World Monuments and Heritage

On the same day the World Monument Fund announced its biennial Watch List of cultural heritage sites facing neglect, demolition, or disaster, the city of St. Petersburg, Russia approved the construction of a 77-story skyscraper in the heart of the Czarist era city.  St. Petersburg is not on the WMF Watch List (though it was on the 2008 Watch), but it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and UNESCO has threatened to revoke the city’s heritage designation if the construction does proceed.  And so the battle continues.

There is no easy answer when it comes to preservation and progress.  Like a lot of things in life, each side takes an extreme view of the other, when in actuality things are really more towards the middle.  Preservation is not anti-progress.  Progress is not anti-preservation.  Or at least neither should be.  There is a way to integrate preservation and progress.  However, plunking a 1300 foot tower in the middle of a city which has strictly regulated building heights in the city center for centuries is simply ridiculous.  St. Petersburg boasts a well preserved collection of 18th and 19th century Baroque and Neoclassical architecture and a contemporary skyscraper will be simply out of context.  I’ll be watching this one carefully.

The WMF Watch List is as eclectic as ever.  From Machu Picchu to the 3000 yeard old petroglyphs in the Diamer-Basha Dam area cultural around the world is at risk.  These are irreplaceable artifacts, innovations, and products of humans.  They are so important they belong to the entire human race and deserve all the protection they can be afforded.  Once they are gone, there is no way to get them back.  The sites on the WMF Watch List are living history.  As American’s its eay to think that these places are only ancient/old and found in foreign countries, but of the 100 sites on the 2010 list, nine (9) are found in the United States.  And while the Taos Pueblo is old, there are also two Frank Lloyd Wright designed buildings as well as the bridges of Merritt Parkway in Connecticut which are just 70 years old.

I’m predisposed to care about these things.  It’s what I do.  I hope the rest of you realize the real sense of urgency there should to be protect these sites.  Again, once its gone, its not coming back.  Check out the list, maybe you’ve been to one of the sites or a lot of the sites, they’re more prevalent than these laundry list of sites lead you to believe.  Protect our (humanity’s) history.

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