With nearly 19 years of dedication to the work of preserving Hue heritage, Andrea Teufel – a German Expert in Preservation and Restoration considers Hue to be her second home.
As one of Germany’s leading experts in the preservation and restoration of Hue’s cultural heritage, Mrs. Teufel and her colleagues won the Third Prize of the Technical Innovation Competition of Thua Thien Hue province, and won the Third Award in the National Science and Technology Innovation Award in 2018. Besides, Mrs. Teufel was honored as one of the typical scientific and technological intellectuals of Thua Thien Hue province in 2019.
On the occasion of the Lunar New Year 2022, Mrs. Teufel and the Union of Science and Technology Associations of Thua Thien Hue province had an open conversation.
Andrea Teufel was awarded the title of Typical Scientific and Technological Intellectuals in Thua Thien Hue province in 2019
1. Hi Mrs. Teufel, can you introduce the readers of Hue Union of Science and Technology Newsletter about your life and work in Vietnam?
In 2003 I first came to Hue to work on the frescoes in An Dinh Palace. This project is supported by the German Foreign Ministry’s cultural preservation program. It’s been nearly 19 years now. Since then, Germany has continued to support the cooperation projects of the Hue Monuments Conservation Center and the Association for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage (GEKE) in their efforts to preserve Hue as a world heritage city. There have been five projects so far, each with a different topic and content. All of the projects, however, are founded on the same concept of transferring theoretical and practical knowledge of a science-based and experimental approach to conservation and restoration to Vietnamese project participants.
What began as a brief three-month mission in an Asian city in the Far East has changed my life profoundly in that this place has become the focus of my life and work over the years. As a European lady, it is difficult to comprehend Asian culture, particularly Vietnamese culture, and even more so Hue culture. I’m currently living with my husband Leopold, he moved here from France ten years ago, and with our 16-year-old Vietnamese dog Loulou. We really enjoyed our stay here on the banks of the Perfume River.
2. Can you share with us some of your contributions to Huế over the course of many projects to preserve and restore Huế heritage. Through the projects that you have participated in, what has piqued your interest the most?
Andrea Teufel and her Dien Phung Tien Project team
For me, Hue holds a wide variety of extremely interesting fields of work and challenges. The area of tension can be defined in the great difficulty of preserving transient materials and the architectural works with such materials in a climate that favors decay as well as the demands and effects of enormous influxes of tourists. My primary concern in my preservation and restoration research and work is how unique, sensitive cultural heritage sites and monuments may endure this stress while remaining genuinely preserved and presented to visitors in an outstanding and interesting manner. For example, my Vietnamese colleagues and I have developed an adequate authentic approach for restoring traditional Vietnamese lime plaster and decoration techniques found particularly in the Nguyen Dynasty architectural heritage in Hue, this process took many years. We were awarded the 3rd Innovation Prize by HUSTA and VUSTA in 2019 for this work and how we convey this method to project participants in a sustainable manner.
3. You’ve been working on conserving and restoring the ancient capital’s heritage for more than 18 years. We know you’ve been residing in Hue for such a long time, and you must have participated in a number of traditional Vietnamese Tet holidays (Lunar New Year). What do you feel about Tet holiday in Vietnam?
The longer I live in Vietnam, the more I realize how significant the Tet Festival is to the Vietnamese. All of them have gathered in their ancestral home, the heart of their families. The previous year’s experiences and events, as well as ambitions and goals for the coming year, are discussed. Traditional dishes are prepared, offered to each other and enjoyed, and according to pre-determined rites, important people are visited and welcomed. The typically fast-moving wheels come to a halt for a moment, and people take time for encounters and fun. That reminds me of the days in the West between Christmas and New Year. The previous weeks’ chaotic hurried preparations give way to a comfortable relaxation as the new year begins. And it’s the same in Germany. For me it is a beautiful, significant, and extremely precious period.
4. How does your family celebrate traditional Tet holiday in Huế?
To be honest, for us, the days between Christmas and New Year are always more important than Tet. Certainly because these holidays are deeply rooted in our experiences and our family doesn’t reside in Vietnam either. We will, however, meet up with friends on Tet. For the upcoming Tet holiday, we have designed a game based on traditional motifs of Nguyen Dynasty art, which will make an interesting contribution to the preservation of this ever-living cultural heritage.
5. What are your plans for next year?
We’ll keep working on our current project, the restoration and development of the Dien Phung Tien area in the Imperial City, which will endure from 2017 to 2026. We’re breaking new ground again. We will maintain the ruins, restore the preserved architecture, and use artistical digital projections to present what has not been saved utilizing historical evidence on site. As a result, Phung Tien Temple will be interesting and can be experienced in the future.
And then I’m also looking forward to seeing Germany again after 2.5 years away due to Covid, and to finally hugging my family, especially holding my 77-year-old mother in my arms.
*Thank you for the interview
Hoang Thi Thuy Tien
International Cooperation Section – HUSTA