Posts tagged with "UNESCO":

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AIA urges Trump Administration not to withdraw from UNESCO

On October 12, the Trump administration announced that the United States would withdraw from UNESCO, the United Nations agency responsible for the designation of World Heritage Sites. The American Institute of Architects (AIA) has issued a public statement that decries this decision. In the statement, AIA president Thomas Vonier advocated for the World Heritage Sites program, which is important to architects because it "seeks to identify and preserve buildings and places of exceptional importance to humankind." He also noted that UNESCO had recently partnered with the International Union of Architects on a new project to select an annual World Capital of Architecture. This project, he argued, makes UNESCO's mission to support architectural heritage all the more critical. "The AIA urges the Administration to lends its support to this initiative," he concluded. UNESCO–short for the United National Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization–protects over 1,000 sites of architectural, natural, and cultural importance. Once selected, World Heritage Sites are demarcated and protected as landmarks. The United States is home to 23 of these sites, including the Statue of Liberty, the San Antonio Missions, Independence Hall, and Yellowstone National Park. The Trump Administration chose to withdraw from the global initiative citing "the need for fundamental reform in the organization, and continuing anti-Israel bias" as its reasoning. The bias mentioned is likely in reference to UNESCO's recognition of Hebron as a Palestinian World Heritage Site earlier this summer. With Hebron's addition, Palestine now hosts three World Heritage Sites (all of which are considered endangered by UNESCO), as compared to the nine in Israel (none of which are). The United States has not been able to vote in UNESCO procedures since 2013, when the Obama Administration cut funding for the organization. This cut was in direct reaction to UNESCO's recognition of the first World Heritage Sites in Palestine. The U.S. government hasn't entirely separated themselves from the organization. Instead, they plan to adopt the role of a "non-member observer state" in continued engagement with UNESCO. In this capacity, they will remain involved only to offer American perspectives on the organization's undertakings. The withdrawal takes full effect on December 31, 2018.
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Trump pulls U.S. out of UNESCO, citing anti-Israel bias

Today the Trump administration announced the United States will leave UNESCO, the United Nations development agency, over the organization's alleged “anti-Israel bias.”

Leaving UNESCO might seem like typical Trump isolationism, but the U.S.'s beef with the organization goes back to previous administrations. After UNESCO accepted Palestinians as full members in 2011, the New York Times reported that the Obama administration axed its funding. With no funds forthcoming, the U.S. lost its vote in the agency in 2013.

The State Department briefly outlined its reasoning in a press release: "This decision was not taken lightly, and reflects U.S. concerns with mounting arrears at UNESCO, the need for fundamental reform in the organization, and continuing anti-Israel bias at UNESCO."

The Israel controversy re-ignited this summer after UNESCO named Hebron's city center a Palestinian World Heritage Site. The city, one of the world's oldest, sits in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

UNESCO, officially the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, is known mainly for naming and overseeing World Heritage Sites, a list that includes over 1,000 protected natural and built environments of great importance to humanity. In the U.S., listed sites include the Statue of Liberty and Independence Hall, as well as national parks like Yellowstone and Yosemite. Worldwide, UNESCO also promotes education, gender equity initiatives, access to culture and science, and the pursuit of liberal democratic ideals like freedom of expression.

The U.S. will withdraw on December 31, 2018, but will remain active in the group as a nonmember observer.

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Machado Silvetti’s camouflaged desert fort addition

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How can you create an architecture that hides in plain sight? This was the task of architects at Boston-based Machado Silvetti who recently completed an adaptive reuse and addition to a historic fort and grounds within the city of Al Ain, about 100 miles south of Dubai on the border between United Arab Emirates and Oman. The project provides an exhibition facility that will help to preserve, and provide access to, collections relating to Gulf history.
  • Facade Manufacturer Josef Gartner GmbH
  • Architects Machado Silvetti
  • Facade Installer Josef Gartner GmbH
  • Facade Consultants Adams Kara Taylor Facade (facade consultant); Simpson Gumpertz and Heger; Atelier Ten (MEP)
  • Location Al Ain, Abu Dhabi, UAE
  • Date of Completion phase 1: 2011; phase 2: ongoing
  • System Structurally glazed double wall
  • Products Somfy Systems (vertical blinds); Luxar (glazing)
The architects said the addition is clad entirely in glass, with a floor plate that hovers slightly above the desert sands to offer unobstructed views of the landscape while lightly bearing on the land. “When you are inside the fort, what you get is a square cut out of the sky,” said Jorge Silvetti, principal at Machado Silvetti in an interview published on the firm’s website. “It has this emptiness which is so moving and beautiful. The idea was that whatever we put there [within the fort] should interfere in the least possible way with this emptiness even as we knew we had to locate a building in some of this open space.” This realization led to a design concept of “camouflaging” new program—through the use of minimal form, materiality, and detailing—to minimize the physical and visual impact. To achieve this effect, Silvetti said careful attention was paid to the detailing of elements like a ramping entry sequence. A thin slab pierced with lighting and bracketed by handrail posts set outboard of the walking surface establishes a visual effect of “floating” over the site. This was also a response, in part, to a requirement that the addition should respect the archaeology of the historic site. “We could not dig beyond about twenty centimeters into the earth, so really, there are almost no foundations!” Glass construction in a harsh desert climate, where temperatures regularly exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit, led to numerous technical challenges for the design team. The architects sited the building along the Fort’s south wall which provided shade for most of the day, with the exception of some morning sun. Working with Atelier Ten, Machado Silvetti studied the building’s responsiveness to the environment through digital modeling and analysis, identifying areas of the facade exposed to a significant amount of solar radiation. These areas were managed with a combination of double-glazing, low-e coatings, and sensored interstitial blinds within the cavity, to filter UV light and infrared radiation. The double-glazed facade is mechanically ventilated through a clever detail that introduces air underneath the floor. The air is passively cooled under the slab prior to circulating throughout the cavity of the double skin wall. Automated blinds, installed within the cavity, provide an additional layer of solar protection. In addition to the double glazed facade, glass is employed nearly everywhere that can be seen—in the guardrails, floors, and ceilings. “Even if it's not physically true, glass gives you the feeling of coolness, of cold; glass is a cold material. It is the opposite of a warm material... the opposite of wood, certainly the opposite of mud,” said Silvetti. “And for once, the coldness of a space was something that could be understood as good—psychologically.”
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Detroit Design Festival announces events schedule

The Detroit Creative Corridor Center (DC3) has announced the schedule for the sixth-annual Detroit Design Festival (DDF). Entitled “Designing Detroit’s Future,” this year’s festival will highlight the city’s recent designation as a UNESCO City of Design. One of 22 cities named City of Design, Detroit is the only U.S. city with this designation, bestowed last December. “We are thrilled to host the Detroit Design Festival celebrating our new designation, Detroit City of Design,” said Melinda Anderson, DDF Creative Director. “[the festival] will also incorporate a new Design Summit where local and international leaders will help us further embrace and promote the design strength that resides in Detroit.” The five-day festival, open from September 21 to 25, will span across the city with installations, talks, and interactive events. Before the full festival, though, a UNESCO City of Design event will be held on September 8. This will include a design crawl through some of the city’s many design studios. The full festival will include discussions and lectures at University of Detroit Mercy, University of Michigan, and Lawrence Technological University, as well as nightly performances throughout the city. Daylong workshops and demonstrations will also be happening each day of the festival. Wayne State University and the Museum of Contemporary Art will be hosting events and installations, while corporate sponsors Lear, Chrysler, and Ford will also host events throughout the week. Detroit Creative Corridor Center, the festival's presenting sponsor, is a partnership between Business Leaders for Michigan and College for Creative Studies. The mission of DC3 is to encourage economic development through Detroit’s creative sector. Since its inception, the Detroit Design Festival has hosted more than 500 design events in over 150 venues throughout the city. More than 100,000 attendees have engaged with fashion shows, lectures, installations, and exhibitions. For more on the Detroit Design Festival, visit their website.
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Jill Magid transforms Luis Barragán’s ashes into a two-carat diamond

In her latest multimedia work, American artist Jill Magid has converted the cremated ashes of Pritzker Prize-winning Mexican architect Luis Barragán into a two-carat diamond. The Proposal, as the overall work is known, incorporates Magid’s long-running engagement with public access, institutionalized power, and artistic legacy by orchestrating a trade between the Mexican government, Barragán’s estate, and Federica Zanco, Director of the Barragán Foundation, in order to return a key component of Barragán’s archives back to his native Mexico. Barragán originally divided up his archives into two separate components. One, consisting of his home in Mexico, the UNESCO World Heritage Site Casa Barragán, and personal archives, remains intact in the architect’s home country. The second, a professional archive including rights to his name, works, and all photographs taken of his architecture, were purchased by Chairman and heir of Swiss furniture company Vitra Rolf Fehlbaum in 1995 as an engagement present for Zanco, then his girlfriend, and have been stored out of public view in a vault in Switzerland ever since. Magid’s work pivots on the artist’s ability to strategically cultivate personal relationships with wealth and power in order to subvert the structures of corporate ownership. In a press release for the project, Magid explained the impetus for the work: “What happens to an artist’s legacy when it is owned by a corporation and subject to a country’s laws where none of his architecture exists? Who can access it? Who can’t?” The Proposal was commissioned by San Francisco Art Institute (SFAI) and exists as an art exhibition curated by Hesse McGraw, SFAI Vice President for Exhibitions and Public Programs. Magid’s work is currently on view at Kunst Halle Sankt Gallen in St. Gallen, Switzerland until August 21, 2016 after which it will make its American debut at SFAI on September 9, 2016. The Proposal will also be presented at the Oslo Architecture Triennale 2016, opening on Sept 8, 2016.
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Oscar Niemeyer’s Pampulha Modern Ensemble added to UNESCO World Heritage List

The Pampulha Modern Ensemble, designed by Oscar Niemeyer, is among UNESCO's most recent additions to their World Heritage List. The project is representative of Niemeyer's contributions to 20th century architecture and a historically important example of modernism. Constructed around the man-made Lake Pampuhla in Brazil, the Pampuhla Modern Ensemble is a collection of leisure buildings built as part of an initiative to develop a suburban neighborhood around the lake. The complex includes a ballroom, yacht club, casino, a church, and a weekend retreat for the mayor. Pampuhla was one of Niemeyer's first projects, developed in 1940 when the architect was 33 years old. In fact, many consider it to be the first major example of modernism in the country by any architect. For the landscape of the complex, Niemeyer collaborated with landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx, the first of several collaborations between the two pioneers of the modernist movement in Brazil. The buildings in the complex exemplify several of the design principles indicative of Niemeyer's work. One is the use of curved rather than straight lines, as seen in the domed cathedral and the freeform shapes of the ballroom. Another is the use of reinforced concrete as a building material, especially on the cathedral, which was considered innovative at the time. Its inclusion in an exhibit of Brazilian architecture at the MoMA brought the project international acclaim. Almost 50 years later, in 1988, Niemeyer was the recipient of the Pritzker Prize. His most famous work is within the city of Brasilia, which was founded in 1960 as the new capital of Brazil. Here Niemeyer designed the Cathedral of Brasilia as well as its Congress building and the Palacio de Planalto, the president's workplace. Brasilia is also a designated World Heritage Site, and the cathedral is especially considered to be a masterpiece. Niemeyer's work at Pampuhla, in fact, led to the architect working on Brasilia later in his career. The Pampuhla project was started by the mayor of Belo Horizonte, Juscelino Kubitschek, who would go on to be President of Brazil from 1956-1961. As president, Kubitschek would be responsible for the construction of Brasilia, and for hiring Niemeyer and urban planner Lucio Costa for its design. According to UNESCO, the project is a significant example of Niemeyer's ability to blend modernist architectural principles with the project's location, and shows the influence of Brazil's distinct climate and culture. Niemeyer was heavily influenced by Le Corbusier, whose work was also included on the World Heritage List in the latest round of additions.
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Chandigarh and sixteen other Le Corbusier projects are now UNESCO World Heritage Sites

On Sunday, UNESCO designated 17 works of Le Corbusier—in Argentina, Belgium, France, Germany, India, Japan, and Switzerland—to be on their World Heritage List. One of the sites included in the designation is the capital complex in the city of Chandigarh in India, for which Le Corbusier designed the master plan and several key buildings such as the courthouse and university. His plans continued the work started by American planner Albert Mayer, who left the project in 1950 when his partner, Matthew Nowicki, died in a plane crash. Chandigarh was completed in 1960 and is still the capital city of the state of Punjab. As a whole, the 17 sites included in the UNESCO designation are a testament to Le Corbusier’s influence on 20th century architecture and urban planning. Also included are the iconic Unite d’Habitation de Marseille and the National Museum of Western Art in Tokyo. In 2015, the BBC ran an article calling Chandigarh “the perfect city.” A large "Open Hand" sculpture on the site is a testament to the architect's philosophy of peace and unity. However, like most of Le Corbusier’s work, it has had its share of critics. The site also faces preservation issues. The new UNESCO designation will help protect the architect’s work and preserve his legacy for future generations. More details on the new Le Corbusier UNESCO World Heritage Sites can be found here.
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How architects and artists turned an urban dump in Chile into a performance space

Sitio Eriazo—a Chilean collective of recent graduates from theater, art, and architecture schools—worked with the Oslo School of Architecture and Design's Scarcity and Creativity Studio to recover an abandoned urban space in Valparaíso, Chile. First, the team cleared waste to attract less vermin, and provisional closures were installed in the four points of street access. Then, the Wave—a flexible performance space for theater, circus, and music—was installed. Wooden stairs and seating sit upon staggered ribs and beams. Underneath of the undulating seating is a semi-shaded space where food is grown, prepared, and distributed to audience members. Currently, Sitio Eriazo's audiences reach up to 100 people. The Wave is also a space for workshops and community projects. Sitio Eriazo uses workshops to promote art and cultural activities and to strengthen Valparaíso's local identity.  In 2003, Valparaíso was titled a UNESCO World Heritage Site. UNESCO described Valparaíso as, “In its natural amphitheatre-like setting, the city is characterized by a vernacular urban fabric adapted to the hillsides that are dotted with a great variety of church spires. It contrasts with the geometrical layout utilized in the plain. The city has well preserved its interesting early industrial infrastructures, such as the numerous ‘elevators’ on the steep hillsides.” Sitio Eriazo and the Scarcity and Creativity Studio not only recovered Valparaíso’s heritage within an abandoned lot but have made it a tool for cultural growth.
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Detroit the first U.S. city to be named a UNESCO City of Design

Detroit has joined 16 other cities designated by UNESCO as a City of Design as part of its Creative Cities Network. Detroit is the first U.S. city to be named a City of Design, and one of only five other cities in the U.S. to be inducted into the Creative Cities Network. Detroit’s application for inclusion in the UNESCO program was submitted by the Detroit Creative Corridor Center (DC3), the creative industries advocacy organization responsible for the Detroit Design Festival. Detroit has seen a renaissance in its downtown, as it draws on its own historical background as a city of design and manufacturing. According to DC3, “Metropolitan Detroit is home to the highest number of commercial and industrial designers in the country.” This results in the creative fields being the third largest employer in Detroit, only behind healthcare and general business, with over 12,300 individuals working in the creative fields. As part of the application DC3 produced a film with local director/filmmaker Stephen McGee to highlight the diverse breadth of the Detroit design scene. The short film includes scenes of the much talked about Detroit watch makers Shinola, the quickly revitalizing Detroit Riverfront, Detroit-based architecture firm LAAVU, and the much lauded College of Creative Studies, along with over 40 other architectural and design highlights from around the city. https://vimeo.com/140651533 Founded in 2004, the UNESCO Creative Cities Network’s goal is to “promote cooperation with and among cities that have identified creativity as a strategic factor for sustainable urban development.” Along with design UNESCO recognizes cities for six other fields including Crafts & Folk Art, Film, Gastronomy, Literature, Music and Media Arts. Detroit joins 116 other cities, including this year’s class of 47 cities from 33 countries, as part of the Creative Cities Network.
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Why critics are skeptical of renovations bringing eternal youth to Chartres Cathedral

In 2009, the French Ministry of Culture began an $18 million restoration of the medieval Chartres Cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage Site 50 miles southwest of Paris. By 2017, the Gothic structure is intended to look similar to the original 1194–1250 construction. However, as the past 765 years  of dirt and grime are erased, critics are denouncing the project. To cleanse the interior of candle and oil grime, the French Ministry of Culture is painting the interior masonry its original color, a creamy-white. However, the freshly painted masonry looks out of place against the undulating stone floor. And now, the floor, worn by centuries of pilgrims, looks filthy against the freshly painted walls. Originally, the vaults were illuminated by candles that hung from the columns and natural light that filtered through the stained glass windows. Now, the space is lit with bright, 21st century lighting. Martin Filler, in his blog on the New York Review of Books website, accused Patrice Calvel, former architect in chief of the French Ministry of Culture, of a destruction similar to “adding arms to the Venus de Milo.” In an article in Le Figaro, Adrien Goetz compared it to “watching a film in a cinema where they haven’t switched off the lights.” Calvel defended his “vacuum cleaning,” saying, “It has the full weight of the administration of state, historians and architects who decided over a 20-year period what would be done.” But when asked whether or not parishioners were consulted, Calvel said, “I’m very democratic, but the public is not competent to judge.” Calvel’s research unveiled that in medieval times, “everything was painted.” However, Calvel will not paint the exterior, saying, “If we tried to do that on the outside I would be hanged.” Stefan Evans, Franco Scardino, Leila Amineddoleh, and Adachiara Zevi started a petition, Save Chartres Cathedral, to stop the renovation. The four sponsors believe Chartres’s restoration violates the 1964 Venice Charter, which prohibits the addition of new construction, demolition, or modification of historic buildings in ways that change the original composition and color. Save Chartres Cathedral has 573 supporters and counting. The petition can be signed here.
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Edinburgh’s “Turd” building could cost the city its World Heritage Site status

While Philadelphia is just joining the ranks of World Heritage Cities, Edinburgh, Scotland, could be on its way out. Edinburgh's yellow-brown, sandstone buildings, elegant extensions to the capital’s landscape, are set to receive new neighbors from developers. The approved plans have sent UNESCO to reassess Edinburgh’s World Heritage Site Listing. In 1995, UNESCO granted Edinburgh World Heritage status for its cohesive old and new towns. Now, as developers move in, the status is at risk. The St. James, known by developers as the “Ribbon Hotel” and by citizens as “The Turd,” has been approved for construction within the capital’s historic skyline from Calton Hill and is expected to be completed in 2020. The previous building, a 1960s shopping mall, demolished the site’s original 18th century square. Jestico + Whiles is the firm behind the ribbon design, and TIAA Henderson, their client. Developers, marketing the ribbon structure as an architectural icon, believe the building is necessary in order to attract luxury hotels and brands to the city. This $1.27 billion project is expected to add $38 million to Edinburgh’s economy each year. Although the ribbon is set to house Abercrombie & Fitch, 7 for All Mankind, and Ted Baker and has received interest from chains like W and Four Seasons, Edinburgh’s magazine The List named it one of Scotland’s biggest, recent flops.   Bath, a town in England’s southwest countryside, received threats to its status both in 2009 and last week, however remains listed. On the contrary, in 2009, Dresden lost its world heritage status after building a bridge a mile outside the city. Because UNESCO’s decision over Edinburgh cannot be predicted, it is clear the process of  identifying world heritage and defending it from intrusion is difficult, especially when it comes to one of the most beautiful urban views, Calton Hill.
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Philadelphia is the United States’ first World Heritage City

What do Safranbolu, Turkey; Gyeongju, Korea; Cidade Velha, Cape Verde; and Philadelphia, PA, have in common? They are all World Heritage Cities. On November 6, the Organization of World Heritage Cities (OWHC) honored Philadelphia with a World Heritage City designation. Philadelphia is the first United States city to be recognized by the OWHC. The mayor's office and city leaders have been advocating for World Heritage City designation since 2013. Philadelphia has the requisite historical chops: UNESCO named Independence Hall, where 18th century diplomats wielded pens over multiple founding documents, a World Heritage Site in 1979. In order to qualify as a World Heritage Site, a place or building must meet at least one of ten selection criteria. The selection criteria require a site to have a historical, political, cultural, aesthetic, scientific, or natural attributes of "outstanding universal value" to humankind. Though UNESCO plays no role in designating World Heritage Cities, OWHC stipulates that a World Heritage City must have at least one UNESCO World Heritage Site. At its 13th annual gathering, the OWHC acknowledged Philadelphia's political significance, voting to include the city in their pantheon of over 266 heritage cities at their latest meeting in Arequipa, Peru. Benefits accrue to member cities. Through the OWHC, municipalities can share information on how to protect their cultural assets and promote heritage tourism. Mayor Michael Nutter hopes that the designation will increase investment in the city and strengthen its (already lucrative) heritage tourism sector. A UNESCO World Heritage Site and an OWHC designation brings visibility to a city's heritage, and encourages travel to chosen sites. Sites are sometimes damaged, however, when designated cities lack the tourism infrastructure to support the increase in visitors. Critics have also called out the OWHC's list for its profound Eurocentrism. Though Philadelphia is a Western city, it does have the capacity to support increased tourism that the World Heritage City title may engender.