The 10-year restoration of the G towers, part of the UNESCO-recognized My Son relic, which opened to the public late last month, created a school where dozens of farmers learn the restoration techniques and come to treasure their hometown’s relic, and young local architects master their skills.
Working together with the three Italian experts, namely Dr. Mauro Cucarzi, Dr. Patrizia Zolese and senior preservation architect Mara Landoni are several young local architects and dozens of workers who were farmers living in the proximity of the relic.
After ten years working on the site, the farmers have now become highly skilled excavation and restoration workers.
“With many excavation layers, we’re only allowed to use trowels and our hands only to dig. Our job looks easy but in fact it is quite tough as it requires great caution, meticulousness and patience when working with the delicate fragments and items,” shared Vo Van Sau, 46, one of the group leaders.
The seemingly tedious job soon aroused in them the love for their hometown’s relic and the significance of what they were doing also sank in.
“When we recovered an artifact, even a brick, we were enlightened and intrigued by Dr. Zolese’s explanations. That’s why we kept trying to improve our skills and gradually grew attached to the job,” shared a worker.
The workers’ farming experience also helped with the restoration.
“The experts told us to apply rang oil to hold bricks together without mortar, as the ancient Cham people did. From our farming experience, we suggested that rang oil be boiled so that the bricks would adhere much better. The idea just clicked,” shared 50-year-old group leader Nguyen Van Nam.
The farmers-turned-restorers also got to know the ancient Cham people’s techniques and even tricks.
“We felt much closer to them as if we were contemporaries,” said another group leader Vo Van Hai.
“We used to laugh at those traveling a long way just to admire the towers. Now we understand why and are happy to help restore the relic in our hometown,” he shared.
The team is also sent to help restore the Cham towers in other provinces, like the Binh Lam tower in northern Binh Dinh province.
Young local architects also benefit greatly from the restoration. Among them was To Chi Vinh, who worked for five years at the site.
“I learned a great deal from the Italian experts as well as seasoned local architects here. Initially I encountered considerable difficulties, but later overcame them,” said 35-year-old Vinh, who quit his job at a big construction company to take part in the restoration of the towers, which are only 10 km from his home.
According to architect Dang Khanh Ngoc, who was in charge of the G towers, formal training in restoration remains inadequate, with only the Relic Preservation Institute trying to open classes while universities haven’t offered the subject.
The restoration site of the Cham’s G towers thus served as a restoration school, where they sharpen their skills and nurture and celebrate their love for the relic.