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Monument Fund Warns of Sites at Risk

Monday, October 14, 2013

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From Syria to St. Louis, 67 cultural-heritage sites in 41 countries and territories worldwide are at risk from the forces of nature and social, political and economic headwinds, experts warn.

The World Monuments Fund presented its 2014 World Monuments Watch list Tuesday (Oct. 8).

© Taliesin Preservation Inc. / World Monuments Fund

Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin home, built in 1911, is on the 2014 World Monuments Watch list. The Hillside Theater at Taliesin is suffering from water infiltration, a failing roof, and other building envelope problems.

The list features six endangered sites in the United States, including the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial in St. Louis, MO; woodworker George Nakashima’s house, studio and workshop in New Hope, PA; and architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin home, in Spring Green, WI.

‘Call to Action’

The association proffers the list as a “call to action,” bringing international attention to the fragility of the sites and dangers they encounter.

© Nigel Ko / World Monuments Fund

Rapid development in Hong Kong threatens Pokfulam Village, a unique collection of modest traditional buildings on narrow lanes and alleys in the center of the city, the World Monument Fund reports.

“These sites—and countless others like them—recount our human history and highlight our achievements,” said WMF President Bonnie Burnham.

“It takes vigilance to keep them active in the world; yet it is often the case that the very places that provide rich character and texture to our lives need more assistance and attention than they are given.”

The sites on the 2014 list range from prehistoric to contemporary and include cultural landscapes and viewsheds; historic urban areas and resources; archaeological sites; civic buildings; religious structures and complexes; industrial heritage; gardens and sacred groves; rock art; vernacular settlements; and residential architecture.

Conflict and Changing Custom

Conflict and catastrophe, a lack of resources, development pressures and loss of cultural traditions are among the challenges faced by the sites.

For example, the conflict and violence in Syria prompted the WMF to add the cultural-heritage sites of the entire country on the 2014 Watch List.

Syria’s most significant and symbolic sites include Aleppo, the Crac des Chevaliers, and the fortress of Qa’lat al-Mudique.

Syria cultural site
© Elivera Portugal / World Monuments Fund

Ongoing violence and conflict are endangering Syria's Crac des Chevaliers, castles built between the 11th and 13th centuries during the Crusades, and every other cultural heritage site in the country, WMF says.

In many instances, long-established sites are threatened by new development, WMF said. Such is the case with the Village of Pokfulam, a unique collection of modest traditional buildings on narrow lanes and alleys in the center of Hong Kong.

Three former industrial sites in the United Kingdom—Grimsby Ice Factory, Battersea Power Station and Deptford Dockyard—also face similar fates, threatened by the changes around them.

© Keith Garner / World Monuments Fund

Battersea Power Station in London consists of two power stations and a larger complex that were built in the 1930s and 1950s. It was closed in 1983. The station is a repeat listing on the Watch list.

WMF says that with careful planning, preservation of these sites can occur in light of new development, becoming “strong drivers for local economies and providing opportunities for skills training and magnets for tourism.”

Saving the Recent Past

The Watch also includes the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial (or “Gateway Arch”), a St. Louis landmark facing difficult preservation issues and increasing corrosion.

The Arch
© Media Services Staff, National Park Service / World Monument Fund

The Jefferson National Expansion Memorial (or “Gateway Arch”) faces difficult preservation issues and encroaching corrosion, WMF reports.

“Its unusual shape and extreme height have proven challenging to its preservation, as has a general decrease in government funding for the stewardship of national monuments,” WMF said.

The Arch was conceived in the 1930s by Luther Ely Smith and constructed between 1963 and 1965 according to Eero Saarinen’s design.

Also listed in the Watch is Frank Lloyd Wright’s home, Taliesin, near Spring Green, WI; and the home, studio and workshop of woodworker George Nakashima in Pennsylvania.

Nakashima home
© Paul Warchol / World Monuments Fund

Woodworker George Nakashima's house and workshop in New Hope, PA, is one of the sites named.

“Saving modern heritage sites begins with recognition of their significance and also requires an innovative approach to conservation work, dealing with materials that were unconventional and innovative themselves at the time of the buildings’ construction,” WMF said.

About the List

The World Monuments Watch was launched in 1996 and is issued every two years. The list is assembled by a panel of international heritage experts in the fields of archaeology, architecture, art history, and preservation.

Since the program’s inception, more than 740 sites in 133 countries and territories—including those on the 2014 Watch—have been included. Nearly $290 million has been contributed to help save the sites from ruin.  

The World Monuments Fund is headquartered in New York City and has offices worldwide.

Details of the Watch List are available at www.wmf.org.


Tagged categories: Architectural history; Architecture; Historic Preservation; Maintenance coating work; Modernist architecture; Monuments; Preservation

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