Historic places in danger of disappearing
Endangered monuments around the globe
For more than 50 years, the World Monuments Fund (WMF) has been working to protect and promote our most endangered architectural and cultural treasures and has so far supported 836-plus sites in 135 countries. Every two years, the WMF takes nominations for global landmarks in urgent need of help. From Notre-Dame Cathedral to Bears Ears National Monument, these 25 extraordinary places have made the charity’s 2020 Watch list…
Woolworth Building, San Antonio, Texas, USA
Located in San Antonio, Texas, the Woolworth Building was significant in the Civil Rights Movement, since it became one of the earliest places in the US to desegregate its lunch counters. But, despite being a designated city and state antiquities landmark, the property’s future remains unclear, after a local plan for it to be turned into a museum was overturned. Now potentially facing demolition, the site is on the WMF’s radar, with the organization keenly encouraging the preservation of this important landmark.
Canal Nacional, Mexico
Bears Ears National Monument, Utah, USA
Home to rugged red rocks, ancient cliff dwellings and tribal art, the Bears Ears National Monument is located in southeast Utah. It spans 315 square miles (817sq km), and is the ancestral homeland of indigenous tribes, though the precious monument has been owned by the US government since the early 20th century. In 2016, Obama promised to protect 1.35 million acres of the park, but President Trump later reduced this to just 200,000 acres, placing the wonder under threat of mining and mass development – something the WMF is keen to avoid. Check out the ancient ruins in the USA you didn’t know existed.
Ontario Place, Toronto, Canada
Ontario Place in Toronto was designed by Eberhard Zeidler and Michael Hough and, since it opened in 1971, it has provided locals and visitors with a unique waterfront retreat in the heart of the city. Sadly, public interest in the park, which included historical exhibitions and a children’s play area, slowly declined and a large section was closed in 2011. It is now threatened by redevelopment, and the WMF is calling on local authorities to preserve the landmark and open it back up for communities to enjoy.
Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Stadium, Ahmedabad, India
Inari-yu Bathhouse, Tokyo, Japan
While still an important part of culture, public bathhouses were once a fixture of Japanese daily life – but as lifestyles evolved, these former community hubs gradually faded away. Now, only 20% of Tokyo’s bathhouses remain and Inari-yu is one of the city’s best preserved examples. Dating back to 1930, it avoided damage during the Bombing of Tokyo in 1945 and is now a Registered Tangible Cultural Property. The WMF wants to help authorities preserve and update Inari-yu, in a bid to reinvent the bathhouse for modern visitors. Learn more about Tokyo with our full city guide.
Mam Rashan Shrine, Sinjar, Iraq
In August 2014 ISIS devastated Sinjar in northern Iraq, attacking the area’s residents and destroying many of its religious shrines. Mam Rashan was just one of them. Although ISIS is no longer in control of Sinjar, many of its residents have not returned. In a bid to support the area’s communities and encourage them to return home, the WMF is funding the reconstruction of Sinjar’s religious monuments.
Bennerley Viaduct, Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire, UK
Koutammakou, Land of the Batammariba, Benin and Togo
In Benin and Togo, close to Nigeria, the Batammariba people have been creating unique homes since the 17th century – in fact, their takienta mud houses are closely bound up with their cultural identity. Built in layers, these unique homes have been added to the World Heritage List, but this isn’t enough to protect the traditions of the Batammariba tribe. The WMF is thus committed to helping the people of Koutammakou, through the conservation of their signature architecture.
Alexan Palace, Asyut, Egypt
Chivas and chaityas, Kathmandu, Nepal
In the Kathmandu Valley, you’ll find Buddhist shrines, or chaityas, scattered across the landscape. Ranging in size, they were originally private monuments, erected in memory of deceased family members, but eventually became important sites for community worship. The oldest of the chaityas date right back to the 5th century but, as Nepal developed, many of these shrines were encroached upon or destroyed. Locals have now started recording the location, condition and history of each monument and the WMF is supporting their preservation efforts.
Traditional Burmese teak farmhouses, Myanmar
Sitting on stilts and formed from teak wood, bamboo and thatch, the quaint Burmese farmhouses of Myanmar represent centuries’ worth of tradition. But building restrictions have meant that homes like this have all but disappeared, as locals opt instead for more modern construction methods. In an attempt to preserve the legacy of Myanmar’s traditional building techniques, local academics are documenting its farmhouses and encouraging awareness of cultural identity, something the WMF is supporting. Now discover the world’s landmarks under threat from climate change.
Historic water systems of the Deccan Plateau, India
For many years, the people of India have been storing and managing monsoon water, ready for the dry season. The Daulatabad fort, located in Aurangabad, is a great example of what it takes to sustain water systems for a heavily populated town – in the 1800s, some 16 reservoirs were discovered here, but now only one remains in use, and this water requires constant maintenance to ensure its cleanliness. Nevertheless, the WMF hopes that by preserving historic water systems such as this, it can help alleviate a potential water crisis for future generations.
Anarkali Bazaar, Lahore, Pakistan
The Anarkali Bazaar can be found on the outskirts of Lahore, Pakistan, and is home to a buzzing market and historic buildings that date back to the colonial period. Gradually, the city’s population has grown from one million to more than 10 million, leading to overcrowding and the neglect of the Anarkali neighborhood’s historic buildings and public spaces. By including the Anarkali Bazaar on the 2020 Watch list, the WMF is championing grassroots efforts to restore this community and preserve its history and culture.
Sacred Valley of the Incas, Peru
Every year, the Cusco region, which includes the Sacred Valley of the Incas, sees upwards of four million visitors, who mostly come to see a tangle of ruins from the Inca Empire. But while the government has long been committed to boosting the region’s tourism industry, the construction of a new airport in the valley is threatening to disrupt the area’s indigenous peoples, its landscape and its historical monuments. The WMF intends to help with the sustainable growth of the area, without having a detrimental effect on the valley’s beauty or communities.
Kindler Chapel, Pabianice, Poland
Dating back to 1907, the Kindler Chapel can be found in the Pabianice Evangelical Cemetery in the town of Pabianice, Poland. Originally built as a mausoleum for the wealthy Kindler family, the landmark was eventually turned into a chapel – but due to the deindustrialization of the area, the cemetery and the chapel ultimately fell into disrepair. These sites have since been acknowledged as a priority for regeneration, though, and the WMF is supporting efforts to restore this once-thriving area, creating important community spaces for Pabiance’s residents.
Traditional houses in the Old Jewish Mahalla of Bukhara, Uzbekistan
Situated on the Silk Road, the Uzbek city of Bukhara has been home to Jewish communities for over 1,000 years. Bukharian Jews are known for their traditional crafts and in particular, their unique timber houses. But now only 200 Bukharian Jews remain in the city and their age-old architecture is under threat of disappearing. The WMF wants to document and conserve the buildings of Bukhara, in order to preserve the region’s unique local culture.
Iwamatsu District, Shikoku, Japan
Gingerbread neighborhood, Port-au-Prince, Haiti
The historic “gingerbread houses” of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, remain an important example of post-colonial building techniques and are representative of this country’s rich heritage. These beautiful buildings were already included on the WMF’s 2010 and 2012 Watch lists, since their condition was deteriorating. But this year, the charity is promising to provide further funds to assist local authorities with the full restoration of these significant architectural treasures.
Courtyard houses of Axerquía, Córdoba, Spain
Tusheti National Park, Georgia
Choijin Lama Temple, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
Central Aguirre Historic District, Salinas, Puerto Rico
Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral, France
Dating back to 1163, Paris’ Notre-Dame Cathedral is among the most famous sacred buildings on the planet, and on 15 April 2019, the world watched as a fire ripped through the much-loved monument. While firefighters were able to save the building from collapse, the cathedral remains unstable to this day, after being severely weakened by the blaze. It’s thought that restoration work could take more than five years, so the WMF is encouraging global support for the preservation of this iconic building.
Easter Island, Chile
Floating in the South Pacific Ocean, Easter Island is best known for its 900 moai statues, created by the Rapa Nui people from around the 9th century to the 17th century. Also of great significance is the ceremonial village of Orongo, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1995 – home to a series of semi-subterranean stone houses, it’s considered one of the most important archaeological spots in the world. Overtourism has posed a threat to this isle in recent years, however, and the WMF – which has been working to preserve the island and its extraordinary offerings for six decades – intends to continue offering its support.
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