Angkor Wat – the largest and best known temple complex in Cambodia. It's outward
proportions may be gigantic, but up close it's very delicate indeed. Angkor Wat is a symbol
of the glory days of the Khmer Empire, but time has left its mark and the temples are in
danger of disintegrating. Something is being done to prevent that however, and the
Germans are also helping. Here at the entrance portal, staff of the German Apsara
Conservation Project, or GACP for short, are busy preserving the surface. Environmental
influences and bad restoration work are threatening the structure. Just cleaning it is a
complex task.
O-TON Luy Sophors, GACP Site Manager:
«Here you see the final section of our conservation. Before we had to fill in water, in the
end we want to fill all the small cracks. There are really complicated cracks here, so we
had to apply a washing water and then we had to wait finally. We only want to close all the
small cracks here not the whole surface.»
The workers' aim is to remain as true to the original as possible. That requires a lot of
researching, sifting and mixing – in their own laboratory. Because there's sand, and sand.
O-TON Luy Sophors, GACP Site Manager:
«This is not clean enough. So we are sieving and sieving again, until we have the size we
need.»
The work is documented in minute detail and project manager Hans Leisen in Germany
regularly receives reports.
O-TON Prof. Hans Leisen, Project Manager:
“We started out very small, and took on Cambodian workers for the first time in 1997,
training them in special conservation techniques, and slowly building up the whole
infrastructure that you need.“
Hans Leisen frequently travels to the site with a team of students, to oversee the work and
train new Cambodian employees. 15 locals are currently working on the temple itself.
They're financed by the German Foreign Office, within the framework of its cultural
conservation programme.
O-TON Prof. Hans Leisen, Project Manager:
“It creates a real connection. Our people are particularly proud that they're learning skills
which will help to preserve the temple, skills that are very advanced as well. That means
they're not just workers, they are conservators or restorers, who learn very special
techniques and methods, and learn how to handle materials that are a bit tricky.“
The work being done on Angkor Wat is the work of a generation, as well as a model of
success. The German Apsara Conservation Project is one of the government's most
successfull cultural projects. And it's about much more than preserving a building