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.
Posts tagged with "World Heritage Sites":
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.
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.”
A circular bridge will go up this November over Uruguay’s beautiful Laguna Garzon, connecting two formerly remote shores
If conservatives bristle at building a bridge over a UNESCO World Heritage Site, just make it circular. This ring-shaped bridge by architect Rafael Viñoly will superimpose the Laguna Garzon, its circular design meant to minimize its environmental and visual impact by recalling a winding road—plus the fact that it uniquely affords veritable 360-degree views. [Video courtesy Teledoce.] The final cost of the project is $11 million, with the state providing $1.8 million. Argentinian real estate developer Eduardo Costantini, owner of high-end guesthouses Las Garzas in Rocha, will foot the remaining bill. The Uruguayan Ministry of Transport has eyeballed the prospect of a bridge over the lagoon since 1950, but the project did not start until May 2013. Slated to connect the cities of Maldonado and Rocha when it opens in November, the bridge has the potential to mediate the flow of travelers and tourism dollars up and down the eastern seaboard. It will replace the current system of rafts that connect the two cities, which allows only two cars to pass at time, depriving Rocha of the development frenzy seen in Maldonado. Statistics indicate generally favorable views of the project, with 81 percent of Rocha residents and 64 percent of Maldona residents who spoke positively about the bridge. Government estimates indicate that 1,000 vehicles will traverse the bridge daily, with an increase in those numbers during the peak summer months. Scheduled to open in November, the bridge is well under construction. View the video above from Teledoce to see how it works.
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
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.