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.
Posts tagged with "UNESCO":
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.
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.
World heritage sites in the ancient city of Palmyra in Syria are being bombed by the militant group ISIS. The 2,000-year-old Temple of Baalshamin and Temple of Bel in Palmyra, designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites, have allegedly been destroyed by the terrorist group. Images featuring the explosion posted through social-media accounts in affiliation with ISIS depict the bombings. The destruction of these ancient temples follows the public execution of Khaled al-Assad, age 82, a scholar and keeper of Palmyra and Syrian antiquities at the hands of ISIS militants on Tuesday, August 18. According to an Associated Press report in the Los Angeles Times, a UNESCO official said the removal of these monuments is the "most brutal, systematic" destruction of historic sites since World War II. ISIS has also targeted other ancient sites including St. Elian Monastery and its 5th century tomb, the report added. UNESCO has called these demolitions war crimes. In late August, the group struck again at the Temple of Bel. The Guardian reported on August 30 that the group made the claim over social media. The structure was built in 32 AD. After gaining control of the city early March 2015, ISIS' commander in Palmyra, Abu Laith al-Saoudy, was reported stating that it was the group's intention to preserve and leave unharmed the historic city of Palmyra. "What we will do is break the idols that the infidels used to worship. The historic buildings will not be touched and we will not bring bulldozers to destroy them like some people think.”
In Beirut, a group of activists seeks to protect a coastal area by setting up a grassroots design ideas competition
In the last two decades, Beirut’s real estate market boomed and transformed the city. One of the yet non-developed areas of the city is a coastal area called Dalieh. Despite the fact that this area is privately owned, it was used as an openly accessible space by the public for years. However, recent development plans, aiming to build a high-end real estate complex, would largely change the open access and current character of this space. A group of activists called "Civil Campaign to Protect the Dalieh of Raouche," rejects those plans and advocates for the protection of the social, archeological and ecological significance of this space. They addressed those concerns, for example, in an open letter to Rem Koolhaas, who was creating design ideas for the development of the site. However, this campaign is not stopping at opposing current development plans, they are also proposing alternatives for the future use of this space. Last spring, they organized a design ideas competition under the auspices of the Lebanese Ministry of Environment. The crowdfunded campaign set up an international jury of various professionals, including Jad Tabet, Lebanese architect and member of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, and the German landscape architect Hans Kienle. At the end of May, the jury selected three winning entries which were exhibited during the Beirut Design Week in June and will be published in a booklet in coming months. Sarah Lily Yassine, engaged in the campaign, said that “the competition was successful, to engage more people and to show the institutions that there are alternatives to consider on such a site.” Even though the competition was not aiming to directly implement the resulting ideas, it sought to generate a debate about urban issues in Beirut, and in cities in general. Marwan Ghandour, professor of architecture and juror of the competition, describes this as “a competition which talks about something which is claimed by the people as an open space rather than something which is delivered by the government as a public space”. As an example of those spaces, Dalieh is called an “open access shared space” by the campaign. The idea of a grassroots design ideas competition shows an interesting model to trigger a debate about these spaces and also to generate new ideas for the future of our urban fabrics. Below, some images of the three winning entries:
UNESCOitalia: Italy’s World Heritage Sites in the Works of 14 Photographers Mueso Italo Americano Fort Mason Center, Building C San Francisco December 6 to January 26, 2014 In celebration of 2013: The Year of Italian Culture in the United States, the Museo Italo Americano, in partnership with the Italian Cultural Institute and the Consulate General of Italy in San Francisco, will be showcasing a collection of images of Italy’s UNESCO World Heritage sites as seen through the lenses of 14 prominent Italian photographers. To be proclaimed a World Heritage site, a number of criteria must be met, and the site must hold outstanding universal value by means of exceptional design or cultural significance to a group or civilization. As of June 2013, Italy has 49 UNESCO World Heritage sites, which is more than any other single country in the world. The traveling show will be on display at the Fort Mason Center in San Francisco from December 6, 2013, to January 26, 2014. Ambassador of Italy to the United States, Claudio Bisogniero, describes the exhibition as, “A journey in pictures, bringing the Italian wonders to the United States. Fine art photography for a fascinating exhibition: a visual adventure across the length and breadth of our country.”
At its 37th session held from June 16 to 27, 2013 in Phnom Pehnh and Siem Reap-Angkor, Cambodia, the UNESCO World Heritage Committee added 19 sites to the World Heritage List. The new additions bring the list to 981 noteworthy destinations. To be included on the World Heritage List, sites must be of exceptional universal significance and satisfy at least one out of ten selection criteria, which are frequently improved by the Committee to reflect the advancement of the World Heritage notion itself. The following cultural sites have been inscribed on the World Heritage List. · Al Zubarah Archaeological Site, Qatar · Ancient City of Tauric Chersonese and its Chora, Ukraine · Bergpark Wilhemshöhe, Germany · Cultural Landscape of Honghe Hani Rice Terraces, China · Fujisan, Japan · Golestan Palace, Iran · Hill Forts of Rajasthan, India · Historic Centre of Agadez, Niger · Historic Monuments and Sites in Kaesong, Korea · Levuka Historical Port Town, Fiji · Medici Villas and Gardens in Tuscany, Italy · Red Bay Basque Whaling Station, Canada · University of Coimbra – Alta and Sofia, Portugal · Wooden Tserkvas of the Carpathian Region, Poland & Ukraine · El Pinacate and Gran Desierto de Altar Biosphere Reserve, Mexico · Mount Etna, Italy · Namib Sand Sea, Namibia · Tajik National Park, Tajikistan · Xinjiang Tianshan, China
Indian officials have proposed that high-rises be built on the site of Edwin Lutyens-designed bungalows dating from the 1920s and 1930s, threatening Delhi's colonial era architecture, according to the Guardian. Lutyens’ Delhi, a 3,000-acre zone containing the Mughal Garden at Rashtrapati Bhavan, has endured monsoons, riots, and acid rain, but now many of the area’s government buildings, parks, and homes have met a new menace: a scheme to loosen planning limitations to permit construction of high-rise structures. The early twentieth-century bungalows were built for civil servants who governed millions of Indians under the British Raj. The British relocated India’s capital from Calcutta to Delhi, the historic metropolis of the Mughal emperors, and worked with Indian architects under Edwin Landseer Lutyens to design 1,000 neo-classical bungalows surrounded by large gardens. A protected zone, expanded in 1988 and 2003, comprises some of the country’s most precious land. Conservationists assert that the zone is at risk and since it occupies less than two-percent of Delhi, the high-rises should go elsewhere. Adversaries suggest that preserving Lutyen’s Delhi would be erroneous when millions sleep in the city’s crowded slums. Writer and historian Sohail Hashmi point outs that imperialists planned the bungalows to emphasize authority. Hashmi’s solution is to preserve one street within Lutyens’ Delhi to demonstrate what it looked like and to build new homes on the remaining land. Hashmi also recognizes that the bungalows have become symbols of power. In fact, particular properties in Lutyens’ Delhi are worth astonishing amounts of money. One such edifice, the president's official residence that was built to accommodate 100 mid-ranking military officers, has a projected value of £600 million. Conservationists hope UNESCO will give the area world heritage site status, consequently making major alterations nearly impossible.
Tower of Babel. Argentinian artist Marta Minujin has created an 82-foot tall "Tower of Babel" in Buenos Aires after the city was named UNESCO's World Book Capital for 2011. Readers, libraries, and 50 embassies donated over 30,000 books in a variety of languages to fill the twisting structure. The Guardian has a slideshow and we posted a video of the tower after the jump. High Line Caution. Witold Rybczynski penned an op-ed for the NY Times cautioning the many would-be High Line copy cats that the success of the New York wonder-park (and a Parisian predecessor) aren't because of the parks themselves, but because of their unique situations in dense, thriving cities. Tower Trouble. The Wall Street Journal writes that skyscraper construction has dropped off drastically from decades past to the tune of 14 million fewer square feet per decade than the period between 1950 and 1990. Can New York maintain its global competitiveness without ramping up construction? Twin Lions. Two stone lions, Leo Astor and Leo Lenox, have been standing sentinel at the New York Public Library's main entrance on Fifth Avenue since 1911. Ephemeral New York posted a little more history on the backstory of the big cats.
A small, twisting airport in Mestia, a medieval town in the Democratic Republic of Georgia manages to capture the essence of the UNESCO World Heritage Site's ancient stone defensive towers while still standing on its own as a skyward-reaching modern structure. Designed by German firm J. Mayer H. Architects, the airport is expected to boost tourism in the historic town and nearby ski resort. Amazingly, the structure was designed and built within three months between October and December 2010.