Lessons from La Frontera: Conserving Earthen Architecture in the U.S./ Mexico Borderland

December 9, 11:00 am – 12:00 pm

Lessons from La Frontera: Conserving earthen architecture in the U.S./Mexico borderland

By Alex B. Lim

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The Sonoran Desert has been home to diverse cultures. Many tangible remains of the interactions between them remain in the landscape in various stages of decay. In this talk, the author will share his observations on conserving these remains as a newcomer to the region and how his border experience has shaped his understanding of American culture and his role as an architectural conservator.

Alex B. Lim specializes in the conservation of architecture and archaeological sites and is based in Arizona. As a conservator, he is educated and has experience in environmental monitoring, site recording, conditions assessment, and intervention. Through close working relationships with indigenous people at respective sites, he has insights into and appreciation for sustainable conservation practice that is particularly needed in times of climate change and in traditional societies experiencing societal and cultural pressure for adaptation. Since 2012, he has worked on conserving earthen buildings and their remains in the border region of the U.S.-Mexico, focusing on Hispanic and Native American heritage on both sides of the border. He is particularly engaged with Tohono O’odhams, Pascua Yaquis and Comcaacs (Seris), who also call the Sonoran Desert their home. In 2009, he won an outstanding thesis award for his study on the use of soil and vegetation to protect the exposed masonry wall tops at archaeological sites as a sustainable alternative to crack-prone cementitious hard caps. His method, developed during his time at the Center for Architectural Conservation at the University of Pennsylvania, was applied at the archaeological site of Gordion, Turkey withhelp from the community. He regularly initiates public outreach through hands-on workshops, tours, and internship programs to advocate for heritage stewardship. Prior to Arizona, he has worked on archeological sites of the arid climate in the U.S. Southwest and in the Mediterranean/Middle East. He holds MS in historic preservation from the University of Pennsylvania and BA in natural sciences from the Johns Hopkins University.

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