What do a Greek cemetery, a British bus station, stone drawings in Peru and a New York building have in common? They are all among the world’s most at-risk cultural heritage sites according to the World Monuments Fund, which released their biennial World Monuments Watch list this past Wednesday. WMF President Bonnie Burnham said that the sites listed illustrate a need to balance heritage with social, economic and environmental interests.
She stated “While these sites are historic, they are also very much of the present — integral parts of the lives of the people who come into contact with them every day. Indeed, the Watch reminds us of our collective role as stewards of the earth and of its human heritage.”
The Fund noted that the First Cemetery of Athens in Greece, which is the oldest cemetery in the city, is in need of preservation due to neglect. The Preston Bus Station in Britain is slated for demolition, but was once the largest bus station in the world. Two other British sites are also noted as being in danger, specifically the Birmingham Central Library and London’s Bank Centre. The Fund noted “These and other buildings like them date from an era in which government had the resources and the will to create major civic buildings. They are too often seen as impediments to private-sector redevelopment.”
The fund also noted that poor management of tourism is threatening to destroy the ancient Nasca lines and geoglyphs in the desert of southern Peru. The figures were drawn between 500 BC and 500 AD and were declared an UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994. In New York City, the fund has raised questions about the legality of alterations which were recently made to the former Manufacturers Trust Company Building. The fund noted that “Local advocates filed a lawsuit, and a temporary restraining order on further alterations has been issued. While the case seeks to preserve an icon of American modernism, it also serves as an important touchstone for the effectiveness of preservation legislation and policies in the United States, and of the government agencies charged with their enforcement.”
The Fund also lists several sites which were damaged by earthquakes in Japan, New Zealand and Haiti. The Fund also stated “The international attention given to watch sites provides a vital tool with which local entities may leverage funding from a variety of sources. While (the fund) has contributed to date $2.7 million to projects at 2010 watch sites, nearly $27 million has been allocated to the 2010 group by other entities.”
The entire list can be read at www.wmf.org/watch