Senior Project Specialist Field Projects

Conservation image

A native of Belgium, Françoise Descamps grew up in the small village of Tertre near the city of Mons. For many generations her father's family had been builders, and at the age of seven, she decided to become an architect. She retained this interest into college and received a degree in architecture from the Institut Supérieur d'Architecture St. Luc in Belgium, where she also studied art history and developed a special fascination for architectural art nouveau.

During her fourth year of college, she met Professor Raymond Lemaire—a meeting that sparked in Françoise an abiding interest in conservation and urbanism. While pursuing a postgraduate degree in monuments and sites conservation at what is now the Catholic University of Leuven, she worked for Lemaire on several projects. Even later in her career, after becoming a conservation consultant, she periodically collaborated with him on projects, including one in the late 1980s involving the historic center of Quito, Ecuador.

In the early 1980s, Françoise was on staff at UNESCO, working on the conservation of the World Heritage site of Gorée Island in Senegal. In the mid-1980s, as an architectural consultant, she worked on conservation assignments in the Republic of the Congo, the Republic of Benin, and Haiti. During the early and mid-1990s, her projects for GCI, UNESCO, ICOMOS, and the government of Ecuador involved architecture, conservation, and planning. A multiyear project for the Fondation Roi Baudoiun in Belgium was of particular interest to her—a public awareness and conservation effort focused on the preservation of wall paintings in the Brussels region.

As coordinator of a proposal for the master plan for Angkor, Françoise got a taste for archaeological site conservation. In 1997 she accepted a staff position at the GCI , because of the opportunity to manage the Institute's Maya Initiative (her long interest in the region dated to a storybook on the Maya she read in childhood). Her field projects at the GCI have also included the retablo of the Santo Domingo Church in Yanhuitlán, Mexico, and mosaics in situ. Her interests today reside primarily in site and regional management. She likes grappling with balancing conservation and development and seeking a better understanding of the impact of conservation on the social environment.