bartered and believers worshipped protective spirits, restoration workers are endeavouring to preserve historic evidence.

The ancient village centre of Tran Dang – the village hall, the socalled Dinh, being the oldest building – dates back to the 13th century. It stands on a peninsula shaped like a tortoise – one of the four animals held as sacred by the Vietnamese. The joists and beams of the building are decorated with valuable – because of the degree of craftsmanship – woodcarvings. Some are in colour, some purely ornamental, while others depict scenes from folklore and mythology. On the roof ridge there are figures of sacred animals made of rare black clay.

The Dinh was later extended to include an altar room to honour the village’s protective deity. The bell tower, village fountain, the bridge to the Dinh and the main gate to the square date back to the later Nguyen Dynasty (1802–1945). It was during this period that the most recent innovations of historical and artistic value took place. During the Vietnam War, the tower bells warned the surrounding villagers of American bombing raids and the village hall was used to store rice and other food. After the war, makeshift repairs restored the damaged building for use as the focus of the village community once more.

Over the centuries the inhabitants of Tran Dang have done their best to look after and maintain the building. Over time, however, infestations, water damage and the effects of age have taken their toll on the building. The task of maintaining it was too great for the local population, who lacked both funding and the necessary expertise.

Now, with funding from the Federal Foreign Office’s Cultural Preservation Programme, the entire construction of the Dinh – built of ironwood – has been restored in line with its value as a historic monument. The roofs of the main house and altar room extension and other historic features have also been restored. The buildings adjacent to the village hall and the village fountain, also situated in the centre, will be restored next. The village inhabitants are closely involved in the work.

That the historic centre of Tran Dang can already bask in its newfound glory is the impressive result of the restoration work so far.

Project: Andrea Teufel, Project Director, German Conservation Restoration and Education Projects (GCREP)

Promoted byCultural Preservation Programme of The Federal Foreign Office

Source: Worlds of Culture, Ed. Federal Foreign Office

Church of Curahuara de Carangas.

Pictures of Paradise High in the Andes (Bolivia)

The church of Curahuara de Carangas represents a unique combination of South America’s ancient heritage and Spanish influences. In the pre-Hispanic period, at the spot where today people kneel in prayer, the Inca chief Túpac Inca Yupanqui plunged his golden spear into the ground following a battle. In Quechua, the language of the Incas, “golden spear” is “kori wara”, which was rendered into Spanish as “Curahuara”. So the church bears witness to its heritage in its very name. The exterior of the church of Curahuara de Carangas is modest, built low of clay bricks and topped by a roof thatched with straw. The surprise to be found in the interior is one of the earliest and most complete cycles of frescoes in Bolivia, which has earned the church the epithet “the Sistine chapel of the Altiplano”. The pulpit dates from the time of construction, as do two stone altars, the ceiling frescoes and most of the paintings in the chancel. The sacristy, perhaps one of the most beautiful rooms in Bolivia, is intended to depict paradise, with flowers, birds and angels.

Like other churches in Bolivia, Curahuara de Carangas was built by local craftsmen and artists. These churches are interesting not only because they give an insight into indigenous craftsmanship and art, but also because they show how the people’s theology took up ideas from the old indigenous religions. For example, gardens of paradise are painted on the walls, because the indigenous population believed that paradise was to be found in the green, flowerfilled lowlands with their fruit trees and twittering birds, not somewhere up in the clouds. Whole series of angels are depicted; angels were used to symbolize ancient gods or to represent the functions and powers attributed to them. For instance, Saint James, known in Spanish as Santiago, also fulfils the function of Illapa, god of thunder. For when the Spanish attacked with Saint James’s protection at the decisive battle against the Incas at Cuzco, there was such a violent storm of thunder and lightning that the Incans believed that Illapa had crept into Saint James’s body – to fight on the side of the Spaniards.

The restoration of the roof and the exterior walls financed by the Federal Foreign Office was necessary because they were badly dilapidated and unsound, thus endangering the unique frescoes. A modern lighting system which will not damage the valuable frescoes was installed in the interior, invisible to visitors, and exterior lighting was installed. Work on the main altar revealed a hidden fresco which will be accessible to visitors once it has been restored.

Project: Dr. Philipp Schauer, Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany in La Paz

Promoted byCultural Preservation Programme of The Federal Foreign Office

Source: Worlds of Culture, Ed. Federal Foreign Office

The palace of Emperor Galerius.

Felix Romuliana – The Palace of Emperor Galerius (Serbia)

In the far east of Serbia can be found a very special example of ancient Roman culture: a splendid, breathtakingly beautiful palace built under Emperor Galerius Valerius Maximianus within an imposing and architecturally unique fortress.

Emperor Galerius Valerius Maximianus (ruled 293-311) was born in the middle of the 3rd century in the valley of the river Crna Reka, not far from the modern Serbian city of Zaječar, and it was in this valley, protected on all sides, that he erected his residence at the end of the 3rd and beginning of the 4th century, calling it Romuliana after his mother, Romula.

Western gate to the old fortified palace.
Western gate to the old fortified palace.

The complex is a special type of monument to Roman court architecture. The palace was built on the instruction of the Emperor as his retirement home and is at the same time the place in which he was buried and deified.

The visible parts of the complex were mentioned by travel writers back in the 19th century. The archaeological excavations which began in 1953 revealed the remains of the older and newer fortified palaces as well as numerous buildings serving public and private purposes.

The two palaces and the other buildings dating from that time were built in a relatively short period of 14 years (from 297 to 311). The single roadway which once linked the east gate (which has been restored and preserved under the Cultural Preservation Programme) with the west gate divides the complex into a north and a south section, each of which was used for different purposes. The northern half was the site of the imperial palace with a small temple and a sacrificial shrine in the courtyard; the southern half held public buildings (a large temple with two crypts and rect angular foundations and thermal baths) and the palace’s ancillary buildings.

An aerial view of the beautiful floor decoration.
An aerial view of the beautiful floor decoration.

The palace is decorated with wonderful mosaic floors with abstract motifs and figures. The most important of the numerous fragments of sculpture found during the excavations is the head of Emperor Galerius from a monumental porphyry sculpture.

In the light of its architectural value, but also because of the beauty and quality of the artworks, especially the mosaics, and as it is still a working archaeological site, Romuliana was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2007.

Project: Bora Dimitrijević, Project Director, Director of Zaječar National Museum

Promoted byCultural Preservation Programme of The Federal Foreign Office

Source: Worlds of Culture, Ed. Federal Foreign Office

Restoration of the badly damaged roof of the Church of the Nativity.

Restoration of the Church of the Nativitiy in Bethlehem (Palestinian Territories)

The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem is a unique architectural ensemble comprising elements from 1700 years of varying cultural influences. The Church, which was declared a World Heritage site in 2002, is probably the oldest sacred building in continuous use in the Holy Land.

“Ubi natus est Dominus Iesus Christus, ibi basilica facta est iusso Constantini.” B. Bagatti, Gli Antichi Edifi ci Sacri di Betlemme, Franciscan Printing Jerusalem (1983)

Built in 339 AD under the auspices of Helena, the mother of Emperor Constantine, the original structure of the Church of the Nativity was largely destroyed, then rebuilt by Justinian in the mid-6th century and redecorated by the Crusaders in the 12th century. Today the Church is overseen jointly by the Greek Orthodox, Catholic and Armenian Churches, which means that the daily services and numerous religious festivals of all three have to be taken into account during the restoration work.

Restoration began in 2013. Supported by the international community and the Palestinian Authority, the Italian restoration experts of Piacenti s. p. a. first tackled necessary work on the roof and windows, then on the external walls, nave, plaster and mosaics.

From a platform at the level of the joists, a temporary roof was installed to allow the restoration of the ancient roof system. Decayed sections of the joists were removed and replaced with ancient wood brought from Italy. The prime aim of these restorations was to retain as many of the original materials and elements as possible.

The external walls and internal plasterwork had been badly affected by rain, humidity and some microbiological damage. Restorers specialising in the conservation of stone and plaster therefore first cleaned all the surfaces and removed extraneous materials, filling in cracks with a suitable mortar and consolidating the most badly damaged areas. At the same time, work on the nave began.

View from the nave to the eastern door.
View from the nave to the eastern door.

A considerable amount of German support has been directed towards the restoration of the Church’s eastern door to the nave – a large ancient wooden structure with ornate woodcarvings which will soon again open to one of the most fascinating churches in history.

Project: Christian Schaal, Giammarco Piacenti, German Representative Office Ramallah in cooperation with Piacenti s. p. a.

Promoted by: Cultural Preservation Programme of The Federal Foreign Office

Source: Worlds of Culture, Ed. Federal Foreign Office

The Chinese port city of Qingdao.

Traces of Germany in the Middle Kingdom (China)

From 1898 until 1914 the Chinese port city of Qingdao was a German concession. Even today the face of the city is dominated by old German architecture: Christ Church in particular bears witness to a bygone age.

Christ Church, originally called “New Church”, was built by the Berlin Protestant Church Board between 1908 and 1910 and consecrated on 23 October 1910. Following the proclamation of the People’s Republic of China by Mao Tse-Tung, the then last service in Christ Church was held on 27 November 1949, the first Sunday of Advent.

In the wake of the reform and opening-up of China, the exercise of religion under state control is again possible. Sunday services have been celebrated in Christ Church again since 1980. Today the church has around 1200 members and is used for baptisms, confirmations and weddings. It has a lively musical life ranging from the church choir to rap.

Christ Church after a well-attended sunday service.
Christ Church after a well-attended sunday service.

The Free State of Bavaria, as part of its twinning link with Shandong Province, has done much to preserve the German cultural heritage in Qingdao. Now the Foundation for the Preservation of German-Style Buildings in China, with a grant from the Cultural Preservation Programme of the Federal Foreign Office, has worked with German experts to reconstruct the copper covering on the top of the spire. At the same time, the roof was restored with a weathercock to replace the one which fell in a storm in 1942. The next projects planned are the restoration of the pipe organ and the ornate leaded windows, which were destroyed during the Cultural Revolution.

The restoration of Christ Church’s capped roof is no mere construction project; it is a highly symbolic project, a special way to approach Sino-German history.

Clock of the Christ Church.
Clock of the Christ Church.

Qingdao, whose economy and population are growing rapidly, is increasingly looking to its German colonial heritage, not so much out of nostalgia but rather in the realization that preserving and restoring its historic architecture will give it a competitive advantage over other cities which are becoming ever more faceless and similar as a result of modernization.

Although other cities, e.g. Weifang, Wohan and Tianjin, have notable German-style buildings too, only Qingdao has an Old Town laid out entirely in the European style. An application has been submitted for its inclusion in the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Project: Harm Oltmann, foundation for the Preservation of german-style Buildings in China; Martin Fleischer, German Embassy in Beijing

Promoted by: Cultural Preservation Programme of The Federal Foreign Office

Source: Worlds of Culture, Ed. Federal Foreign Office

Chapel of Hathor (right) and Lion temple (left).

Chapel of Hathor in Naga (Sudan)

The desert expanses of the Sudan still hide countless historical treasures which are only gradually coming to light. The city of Naga was an important place in ancient times, but was forgotten over the millennia. Only now are scientists finding out how much it has to tell us.

In 1995 a team of researchers from the Egyptian Museum Berlin began to excavate the site of the city of Naga in the steppes northeast of Khartoum. The city had lain untouched for two thousand years. Numerous huge heaps of rubble marked the area. Four wellpreserved temples decorated with reliefs and inscriptions showed that, from 300 BC to 200 AD, Naga was a royal city of the Meroitic Kingdom, the powerful southern neighbour of Ptolemaic and Roman Egypt.

Restauration work at the chapel of Hathor.
Restauration work at the chapel of Hathor.

Over ten years of excavations, the Amun Temple was uncovered on its dominant position on a hill above the city. An avenue of twelve monumental ram statues lining the approach to the temple and the columns of the hypostyle discovered under rubble and winddriven sands were restored. Many of the findings in the temple – statues, steles, altars painted and decorated with reliefs, wall paintings – present an extraordinary wealth of new material for research.

A hill south of Amun Temple proved to be a veritable treasuretrove. More than 1500 relief blocks found there could be pieced together to recreate the pictures on the collapsed temple walls. Since October 2009 three wall panels with life-size depictions of Meroitic gods have been on permanent loan from the Republic of the Sudan to the New Museum in Berlin – a remarkable token of cultural cooperation.

The Naga project will end for the time being with the restoration of the Chapel of Hathor with funding from the Federal Foreign Office’s Cultural Preservation Programme. The combination of Pharaonic, Graeco-Roman and Meroitic forms is a reflection of the Meroitic Kingdom’s function as a bridge between Africa and the Mediterranean. State-of-the-art technology was used in the restoration. 3D strip light scanners produced a survey of the architecture accurate to the millimetre. On the basis of these findings, the badly damaged capitals were copied in synthetic stone. The originals are to be exhibited along with other artefacts in a local museum devoted to the excavations; the museum has been designed free of charge by the British architect David Chipperfield. In this way Naga can again become a focal point of the Sudan’s historical and cultural identity.

Project: Prof. Dr. Dietrich Wildung, Project Director, egyptian museum and Papyrus Collection, Berlin

Promoted by:  Cultural Preservation Programme of The Federal Foreign Office

Source: Worlds of Culture, Ed. Federal Foreign Office

 

Restoration work on the figure of Vishnu.

Angkor Wat (Cambodia)

In south-east Asia, amidst the jungles of Cambodia, lie some of the most impressive cultural sites in the world. The temple complex Angkor, which has been in the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1992, captivates visitors with its majestic dimensions and wide variety of art forms.

From the 9th till the 14th century, Cambodia was the heart of high Khmer culture. The largest and most important temple in the area is Angkor Wat. Its surfaces are decorated with unique stone sculptures, including almost 1850 divinities (known locally as „apsaras“), bas-reliefs up to 100m long in the galleries and richly-decorated tympanums which look as though they have been carved from wood. These latter, however, are in a worrying condition; many have already fallen victim to the weather.

Restoration work at prasat kravan temple.
Restoration work at prasat kravan temple. © Leisen/TH Köln

Since 1995 a team from Cologne University of Applied Sciences has been working to prevent further decay. The restoration and conservation measures are being carried out by lecturers and students from the Institute of Restoration and Conservation Science in cooperation with a team of Cambodian conservators. The project also receives support from external scientists in the fields of geology, geomicrobiology and chemistry.

Every natural stone has its own characteristic properties; each one reacts differently to the effects of the weather. Since 1995, therefore, the sandstone blocks used to build Angkor and the damage already caused have been the subject of detailed investigation so that decisions can be taken on the most suitable conservation methods. Every situation, every temple, is considered individually, and all steps in the process must be documented in detail.

A thorough survey revealed that about 300 apsaras and a large number of reliefs on the pediments of Angkor Wat were so badly damaged that large pieces of stone could fall off at any time. Since 1998 the weather-beaten reliefs have been undergoing painstaking conservation. However, it will not be possible to prevent further damage completely. Continual monitoring and maintenance will be needed.

Documentation and conservation of life-size elephants.
Documentation and conservation of life-size elephants. © Leisen/TH Köln

The German Apsara Conservation Project (GACP) began in 2003 with an examination of further temples in Angkor Park, including the early brick temples with their amazing stucco decorations. On the basis of the findings, conservation measures were successfully carried out. In 2006 work extended also to Koh Ker temple, north-east of Angkor. In 2008 work began on the derelict remains of Preah Khan Kampong Svay.

If the work is to be successful, the workers must undergo constant training. As part of the project, the GACP trained the Cambodian conservators. Students from Cologne University of Applied Sciences and other universities can help with project work during their practical semester or help with dissertations. Playing a part in a major scientific research project on a UNESCO World Heritage site is a unique opportunity for the students.

Project: Prof. Dr. Hans Leisen, Project Director, Cologne University of Applied Sciences

Promoted by: Cultural Preservation Programme of The Federal Foreign Office

Source: Worlds of Culture, Ed. Federal Foreign Office

The Ottoman Qaisariyas in the Bazaar in Erbil (Region of Kurdistan-Iraq)

The Ottoman Qaisariyas in the Bazaar in Erbil (Region of Kurdistan-Iraq)

The history of the northern Iraqi city of Erbil spans more than five millennia. The citadel hill, a World Cultural Heritage site since 2014, and two historic commercial buildings at the foot of the citadel – the Ottoman Qaisariyas – bear witness to this history.

The landscape of the capital of Kurdistan Province is chiefly dominated by more recent history. A large amount of historical fabric dating from between the 18th and the 20th centuries has been preserved in the area of the citadel, in the traditional residential districts to the immediate south and in the Bazaar. It is under acute threat from the widespread desire for construction and modernisation in the area.

The historical buildings located in the Bazaar area are two Qaisariyas, separate, roofed commercial buildings which were erected in the late 19th century by a family of wealthy long-distance merchants for the sale and storage of high-quality goods.

In their position at the centre of the Bazaar, embedded between the main north-south traffic arteries, they form architectural points of Reference between the urban landmarks of the citadel and the mosque in the southern area of the Bazaar. Within the structural fabric of the Bazaar district the two-storey buildings, closed to the outside, stand out clearly from the surrounding structures with their identical shop units and barrel-vaulted walkways. This self-contained nature of the buildings is currently barely recognisable due to subsequent installations and structural damage. The Qaisariyas have historical significance as a regional form of commercial building. They reflect the importance of Upper Mesopotamia as a place of interaction between Iran, southern Iraq, Anatolia and Syria. Their conservation will help preserve Erbil’s historical identity as part of this heterogeneous region.

In their current state the Qaisariyas are under acute threat. To save the buildings, which are of great historical and architectural importance, a detailed building survey and damage analysis were performed and a restoration plan complying with preservation standards developed as part of a cooperation project run by the Kurdistan Department of Antiquities together with the TU Berlin and the German Archaeological Institute. In addition, conservation and restoration work was carried out on selected pilot sections of both buildings. Restoration of the entire structure in line with the monument preservation concept is to be implemented by the Kurdistan Regional Government.

Project: Dr. Martina Müller-Wiener (TU Berlin), Urban development history, sources; Dr. Anne Mollenhauer (TU Berlin), Architectural history, monument preservation; Dr. Dietmar Kurapkat, (German Archaeological Institute), Building research, monument preservation

Promoted byCultural Preservation Programme of The Federal Foreign Office

Source: Worlds of Culture, Ed. Federal Foreign Office

View of the building site of the Sistani house in the Bam Citadel.

Sistani House in the Bam Citadel (Iran)

The Bam Citadel in south-eastern Iran is the world’s largest clay-built complex, with a history spanning more than 2500 years. On 26 December 2003 the Citadel was almost completely destroyed by an earthquake. Large parts of one of the central buildings in the Citadel, the Sistani House, which dates back to the late 18th century, also collapsed.

Since 2007 the Cultural Preservation Programme of the Federal Foreign Office has been promoting the project to reconstruct the Sistani House, incorporating the existing ruins to bear witness to its architectural and cultural history, and is thus supporting the efforts of the Iranian Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organisation (ICHHTO) and UNESCO to preserve and maintain the Citadel.

A team from the TU Dresden submitted proposals for restoring and rebuilding the Sistani House which, as well as reconstructing destroyed sections in keeping with the original, placed an emphasis on preserving key parts of the ruins as a testimony to the past and incorporated preventive measures to minimise earthquake damage. Subsequent restoration and reconstruction projects in the Citadel also included subtle but effective improvements in the clay buildings’ earthquake resistance. In the case of the Sistani House, this was achieved by reinforcement of the clay bricks with date palm fibres, vertical anchoring as well as the use of ring anchors and installation of tension elements into the horizontal joints. Comprehensive theoretical investigations and practical experiments formed the basis for the measures, which drew on the latest scientific findings as well as improved technologies adapted to the task in hand.

The project involves a significant degree of knowledge transfer. As well as the technologies, the methods and planning, ranging from the archaeological rubble clearance, through the drafting and approval stages, up to the working drawings and construction supervision, are to serve as a model for how to proceed in the case of valuable cultural structures.

The project was realised through several annual campaigns in which Germany was responsible for the planning and the technical and technological requirements as well as implementation of the injection grouting and anchoring work. The Iranian Cultural Heritage Organisation then performed the rest of the reconstruction work, guided and supervised by Germany. Completion and full re-use is scheduled for 2015. Over the course of the project a good working relationship with the Iranian Cultural Heritage Organisation ICHHTO has been established and maintained, in which both sides have complemented and supported each other. In the past years the project has therefore also shown Iranians that international cooperation is viable and effective.

Project: Prof. Wolfram Jäger, Project Coordinator, Technische Universität Dresden

Promoted byCultural Preservation Programme of The Federal Foreign Office

Source: Worlds of Culture, Ed. Federal Foreign Office

Exterior of the Khvajeh Abu Nasr Parsa shrine.

Restoration of the old town and regional development in Balkh (Afghanistan)

The town of Balkh, which was known as Bactra in ancient times, dates back to 500 B.C. and is situated some 20 kilometres north-west of Mazar‑e‑Sharif in northern Afghanistan, on what was once the Silk Road. It is regarded as the cradle of Iranian civilisation and has been an important pilgrimage site from time immemorial. 

Over the course of its history, Balkh has been a spiritual centre of Zoroastrianism, Buddhism and Islam respectively. It served as one of Alexander the Great’s northernmost bases from 329 to 327 B.C. It was completely destroyed by the Mongols under Genghis Khan in 1220 and only rebuilt in the fifteenth century under Timurid rule. However, the town’s significance continued to decline, not least as a result of the provincial government’s move to Mazar‑e‑Sharif in 1866.

Extensive restoration

In addition to supporting restoration and stabilisation work on important buildings such as the Khvajeh Abu Nasr Parsa shrine, the Dehdadi Mosque, the Sudhan Qoli Madrassa Gate, Abu Zaidan Mosque and minaret, and Mir Rusedar and Khvajeh Nizamuddin shrines, the Cultural Preservation Programme of the Federal Foreign Office is funding the restoration of the buildings’ gardens and public spaces. The aim of this major project is to improve local residents’ living conditions and infrastructure in the long term by constructing infrastructure such as roads, sewage systems and waste disposal systems. 

Interior of the Khvajeh Abu Nasr Parsa shrine.
Interior of the Khvajeh Abu Nasr Parsa shrine.
© AKTC

 

Close involvement of the population

A further part of the project involves training programmes in traditional crafts such as carpentry, bricklaying and the manufacture of glazed tiles. Involving the local population and administration closely at all levels creates cultural identification with the local historical heritage and increases the sense of responsibility for this identity. The project is a good example of how cultural preservation can be achieved in harmony with economic development, modern urban planning and the needs of the local population.

At the suggestion of the Afghan Government, Balkh old town was added to UNESCO’s Tentative List of World Cultural Heritage in 2004.

Project promoted by / SourceCultural Preservation Programme of The Federal Foreign Office

Borobudur - A Detail of a Relief

Borobudur – A World Cultural Heritage Site at Risk (Central Java, Indonesia)

On 26 October 2010, Mount Merapi, one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world, became active again. It erupted on 5 November, causing extensive damage. Borobudur, which has been a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site since 1991, was completely covered by a layer of volcanic ash. Cleaning work was undertaken immediately, and also received funding from Germany. However, the question subsequently arose of how harmful the volcanic ash was for the precious reliefs. In order to answer this and other questions, the Cultural Preservation Programme of the Federal Foreign Office has been funding a UNESCO stone conservation research project since 2011, which is being carried out in cooperation with the Borobudur Conservation Office (BCO) and the Indonesian Ministry of Education and Culture.

Borobudur Temple was built under the Sailendra dynasty during the eighth and ninth centuries. Its design and stone reliefs make it one of the most impressive World Heritage sites. Six square terraces with 1460 reliefs depicting scenes from Buddhist mythology, niches with countless sculptures of the seated Buddha, a further 72 statues of the Buddha in bell-shaped stupas on circular terraces, and the main temple at the top of the monument were built in the fertile Kedu Plain, the Garden of Java. The foundation, a natural hill formed by aggradation, already proved to be unstable at the beginning of construction work. The volcanic building stones andesite and basalt were not extracted from quarries, but rather from the rivers.

The first large-scale restoration project was carried out between 1907 and 1911 and coordinated by Theodore van Erp. The walls were at risk of collapsing, and water was shooting out of the relief walls. During the restoration, the walls were stabilised and the drainage system was improved. The next major restoration phase took place between 1973 and 1983. This UNESCO project was run by Caesar Voute from the Netherlands. All of the relief walls and galleries were dismantled and rebuilt (anastylosis), while stabilising concrete platforms and an internal drainage system were integrated into the monument.

The complex internal drainage system created new problems. The magnificent reliefs remain exposed to destructive moisture penetration and frequent leaks. Another threat to the reliefs is posed by ongoing crust formation and flaking on the stones, as well as by salts that damage the structure. The great range of features in the building stones mean that the degree of damage varies among the reliefs.

Apart from providing scientific documentation and analysis of the weathering process, experts are developing a wide range of methods and materials to conserve the reliefs. As part of the cooperation, the BCO’s researchers and restorers are receiving further training in modern analysis and conservation techniques.

Project: Prof. Hans Leisen and Dr. Esther von Plehwe-Leisen, Project managers, Cologne University of Applied Sciences

Promoted byCultural Preservation Programme of The Federal Foreign Office

Source: Worlds of Culture, Ed. Federal Foreign Office

The Beth El synagogue in São Paulo

Restoration of a Synagogue (São Paulo, Brazil)

Funding from the Cultural Preservation Programme of the Federal Foreign Office made it possible to restore the Beth‑El synagogue, built in 1929 and inaugurated in 1932 in the centre of São Paulo, to its former glory.

The biggest city in the southern hemisphere with the longest traffic jams, the greatest number of helicopters, the best restaurants, the biggest German centre of industry in the world – São Paulo is a megalopolis, a city of superlatives. And right at the heart of its once run‑down centre there is yet another superlative, namely the most important Jewish sacred building in Brazil, the former Beth‑El synagogue.

Revival of the centre of São Paulo

Beth‑El was restored with funds from the Cultural Preservation Programme of the Federal Foreign Office and is now an integral part of the first Jewish museum in Brazil currently under construction. The museum complex will, moreover, be part of the work already begun to restore and revive the city centre. 

Amongst other things, the original plaque of architect Samuel Roder has been uncovered, along with a stone model of the building and above all, the original materials and colours, all so that the Synagogue can shine not only with a renewed freshness, but also in its original glory. Along with the façade, the magnificent dome in Byzantine style and the stained glass windows, the wooden altar with its Torah shrine and the original benches dating back to 1932 were restored.

A German-Brazilian symbiosis

“The German restoration of the synagogue is a quantum leap,” commented the museum’s Director, Roberta Sundfeld, and “it has already attracted sponsors to the museum.” In this case, the Cultural Preservation Programme is not just living up to its name, it has provided the impetus for new projects and is thus a beautiful German-Brazilian symbiosis, symbolising the vibrant history of the centre of São Paulo.

Project: Eva Dombo, German Consulate-General in São Paulo

Promoted byCultural Preservation Programme of The Federal Foreign Office

SourceWorlds of Culture, Ed. Federal Foreign Office

 

The palace’s interior courtyard with the Tusa Hiti fountain.

Restoration of Patan Royal Palace (Patan, Nepal)

The Kathmandu Valley in Nepal boasts no fewer than seven World Heritage sites. One of them is Patan Royal Palace along with the temples in the palace complex. Following the two earthquakes in April and May 2015, the Federal Foreign Office, which has been committed to the preservation of this cultural heritage site for years, joined with the Gerda Henkel Foundation to launch a joint initiative to rebuild damaged cultural property in Nepal.

Since 2008, the Federal Foreign Office has provided a total of 250,000 euros for the preservation of the palace and the temples in the complex. For example, in various stages, the fountain in the south courtyard, Sundari Chowk, and the Bhandarkal water tank were restored, followed by the building’s south wing and the rear section of Sundari Chowk. When Nepal was hit by a severe earthquake in April 2015, the restored wings of the square courtyard stayed standing, but virtually the whole east wing caved in.  

Only the ground-floor arcade remained. But work to rebuild the east wing started quickly, in the autumn of 2015, again with support from the Federal Foreign Office.

Structural elements which were salvaged are being used in the restoration

All the beautifully carved wooden elements rescued from the ruins, as well as the tiles which were recovered, are being used to help rebuild the courtyard’s façade. This is possible thanks to the traditional construction techniques using clay mortar, especially as the masons and carpenters are the descendants of those who created this architecture back in the 17th and 18th centuries. 

The upper storey of the main courtyard building has been home to the “Architecture Galleries” museum of architecture since 2013. This is open to the public as part of Patan Museum, which was established in 1997. When work on the east wing is finished, Sundari Chowk will complete the museum in January 2017. The restoration, reconstruction and conversion work gives an immediate insight into a multifaceted palace complex which contributes hugely to the identity of the Kathmandu-Patan metropolis and is thus a symbol of the area’s rich architectural heritage. 

Responsibility for implementing the work lies with the Kathmandu Valley Preservation Trust, which has saved and restored numerous buildings in Kathmandu and Patan since 1992. Between 2016 and 2018, with help from the Gerda Henkel Foundation, the Krishna temple will be repaired and the collapsed Hari Shankar temple rebuilt. 

Project promoted by / SourceCultural Preservation Programme of The Federal Foreign Office