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An Overview of the Restoration of the Central Tower of East Gopura IV at Preah Khan

At the end of November 2014, the WMF team in Cambodia successfully completed the structural stabilization of the central tower of the East Gopura in the fourth enclosure wall at Preah Khan, a temple in the Angkor Archaeological Park where WMF has worked since 1989.

A few years ago the team observed that, likely due to foundation movements, some of the corner stones at the base of the tower where the corbel arches spring were completely missing. Additionally, other stone units were dangerously tilting and large open gaps could be observed at several locations. The team determined that this situation posed a threat to the tower's stability.

WMF began a restoration project at the site in July 2012. While dismantling the central tower, the team discovered that most of the existing stones up to the corbel arches were cracked; therefore they had to be replaced with new ones to guarantee proper support. In addition, stainless steel plates were inserted in these corner blocks to improve load distribution from the tower and to prevent these stones from failing again in the future. The blocks belonging to the tower were cleaned, repaired if necessary, and documented before being set back to their original position. As a result of the collaboration with an international structural engineer, it was decided to insert a stainless steel wire inside the stone units at every course of the tower to prevent the blocks from spreading and to ensure the tower moved as a single unit. The introduction of new materials such as stainless steel cable and plates is completely reversible. A very limited amount of new stones have been installed to replace damaged and missing ones, thus keeping the tower as authentic as possible.

For the dismantling and reassembly of the blocks, a lifting hoist was connected to a “bridge” structure set on top of the tower to allow the stone units to be moved from one side to another with ease.

The work will serve as a reference for the south tower of the East Gopura IV, which presents comparable issues and will be restored in the coming months.