ICON, Winter 2002
November is acque alte in Venice, a time when the Moon and Mother Nature conspire to inundate the ancient city, threatening its magnificent artistic treasures. While this season has brought its share of high water, little could compare with the 194-cm tide that struck the city just before sunset on November 4,1966, and the damage left in its wake. That tumultuous event forever changed the history of la Serenissima and the field of preservation, serving as a catalyst in the harnessing of international support to rescue a single site. It was also this catastrophe that gave rise to the World Monuments Fund and affirmed its mandate to work to safeguard the world's cultural patrimony. In the decades since, WMF has supported more than 25 projects in Venice, making the city one of the largest beneficiaries of its time and resources. These efforts, along with the invaluable research undertaken by a dedicated team of civil engineers, hydrologists, and ecologists, and the innovative ideas it has yielded, stand as a moving testament that, in fact, Venice just might be saved. Even awash, Venice reigns supreme as one of the most beautiful cities of the Western world. It was only fitting then that the city served as a backdrop to an international meeting held in celebration of the thirtieth anniversary of the UNESCO Convention on Cultural and Natural Heritage held this past November. The conference, which brought together representatives of the public and private sector, highlighted both the progress made and extraordinary challenges that face the field of historic preservation.