It’s the largest religious monument in the world: Angkor Wat, which was designated a World Cultural Heritage site in 1992, to this very day testifies to the cultural golden age of the Khmer empire, which from the 9th to the 14th century was centred in Cambodia. Angkor Wat still stands as a prominent symbol of Cambodia’s cultural identity. It is even depicted on the Cambodian national flag and is one of the country’s most famous attractions.
However, due to the tropical climate, this important World Heritage site is constantly susceptible to weather damage. That is why the Federal Foreign Office has been supporting efforts to preserve the temple complex in Angkor for 20 years, providing 4 million euros to date to conservation measures conducted by TH Köln/University of Applied Sciences, in cooperation with the Cambodian heritage protection authority Apsara. This makes the German Apsara Conservation Project (GACP) the most comprehensive and longest running project of the Federal Foreign Office’s Cultural Preservation Programme. Through its worldwide involvement in the protection and maintenance of significant cultural heritage sites, Germany is making a crucial contribution to preserving cultural identities, promoting knowledge transfer and fostering intercultural dialogue.
In the Angkor temple complex, the fragile reliefs in particular, as well as the valuable sandstone, brick and stucco decorations are susceptible to weather damage. Since 1997, German conservation experts Hans Leisen and Esther von Plehwe-Leisen from TH Köln/University of Applied Sciences, in cooperation with the Cambodian heritage protection authority Apsara, have taken steps to document and investigate the weather damage and have conducted temple conservation work based on scientific methods. Measures to conserve sandstone, brick and stucco reliefs are being carried out by local restoration workers. To this end, the two German experts train Cambodian staff in conservation techniques and scientific working methods.
During the annual meeting of the International Coordinating Committee (ICC) in Angkor on 13 and 14 December 2017, Germany’s 20-year engagement was marked with a reception hosted by Ambassador Karsten and a symposium on the German Apsara Conservation Project. During the ICC, Apsara and TH Köln/University of Applied Sciences signed a Memorandum of Understanding outlining future cooperation, and the members of the Cambodian project team received certificates for their participation in the Project.