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Architectural conservation alumna cited by UNESCO

Gesa Schwantes - The Science of Architectural Conservation

Gesa SchwantesMSc(Conservation) 2011

Gesa Schwantes, a member of the team working on a World Bank-funded conservation project in Guizhou Province, China, has been cited in a prestigious UNESCO award. The project won an Honourable Mention at the 2016 UNESCO Asia-Pacific Awards for Cultural Heritage Conservation.

 

The citation from the UNESCO website reads:

The World Bank loan Cultural and Natural Heritage Protection and Development Project - Liu Ancestral Hall Preservation and Renovation Project of Sanmentang Village, Tianzhu County, Guizhou province, China

The preservation of Liu Ancestral Hall is notable for the application of a rigorous scientific approach. Dating to the Qing Dynasty with further embellishment during the time of the Republic of China, the hall had declined into poor structural condition with damage to its surfaces, including its renowned decorative stucco façade. The project’s proponents successfully carried out non-intrusive investigation of the building fabric, systematic testing of possible solutions and meticulous conservation interventions. In reviving a significant historic building for on-going use by Dong ethnic group villagers and to attract outside visitors, the project contributes to a larger initiative to protect and promote Guizhou’s diverse cultural and natural heritage.

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“The project had started already in 2011 with preliminary investigations by the team I am working with at Tongji University in Shanghai, but I was mainly involved between 2014 and 2016,” Gesa, currently the Director of the Architectural Conservation Laboratory at the Faculty of Architecture, said.

 

According to Gesa, the main challenge facing all conservation projects in China and Hong Kong is the lack of understanding for material conservation. “This project included a number of instrumental analysis and testing. It also served as a pilot project in the region to demonstrate how important it is to include scientific analyses and in-depth studies of the original materials in order to find the best conservation treatment.” 

 

Gesa continues to promote the importance of material conservation. Currently she works mainly on completing the setting up and the opening of the Architectural Conservation Laboratory at the Faculty of Architecture, HKU. The new laboratory will allow the Division of Architectural Conservation Programmes to integrate more courses on material conservation, conservation science and instrumental analysis in the curriculum of the BA (Conservation) and MSc (Conservation) courses, and serve as a research and service laboratory for conservation projects in Hong Kong.

This project served as a pilot project in the region to demonstrate how important it is to include scientific analyses and in-depth studies of the original materials in order to find the best conservation treatment.

  • Gesa at the Liu Ancestral Hall, doing some trials with different lime based injection grouts at the façade
  • Liu Ancestral Hall Preservation and Renovation Project of Sanmentang Village
  • UNESCO award plaque, on which Gesa’s name is listed