39th Annual Meeting, ASG Morning Session, June 2nd, Student Papers “A Technical Study and Conservation Proposal for the Glass Mosaic Decoration of Villa Caparra in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico” by Yaritza Hernandez Nieves, University of Pennsylvania

I had never heard of the Villa Caparra before Yaritza’s talk.  Yet, after her presentation I was left with the urge to take a summer vacation to Puerto Rico to see this beautiful example of cement embedded glass mosaics; both for their personal design elements, and their intriguing conservation issues.  Yaritza presented her thesis from the University of Pennsylvania in which she ambitiously investigated the materials, fabrication, installation, and conservation issues associated with this 20th century architect’s designed home and studio.  What was once a showcase home, had become the victim of urban encroachment and overall neglect.  With a new interest by Puerto Rico in making this location a historic museum, Yaritza’s research and documentation will certainly ensure conservation intervention will be a success.


All of the mosaics were comprised of glass tesserae laid in a reinforced concrete substrate, which at the 1927 construction was a considered a modern material and new technique.   Yaritza surveyed the mosaics, classifying 3 types of flat glass used, their mosaic techniques, the location within the building’s structure, and the conditions of the glass in these areas.  As an objects conservator the amount of information from this survey seemed overwhelming at first, but Yaritza quantified her data with mapping software then combined XRF/SEM analysis to determine what the conservation problems [PHOTO] were, and her recommended for treatment.


The main damage was from the Portland cement substrate, whose caustic components were solubilizing the silica components of the glass.  This problem was only exacerbated by compression cracking and losses of the tesserae, which provided addition inlets and outlet s for water infiltration and evaporation. The movement of water resulted in the movement of the caustic cement components and ultimately the deterioration of the vitreous  glass.  Yaritza concluded by giving a few initial recommendations of conservation treatment [PHOTO] as well as avenues for additional research. This was a really a well researched paper that presented a wealth of research in a very limited talk time.  Well done Yaritza!  See you all in Puerto Rico soon!