High in the Peruvian Andes sits the Comunidad Campesina Kuñotambo, a small, remote village founded in the 17th century. As in many places in Peru, the majority of Kuñotambo’s buildings are made of the earth they stand on. These mud-brick (adobe) structures are also known as earthen architecture and can be found all over the world.
Earthen buildings are vulnerable to earthquakes, and this village has suffered many. Over time, these earthquakes seriously damaged its beautiful historic church, considered the heart and soul of Kuñotambo. In 2005, the church was forced to shutter altogether.
Last summer, the residents of Kuñotambo celebrated the reopening and rededication of their much-loved church after years of painstaking conservation work led by the Getty Conservation Institute and the Dirección Desconcentrada de Cultura de Cusco. The techniques used in this case study project demonstrate how earthen structures can withstand earthquakes, and has relevance in many other places that commonly use earth as a building material.
Watch the story of the road to conservation and the reopening celebration
In the year since the church reopened, it has been used regularly for mass and baptisms, and locals have equipped the space with an audio system and additional benches to accommodate worshippers. At Christmas, the church hosted the children of Kuñotambo for a community celebration, and there have been organized visits from Kuñotambinos living in the city of Cusco as well.
The Conservation Institute continues to work with project partners in the area, and is currently developing a monitoring and maintenance plan for the church that will be a model for similar structures. It is now tackling another project in Peru, this time at the Cathedral of Ica. You can read more here about this project as well as Getty’s ongoing work to retrofit buildings like these for earthquakes.