ICON, Fall 2003
Few sites are as romantic and sublime as the majestic, yet crumbling castles and abbeys of Great Britain and Ireland. Though most are but spare renderings of their former selves, they evoke a timeless beauty, a golden age of art and architecture. For all their splendor, however, many of these ancient sites face an uncertain future. A case in point is Ireland's Athassel Abbey, which was inscribed on the 2004 list of the 100 Most Endangered Sites. While the abbey is in urgent need of conservation, its structural pathologies speak to a whole corpus of buildings of similar date and construction, all warranting immediate attention. If we are lucky, measures taken to preserve this Norman wonder will serve as a model for similar projects in the future.
This issue offers a suite of features that highlight the plight of Britain's ancient buildings, among them a foray to the forbidding northernmost tip of Scotland, where the twentieth Earl of Caithness has taken up the challenge of preserving what remains of his family's 500-year-old estate, Castle Sinclair-Girnigoe, which appeared on WMF's 2002 Watch list. One of Scotland's most picturesque sites, the castle had been teetering on the brink of collapse until a team of conservators from the University of York arrived on the scene and began shoring up Sinclair-Girnigoe's fragile remains. As at the twelfth-century Khmer capital at Angkor and the 2,000-year-old Roman seaside resort of Pompeii, WMF is charting a conservative course in conservationworking to preserve the sublime quality of these sites while arresting further decay—so that such important places may endure as time has left them.