The Cultural Preservation Programme of the Federal Foreign Office has been funding a project to conserve and restore the highly endangered murals of Wat Si Saket since 2011. A comprehensive conservation and restoration concept was drawn up in late 2013 on the basis of detailed inventories, examinations of damage and its causes, testing of measures and sample sections. Work on the project began in the summer of 2014.
Now a museum and a Buddhist monastery, Wat Si Saket is of particular importance to the Lao capital Vientiane as a major national monument. Built between 1819 and 1824 as a monastery for King Anouvong, it was the only building to survive the Siamese invasions of the 19th century that led to the city remaining uninhabited for 73 years. Today it contains over 300 large statues of the Buddha from the 15th to the 19th centuries, as well as unique murals from the 19th and 20th centuries. Comprehensive restoration work on the buildings began in 2011, which marked the 450th anniversary of Vientiane.
When the project began, there was an urgent need to take action, but a lack of expertise on the highly complicated conservation and restoration of the murals in the temple and colonnade. The aim of the project is thus to conserve the murals while training Lao artists in restoration work. The project team has long-standing experience of this type of project from the five similar cultural preservation projects it has conducted in the neighbouring country of Viet Nam.
The Lao cooperation partners are the Ministry for Information, Culture and Tourism and the City of Vientiane. The project is being carried out by the Society for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage (GEKE). Andrea Teufel, a trained restorer, is the project manager.