If we don’t stay constantly vigilant when it comes to protecting the world’s cultural heritage sites, we risk losing them to human conflict, urbanization, natural disaster, or climate change. That’s why every two years, the World Monuments Watch calls attention to the world’s most at-risk monuments. Since 1996, the Watch has recognized 814 threatened sites in need of conservation efforts and has invested over $300 million of raised money in protection.
The 2018 World Monument Watch features 25 sites from around the world. Some sites date from prehistory whereas some are 20th-century constructions; some sites are in rural settings while others are in busy urban centers. And no country is immune — New York’s Buffalo Central Terminal is considered an architectural landmark in dire need of redevelopment while, on the other side of the world, an important public housing building in Australia is facing the risk of demolition. Regardless of their locations, each site represents a great opportunity for conservation and community engagement.
Here is a complete list of the 25 sites.
1. Government House, Antigua and Barbuda
A symbol of the nation’s democracy, Antigua’s Government House is of traditional West Indian design and dates back to the early 19th century. Severe weather conditions — including heat, drought, hurricanes, and earthquakes — have contributed to the building’s recent decay.
2. Sirius Building, Sydney, Australia
The Sirius Building was constructed as a local housing project for community members displaced by nearby harborside redevelopment. An iconic sight in Sydney, Australia, it’s now at risk of demolition as the real estate in Millers Point has become highly coveted.
3. Ramal Talca-Constitución, Chile
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A railway branch connecting Talca to the port of Constitución, it was once part of the railway system that connected all of Chile until it fell into decay at the end of the 1900s. Built between 1888 and 1915, it was named a national landmark in 2007.
4. Grand Theater, Prince Kung’s Mansion, Beijing, China
This 18th-century home belonged to Yixin, aka Prince Kung, a statesman and member of the Qing imperial family. It was the most celebrated of all Beijing’s royal residences and has since functioned as a university campus and office for government agencies. In 1978, it gained heritage status and protections, and it’s now one of China’s best-preserved royal residences.
5. Eliyahu Hanavi Synagogue, Alexandria, Egypt
Eliyahu Hanavi is one of two remaining synagogues in Alexandria and a symbol of Egypt’s historical religious diversity. Built in 1805 and damaged during Napoleon’s invasion, it was the last operational synagogues in Egypt until it closed in 2012. Although a collapsed roof left the synagogue exposed to the elements, emergency funds have been allocated for its repairs.
6. Takiyyat Ibrahim al-Gulshani, Cairo, Egypt
The al-Gulshani complex was the first religious foundation established in Cairo following the Ottoman conquest of 1517, as well as the first to be named a residential religious complex. Built between 1519 and 1524, the structure has recently fallen victim to earthquakes, looting, changing religious influences, and financial struggles.
7. Potager du Roi, Versailles, France
The 23-acre kitchen garden of the Palace of Versailles in France has been cultivated for over 300 years and was an integral part of the palace’s grandiose reputation. Since it’s separate from Versailles’ main gardens, it does not directly benefit from the palace’s tourism resources, and challenges like damaged drainage systems, greenhouses, infrastructure, and visitor amenities, must be addressed before it’s too late.
8. Post-Independence Architecture of Delhi, India
Since it only dates back to 1947, Delhi’s post-independence architecture lacks historical recognition and therefore protection from demolition. All 62 of these designated structures, however, represent the wide range of architectural styles in the 70 years since India gained its independence from Great Britain. Although advocates have sought legal protection, it has so far been denied. The Delhi Hall of Nations, featured in the picture above, was demolished in April 2017 in the midst of a court battle to save it.
9. Al-Hadba’ Minaret, Mosul, Iraq
One of the landmarks of Mosul’s old city, the Al-Hadba’ Minaret was built in 1172 and was one of the city’s most defining fixtures. It was so important that it actually featured on the Iraqi 10,000-dinar banknote. When ISIS fled Mosul in 2017, it detonated explosives to destroy the mosque and most of the minaret.
10. Lifta, Jerusalem, Israel
Lifta is the only Palestinian settlement not repopulated or destroyed after its residents were evicted between 1947 and 1948. Situated on terraces overgrown with trees and shrubs, the ruins are now in danger of being destroyed by redevelopment.
11. Amatrice, Italy
On August 24, 2016, an earthquake struck the Italian city of Amatrice, causing 229 deaths and 400 injuries and leading the mayor to proclaim “the town is no more.” The city is still an uninhabited heap of rubble, though many are hopeful for its eventual reconstruction and revitalization.
12. Kagawa Prefectural Gymnasium, Japan
Built in the 1950s, the gymnasium hosted local sports events in Takamatsu, Japan, for 50 years. It was designed to evoke a traditional Japanese wooden barge, as well as the strong body of an athlete. When its suspended roof began to leak, however, it was closed to the public in 2014, and its rehabilitation will require extensive updating to its infrastructure.
13. Jewish Quarter of Essaouira, Morocco
Established in the mid-1700s, Essaouira’s Jewish Quarter is a symbol of Morocco’s diversity — and of its tolerance. Since the 1980s, however, the large Jewish community has mostly abandoned the area, and many of the Jewish structures are now abandoned, crumbling, or converted into modern shops. The area has become a popular pilgrimage site for many descendants of Moroccan Jews who hope it will retain its architectural and cultural significance.
14. Sukur Cultural Landscape, Nigeria
15. Historic Karachi, Pakistan
As urbanization seizes Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city, its historic integrity is in danger. In the mid-1900s, Karachi had been a major center of commerce, but its soaring population since then has put stress on its infrastructure and imperiled its traditional aesthetic.
16. Cerro de Oro, Cañete Valley, Peru
Just south of Lima, the archeological site of Cerro de Oro has been plagued by looting and neglect. Most of the area is still unexplored though remains of an adobe settlement from 550, and various funeral relics, have already been uncovered. The illegal trespassing and looting, however, endanger any future significant discoveries.
17. Tebaida Leonesa, León, Spain
This valley is famous for its silence, tranquility, and its 10th-century medieval churches. Since a changing economic system led to the departure of many of the area’s younger residents, much stress is being placed on the remaining inhabitants, tasked with tending to and maintaining the area’s cultural integrity.
18. Souk of Aleppo, Syria
Once the center of Aleppo, Syria, the souk was the heart of the city’s social, commercial, and cultural exchange. People traded everything at the market, from spice and sweets to textiles and soap. In 2012, after much fighting between Syrian government forces and insurgents, the souk went up in flames and is now one of many ancient Syrian structures in desperate need of revitalization.
19. Chao Phraya River, Bangkok, Thailand
Although the Chao Phraya River has shaped the formation of Bangkok, a modern construction project now threatens to change the city’s relationship to the river forever. There are proposals to build an elevated promenade along both sides of the river with concrete pylons supported on the riverbed. If carried out, the project would improve public access to the riverfront, but the concrete would block river views and cause many riverfront communities to be displaced.
20. Blackpool Piers, United Kingdom
Located on the Irish Sea coast of England, Blackpool was the world’s first seaside resort town for the working class. Open since 1863, the piers are still considered the most finely constructed seaside piers in the country, with 17 million visiting Blackpool each year to see them. Like many coastal communities around the world, however, Blackpool is faced with rising sea levels and extreme weather events, which threaten to damage or destroy the piers.
21. Alabama Civil Rights Sites, Alabama, USA
22. Buffalo Central Terminal, New York, USA
First opened in 1929, Buffalo Central Terminal is a symbol of Buffalo’s status as a one-time economic powerhouse. The terminal consolidated passenger traffic in a single facility and made transportation throughout the city much easier. It has since been made irrelevant by the construction of the interstate system and fallen into disuse, with the last train departing the terminal in 1979. Many residents, however, are trying to protect the terminal from being torn town by striving to revitalize the surrounding Broadway-Fillmore neighborhood.
23. Old City of Ta’izz, Yemen
Originally a fortified citadel in the 11th century, the Old City of Ta’izz later became the capital of the Rasulid dynasty, which ruled all of Yemen from 1229 to 1454. Now, Ta’izz finds itself embroiled in a military conflict, caught in the crossfire between Houthi rebel forces against a coalition of foreign states. Ta’izz has been repeatedly damaged by airstrikes and shelled by rebels. In 2016, a 16th-century mosque was destroyed by extremists, as well as other historic buildings and documents.
24. Matobo Hills Cultural Landscape, Zimbabwe
Known for its vast granite rock formations, Matobo Hills contains several inhabited sites that mark various important stages of human history. From hunter-gatherer peoples to the British Empire, the cultural elements of this area are intertwined with the landscape. In many areas, ancient rock art is being threatened by deforestation, graffiti, and fires caused by human activity. Rising population, a decline in natural resources, and the harsh elements have also led to the area’s decay.
25. Disaster Sites of the Caribbean, the Gulf, and Mexico
The devastation of the hurricanes of 2017 is still fresh in everyone’s minds, especially those affected in the Caribbean, the Gulf, and Mexico. Homes, schools, hospitals, parks, playgrounds, and more were destroyed, and the cost of restoring them is staggering. Although plans to repair and reconstruct these areas are already underway, it is hoped that including these disaster sites in the World Monuments Watch will mobilize the conservation response even quicker.
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