ICON, Winter 2004

Of all the factors that threaten our most treasured cultural sites, few can match the destruction wrought by our restless planet. Its ever-shifting plates, yawns, and sighs cause earthquakes and tsunamis. Its mountain-building schemes change Earth's weather patterns, which affect humidity and rainfall. But we build anyway, knowing our architectural creations may vanish in an instant, felled by an earthquake, or swept away by an ocean wave. This issue, we highlight a series of sites, all of which were damaged by natural disaster.

At the eighteenth-century Palafoxiana Library in Puebla de las Angeles, Mexico, a tremor lasting a mere 40 seconds in June 1999 left in its wake more than a million dollars worth of damage, which was compounded by a second quake only months later (see page 22). And, in Lisbon, an earthquake and fire in 1755 were just two of many setbacks suffered by the Baroque church of Nossa Senhora da Encarnacao, which has just undergone a complete restoration (see page 34). Since its founding in 1965, WM F has been no stranger to natural disaster. Born of the floods in Venice, the organization has been among the first to respond when disaster strikes—in Mexico City following the earthquake in 1985 and, more recently, in Iraq. And, as of this writing, our colleagues in Southeast Asia are gathering information to guide the rebuilding process in the wake of the tsunami. W M F will be there to do what we can to help our colleagues restore a modicum of normalcy.

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