- WMF at 50
- About Us
- Our Projects
- The Watch
- Get Involved
- Dig Deeper
2014 Watch: A Closer Look
1 of 13
MALI, Cultural Heritage Sites of Mali
Mali’s rich trove of architectural traditions and historic sites has recently become emblematic of the plight of cultural heritage in times of civil strife. Armed conflict has affected the northern regions of Mali since April 2012, and historic sites in Timbuktu, Gao, and Kidal have suffered significant destruction. Nine of the sixteen mausoleums within the World Heritage Site boundaries of Timbuktu were destroyed by rebel forces between May and July of 2012, though the fifteenth-century Sankore Mosque shown here was spared.
SYRIAN ARAB REPUBLIC, Cultural Heritage Sites of Syria
Escalating violence in Syria since 2011 has had devastating effects on the country’s cultural heritage. From the ancient souk, or marketplace, in Aleppo, to the iconic Crac des Chevaliers—two castles that were built between the eleventh and thirteenth centuries as regional fortifications during the Crusades—to Qal’at al-Mudiq, an archaeological tell shown here that forms part of the classical city of Apamea, the destruction of Syria’s most significant and symbolic sites is of urgent and primary concern, with irreversible implications for the country’s architectural legacy.
FRANCE, Churches of St. Merri and Notre-Dame de Lorette
The neoclassical Church of Notre-Dame-de-Lorette was built between 1823 and 1836 by architect Louis-Hippolyte Lebas (1782–1867). The interior is characterized by rich painted decoration, which shocked Parisians with its extravagance when the church first opened. Like many of these significant but lesser-known churches of Paris, they do not have adequate maintenance and conservation resources. There is a need to raise awareness about the plight of these smaller jewels, which are so integral to the historic urban landscape of Paris.
UNITED STATES, George Nakashima House, Studio, and Workshop
Combining international styles and modern influences with Japanese craft traditions, George Nakashima's work was a significant force in the American craft movement of the mid-twentieth century. The Reception House, shown here, was built as a guesthouse between 1975 and 1977, and features a tea room and Japanese-style sunken bath. In the care of the Nakashima Foundation for Peace, the historic architecture is fortunately still intact, but faces several challenges for preservation and maintenance.
MEXICO, Fundidora Park
Fundidora Park is an industrial archaeology museum and public park in the heart of Monterrey. Originally developed as the site of the Compañia Fundidora de Fierro y Acero de Monterrey, a 1900 steel foundry, the park contains several structures from the old foundry, including the 1968 blast furnace known as Horno Alto No. 3, the first automated blast furnace in Mexico, with an unparalleled capacity for production. Horno Alto No. 3, abandoned and exposed to the elements for 20 years, shows many signs of corrosion that require attention in order to protect this important remnant of the first and largest steel producing company in Latin America.
The inspiration of Venice is shared by the world today, as tourism is now its major industry. Maintaining Venice, not only as a travel destination but as a community, has become increasingly challenging. A significant factor in this dynamic is cruise tourism, which has increased visitation to Venice by 400% in the past five years, with some 20,000 visitors per day during the peak season. The large cruise ships have had direct and indirect impacts on flooding, because of dredging requirements and the movement of large ships through the Grand Canal, as well as the quality of life for residents.
PORTUGAL, Fort of Graça
Designed to withstand intense bombardment, the Fort of Graça was constructed between 1763 and 1792 in the town of Elvas. Long considered an exemplary work of military engineering, the fort helped resist the Spanish advance into Portugal in the brief War of the Oranges, and it later saw action during the Napoleonic Wars. Even though its strategic importance declined over time, and the fortifications gradually became obsolete, the town maintained its military aspect and the army only left Elvas at the end of the twentieth century. The new challenge is adaptive reuse of the complex to ensure its long-term stewardship.
PERU, Capilla de la Virgen Concebida de Kuchuhuasi
The Capilla de la Virgen Concebida de Kuchuhuasi is a picturesque chapel located in the rural community of Kuchuhuasi in Cusco. Built during the second half of the seventeenth century, the adobe structure is graced by eighteenth-century wall paintings on the interior, but the decorated exterior surfaces have been covered with earthen render because of their poor condition. The local community uses their limited resources to maintain the building, and every five years they replace the thatched roof as part of the traditional repaje ceremony, but evidence of structural damage necessitates a more comprehensive conservation plan.
MYANMAR, Yangon Historic City Center
A hundred years ago, Yangon was one of the leading trade cities of Asia, home to people from across the globe. Today, downtown Yangon contains a wealth of historic religious architecture of various denominations, as well as the largest collection of late-nineteenth- and early twentieth-century colonial architecture in Southeast Asia. A rush of new development now imperils Yangon’s unique urban landscape. Beautiful, century-old residential and commercial buildings are being torn down at an alarming rate, and sumptuous government-owned buildings, such as the former Ministry of Hotels and Tourism seen here beyond the Sule Pagoda, have fallen further into disrepair since the regime moved the administrative capital to Nay Pyi Taw in 2005. There is a need to balance heritage protection and modernization of the city to ensure a sustainable future.
ETHIOPIA, Yemrehanna Kristos
Constructed inside a large natural cavern on a hill in northern Ethiopia, the church of Yemrehanna Kristos is one of Ethiopia's best-preserved late-Axumite churches, and is named for a twelfth-century Zagwe priest-king and saint. Priests and hermits still live at Yemrehanna Kristos, and the church is a place of pilgrimage. Isolated for centuries, a new road will soon lead to Yemrehanna Kristos from nearby Lalibela, increasing visitation numbers and creating preservation challenges.
UNITED STATES, Jefferson National Expansion Memorial
Conceived in the 1930s by Luther Ely Smith and constructed between 1963 and 1965 according to Eero Saarinen’s winning design, the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, often referred to as the “the Arch” rises 630 feet above the ground. Nationally and internationally, the Arch stands as a symbol of westward expansion in the United States and as an icon of mid-century modernism. But as is the case with many important examples of modern architecture, the preservation of twentieth-century materials and structural designs has proven challenging.
JAPAN, Sanro-den of Sukunahikona Shrine
Within the compound of the Shinto shrine to Sukunahikona in Ōzu, on the island of Shikoku, lies the sanro-den, or private prayer hall. The sanro-den was constructed in 1934, following the traditional kake-zukuri, or overhang, style, supported on scaffolding over a steep slope. It is one of few twentieth-century kake-zukuri buildings in Japan, with all but a tenth of the structure dramatically suspended on a frame of long and slender timber posts. Closure of the shrine has inspired local residents to form a volunteer group to preserve this important heritage site and revitalize it for use as a community facility.
INDONESIA, Ngada Villages of Flores
The Ngada villages of Desa Guru Sina, Desa Langa, Desa Bela, and Desa Lina Tiwa are nestled between two volcanos, Gunung Inerie and Gunung Deru, in the remote inlands of the island of Flores. These communities are characterized by a distinctive form of vernacular architecture, with elements and decorations intended to protect its inhabitants and ensure a sustainable harmony with the environment, ancestral spirits, and natural forces. These Ngada villages are emblematic of the great challenges of preserving such vernacular settlements in a globalizing world, as the transfer of knowledge across generations is fractured, and traditional skills and resources become scarcer.