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67 Global Heritage Sites in Danger

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

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Corrosion, development pressures, lean budgets and civil strife are endangering the future of 67 cultural-heritage sites worldwide, according to a new "watch list" issued by the World Monuments Fund.

Six sites in the United States—including Missouri's Gateway Arch, the nation's tallest monument—are among the dozens at risk from natural, social, political and economic headwinds across 41 countries and territories, the fund reports in its 2014 World Monuments Watch list, released Oct. 8.

© Taliesin Preservation Inc. / World Monuments Fund

Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin home, built in 1911, is on the 2014 World Monuments Watch list. The Hillside Theater at Taliesin is suffering from water infiltration, a failing roof, and other building envelope problems.

The list also includes every cultural-heritage site in the country of Syria.

‘Call to Action’

The association proffers the list as a “call to action,” bringing international attention to the fragility of the sites and dangers they encounter.

© Nigel Ko / World Monuments Fund

Rapid development in Hong Kong threatens Pokfulam Village, a unique collection of modest traditional buildings on narrow lanes and alleys in the center of the city, the World Monument Fund reports.

“These sites—and countless others like them—recount our human history and highlight our achievements,” said WMF President Bonnie Burnham.

“It takes vigilance to keep them active in the world; yet it is often the case that the very places that provide rich character and texture to our lives need more assistance and attention than they are given.”

The sites on the 2014 list range from prehistoric to contemporary and include cultural landscapes and viewsheds; historic urban areas and resources; archaeological sites; civic buildings; religious structures and complexes; industrial heritage; gardens and sacred groves; rock art; vernacular settlements; and residential architecture.

Conflict and Custom

Conflict and catastrophe, a lack of resources, development pressures and loss of cultural traditions are among the challenges faced by the sites.

For example, the conflict and violence in Syria prompted the WMF to add the cultural-heritage sites of the entire country on the 2014 Watch List.

Syria’s most significant and symbolic sites include Aleppo, the Crac des Chevaliers, and the fortress of Qa’lat al-Mudique.

Syria cultural site
© Elivera Portugal / World Monuments Fund

Ongoing violence and conflict are endangering Syria's Crac des Chevaliers, castles built between the 11th and 13th centuries during the Crusades, and every other cultural heritage site in the country, WMF says.

In many instances, long-established sites are threatened by new development, WMF said. Such is the case with the Village of Pokfulam, a unique collection of modest traditional buildings on narrow lanes and alleys in the center of Hong Kong.

Three former industrial sites in the United Kingdom—Grimsby Ice Factory, Battersea Power Station and Deptford Dockyard—also face similar fates, threatened by the changes around them.

© Keith Garner / World Monuments Fund

Battersea Power Station in London consists of two power stations and a larger complex that were built in the 1930s and 1950s. It was closed in 1983. The station is a repeat listing on the Watch list.

WMF says that with careful planning, preservation of these sites can occur in light of new development, becoming “strong drivers for local economies and providing opportunities for skills training and magnets for tourism.”

Saving the Recent Past

The Watch also includes the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial (Gateway Arch), a St. Louis, MO, landmark facing multiple preservation challenges. Corrosion inside and outside the 630-foot-tall structure (75 feet taller than the Washington Monument) have raised concerns for years about structural degradation.

The Arch's stainless-steel exterior never received a protective coating or any maintenance because its builders felt none was necessary. At the time, stainless steel was considered impervious to corrosion. A protective coating was applied to the interior, but the reinforced-concrete-and-steel structure has never been recoated or even thoroughly cleaned.

A two-year structural study deemed the corrosion a cosmetic problem that does not affect the monument's structural integrity.

The Arch Gateway Arch interior corrosion
© Media Services Staff, National Park Service / World Monument Fund (left); National Park Service (right)

The Gateway Arch, the tallest monument in the U.S., is showing interior and exterior corrosion. A key area of corrosion is the base of the legs. The photo at right was taken inside the north leg in September 2010.

“Its unusual shape and extreme height have proven challenging to its preservation, as has a general decrease in government funding for the stewardship of national monuments,” WMF said.

The Arch was conceived in the 1930s by Luther Ely Smith and constructed between 1963 and 1965 according to Eero Saarinen’s design.

Also listed in the Watch is Frank Lloyd Wright’s home, Taliesin, near Spring Green, WI; and the home, studio and workshop of woodworker George Nakashima in Pennsylvania.

Nakashima home
© Paul Warchol / World Monuments Fund

Woodworker George Nakashima's house and workshop in New Hope, PA, is one of the sites named.

“Saving modern heritage sites begins with recognition of their significance and also requires an innovative approach to conservation work, dealing with materials that were unconventional and innovative themselves at the time of the buildings’ construction,” WMF said.

About the List

The World Monuments Watch was launched in 1996 and is issued every two years. The list is assembled by a panel of international heritage experts in the fields of archaeology, architecture, art history, and preservation.

Since the program’s inception, more than 740 sites in 133 countries and territories—including those on the 2014 Watch—have been included. Nearly $290 million has been contributed to help save the sites from ruin.  

The World Monuments Fund is headquartered in New York City and has offices worldwide.

Details of the Watch List are available at


Tagged categories: Architectural history; Architecture; Corrosion; Historic Preservation; Maintenance coating work; Modernist architecture; Monuments; Preservation

Comment from Catherine Brooks, (10/15/2013, 10:21 AM)

What a shame that so many man-made causes (social, political and economic) are destroying monuments which explain the heritage of humans on this planet. natural, social, political and economic headwinds

Comment from Catherine Brooks, (10/15/2013, 10:24 AM)

Thanks, Paint Square for bringing to us readers attention to our pasts being lost. We concentrate so much on the great technical advances we are making in the coatings industry that we forget about where we started centuries ago.

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