The sites on the 2016 Watch are emblematic of preservation issues that are prevalent around the world, including conflict, development pressures, natural disasters, and a lack of resources. The Watch shines a light on the dangers facing each of the included sites, while also enabling WMF to identify opportunities for local communities to work with preservation agencies, governments, corporate sponsors, and others to help ensure each site’s future.
From Old to New
The 2016 Watch includes cultural landscapes, historic urban areas, religious structures and complexes, archaeological sites, civic buildings, places of industrial heritage, ancient rock art, vernacular settlements, and sites of conscience.
At Dalieh of Raouche in Lebanon, the earliest archaeological finds date from the Neolithic period. The site has been used by humans for at least 7,000 years.
The urban streetscape of Ladeira da Misericórdia in Brazil, includes a visionary project by the modernist architect Lina Bo Bardi that was completed in 1987.
Conflict and Political Destabilization
The dramatically destructive force of war continues to threaten the world’s heritage. The 2016 Watch includes the Unnamed Monument in recognition of the deliberate and calculated damage inflicted on thousands of cultural heritage sites in areas of political and social instability. There are simply too many sites at risk to be included individually on the Watch, and no immediate hope for resolution. The Unnamed Monument seeks to shift the focus to local populations who are losing their cultural heritage and history, and away from our own outrage, which plays to the propaganda of those who are perpetrating this damage.
The Watch also includes Egypt’s Abusir el-Malek, an ancient settlement first occupied in approximately 3000 B.C. In the early twentieth century, archaeological excavations at the site had resulted in many of its artifacts traveling to museums around the world and bringing international attention to the area. After the Arab Spring of 2011, the policing of archaeological sites became more difficult. A tremendous surge in looting of heritage sites followed, with Abusir el-Malek left as one of the most heavily looted sites in the region.
Natural Catastrophe and Climate Change
The earthquake that ravaged Nepal in April 2015 caused thousands of human casualties and widespread destruction of buildings and infrastructure. Its impact on heritage places was extensive throughout the Kathmandu Valley, which is home to hundreds of sacred Buddhist and Hindu sites. In the aftermath, community members have been galvanized into action to restore their shared heritage. The inclusion of the Cultural Heritage Sites of Nepal on the 2016 Watch honors the resilience of the Nepalese people, while bringing attention to the need for sustained international efforts in the face of such devastation.
Lack of Investment or Resources
A common theme throughout the Watch is a lack of resources to successfully preserve the site’s built heritage. The challenge is particularly prevalent in religious sites. Mission San Xavier del Bac in Arizona is close to reversing the effects of a series of inappropriate repairs previously performed on the site. A successful restoration will preserve the architectural, artistic, and cultural significance of this historic mission, which remains an important parish church for many Native Americans in the area.
Abandonment and demolition, the lack of investment, and the need for better planning are common threats in many cities represented on the 2016 Watch. The Romanian capital of Bucharest—a built environment of great historical, social, and symbolic significance—is threatened by abandonment and demolition of historic buildings, uncontrolled development, and inappropriate rehabilitation.
Loss of Cultural Traditions
In South Africa, the historic character and built heritage of Bo-Kaap, a neighborhood recognized for its distinctive vernacular architecture and its enduring Muslim culture, are under threat due to economic forces and social change.
Lack of Recognition
In Laconia, Greece, the world’s oldest submerged city—Pavlopetri—lies just a few meters below the surface of the water. Without physical protection, the site, which is often overlooked by visitors, faces the impact of pollution from cargo ships that anchor in Vatika Bay.
Modern structures, like older ones, are subject to neglect, inappropriate renovation, and demolition. Public apathy and the lack of understanding that buildings of our own time can be important enough to keep for the future pose an additional set of challenges to modern architecture.
Located in Phnom Penh and built in 1964, the National Sports Complex is an iconic symbol of the post-independence effort that transformed Cambodia from an agrarian colony into a modern state. Although it is used daily by local residents for recreation and social gatherings, the site faces development pressures and lies vulnerable in a rapidly-expanding city.
Sites of Conscience
The sites of conscience included on the 2016 Watch are powerful places of memory that should be preserved for future generations.
Albania’s Spaç Prison, in operation from 1968 until the early 1990s when the communist party fell, is now in an extremely advanced state of deterioration. The inclusion of Spaç Prison on the 2016 Watch recognizes a new effort involving institutions, civil society, and private citizens—including former political prisoners—to create a modern institution of remembrance from the prison’s remains.
The international attention drawn to Watch sites provides a vital tool that local entities can use to leverage funding from a variety of sources, including national, regional, and municipal governments, foundations, corporate sponsors, international aid organizations, and private donors. Increased awareness for Watch sites has also helped to bolster legislative efforts, foster inter-entity partnerships, improve monitoring, and valorize connections between communities and their heritage. Visit our Explore Page, for the complete list and information on each Watch site.