The project of heritage conservation in Antigua was started in 2007, which was supported by Taiwan’s former vice-president. At beginning, two historical buildings in Antigua- Las Capuchinas and Sor Juana were chosen as our project. Las Capuchinas was finished in middle of 2008, because it was almost done before Taiwner’s participation. The other project–Sor Juana is a new project totally. Since I joined the team in late of 2009, the construction of Sor Juana was still in process. Hence I know the situation of Sor Juana more than Las Capuchinas.
Local team from Taiwan, organization between Taiwan and Guatemala
Including me, there are three taiwanese people in Antigua as a local team. One is co-director, urban planer and architect, who has studied in England and Belgian; the other is research assistant, who has studied urban plan in Taiwan and studied museum management in England; and I, architect from Taiwan and historical conservator from Germany. Our task is documenting the work of Sor Juana and informing the local problems to Taiwan’s embassy in Guatemala and cultural affair in Taiwan. We write blog to inform the up-dated information (http://antigua-gt.blogspot.com)
My task is documenting the construction work, writing daily, weekly report to cultural affair and embassy in Taiwan and editing final report, although the construction hasn’t finished now.
Besides local team, there are one director and the second co-director in Taiwan. They monitor our work and deal with the communication problem between local team and government in Taiwan.
In Guatemala there are five chairmen in this organization. They are dean of dept. architecture of university St. Carlos, general conservator of consejo (counselor is like a cultural affair in Antigua), mayor of Antigua, two vice-ministers of cultural ministry. Consejo in Antigua executes the conservation on historical site in Antigua. In our project, consejo is our direct contact person. They should designate a project-architect and execute the project for the restoration in Sor Juana.
Consejo has their workers with contracts who work only for the historical sites in Antigua. The advantage is: consejo trains the workers who should have more common sense for historical site. On the other hand, the disadvantage is: The workers could have no responsibility of deadline. Sometimes they didn’t work for receiving money or they went on strike for more salary. Those situations we couldn’t predict, as we started the project.
General introduction of Antigua Guatemala and Sor Juana
In 16 century, Spanish colony period, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Costa Rica were one Spanish province. The capital of the province is nowadays Antigua Guatemala. The meaning of Antigua is incomparable. The city was formed by natural—mountains and volcanos– and artificial site—urban planning. The urban planning was merged by block, which belonged to rich owners or convents in old period, of which street is east-west-north-south direction, in particular the famous mountain-volcano– Auqa de Volcano–directly in north to help the passengers to recognize the direction. According to Antigua city plan regulation, most buildings should be one-floor with wooden door. Walking on the street, the historical buildings and the volcanos embody the unique scene of Antigua Guatemala. If it is possible to visit the courtyard inside a building, a different world would be discovered—a courtyard with graceful fountain, tropical green and characteristic colonnade with timber columns.
The original area of Sor Juana sited one block in Antigua. Sor Juana is a name of a wealthy woman, who hasn’t married. Her father built a convent and named for her. According to changing time, the block was divided by different owners. Currently the rest area of Sor Juana in our project is a building with two-courtyard area. The original main entrance is occupied by the other owner, hence the main entrance nowadays is the rest area, that is divided by different owners.
The Building is Spanish colonial baroque style. Some ruins, like bathrooms with decoration and original color, remain very well. As we executed the project, due to some unanticipated reasons most ruins were not be restored and kept in mono-color.
Sor Juana contains not only the architectural ruins, that were seen now, but also archaeological sites under the ground. The period and the value of finds can not be recognized with less information at present. As the result many sites were refilled underground.
The constructional tradition, like brick wall, timber or the mixture of “mezcla” in Guatemala, keeps very well. Perhaps their industrialization grows slowly or their cultural personality. Some researches indicate that their work at the moment can be traced back to Spanish colonial period, less changed.
Besides tradition, I really aware, that glass and mental, those industrial products, should be handled by high technology. Why I aware that, because of a little story. At first their design would put some tempered glass bridge and box to show an archaeological site underground, but for applying on construction, the area of designed glass is smaller and smaller. Some areas, which should be designed with tempered glass, were covered transparency acrylic sheet. The reason is: tempered glass is expensive from import. From it, I learned, how treasure and high technology of glass and mental are, what is different between industrial and non-industrial country.
One international project could not be prevented to relate the budget and the administrative procedure between countries. Sometimes it seems that the theme of international heritage conservation spends more time to deal with administrative affairs, transfer money and considering the change of the local politics and politicians but less professional aspects on heritages.
At beginning of the project, the role of local team from Taiwan in Antigua was discussed. Because of cultural and technical difference, local team on construction is not similar to a supervisor, but treated as a recorder/ informer/ observer. When the construction process is delay, local team has no right to encourage the process faster. If the project-architect from Guatemala was changed by consejo, due to change of politicians, or if the result of restoration is unacceptable, local team can just tell the wish but cannot change the conclusion of consejo.
There is a similar institution—Spanish cultural center—in Antigua. The center is cooperation between Antigua city and Andalusia, an autonomous community of Spain. The center sited in a church in Antigua, conserves the church, consults with mayor of Antigua to keep the right to manage the place and trains local students for conservational technology. The administrative level is city and autonomous community.
Besides work I learned Spanish. Thanks to my German language basement, I learn Spanish faster. Not only the language, but also the local people, the character between Guatemala and German is different. The Guatemala People, so called Guatemaltecos, like to close to people, even foreigner. They like talk to me, even my Spanish is not very good or I can’t answer or understand them, but they don’t care about it. For this reason I have many chances to practice my Spanish. The people are like the weather, warm, stable and fair, not too hot or cold. That is why, many European like to travel or learn Spanish in Guatemala.
For achieving of international cooperation on heritage conservation, it is possible to narrow the area of work. That could be shorted the construction time and less consideration of changing politicians or policies, if a politic of a country is not easily predicted.
Firm leaders or a systematic execution process should be more powerful to conduct a project until end.
Our cultural affair thought that the problem of our project is the higher administrative level (country to country). Maybe the execution between cities like Guatemala and Spain would be better. But I think that the problem is less authority to conduct, to manage and to control.
Even it is difficult to deal with diplomacy and administrative proces
s for Taiwan, but Taiwan’s first international participation on heritage conservation is meaningful.