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Visiting Guatemala for the III International Workshop on Architectural Covers in Archaeological Contexts

From October 23 to 31, I joined WMF’s Director of Programs for Latin America, Spain, and Portugal on her trip to Guatemala for the 3rd International Workshop on Architectural Covers in Archaeological Contexts. Since 2009, WMF has organized two previous workshops that gather experts in the fields of archaeology, conservation, tourism, site management, and design. The goal of the workshop is to foster discussion on the highly debated subject of using protective covers at archaeological sites.
When a successful design is implemented, a cover can indeed help protect an archaeological monument for further exploration or visitor interpretation. However, in some cases the protective cover does not address the conservation needs of the site and can create a microclimate that actually exacerbates the deterioration of ancient remains.

Previous workshops were held in Palenque, Mexico, and Trujillo, Peru, and included visits to several WMF project sites, including Teotihuacan and Huaca de la Luna. This year’s workshop, hosted in Guatemala City, included visits to two WMF field project sites: Kaminaljuyu (a 2010 Watch site) and Quiriguá (a 2012 Watch site).

Four international architects with experience in protective covers design were invited to create proposals for Kaminaljuyu and Quiriguá in addition to two other sites: Yaxha in Guatemala, and Yaxchilán in Mexico. The archaeologist for these four sites presented the current conditions of each and its monuments as well as the pros and cons of the protective covers that have been used at the sites. Two additional case studies—El Mirador and Naranjo Sa’al in Guatemala—were presented.

During the site visits, it was interesting to notice what each architect focused on when examining the sites and their current protective covers. Whether the architects were looking at the materiality, the structural system, or the overall vision of the site, their respective areas of expertise came to light. It will be great to see how this influences the design approach for the proposals, which are being developed now. The design proposals and the discussions from the workshop will be included in a publication sponsored by Fomento Cultural Banamex that will be published in 2014.