On October 15, the World Monuments Fund (WMF) announced a new watch list, which includes 50 endangered architectural sites around the world. While most are on it for the first time, some are repeats, such as Jordan’s popular destination of Petra, affected by mismanaged tourism. The WMF’s first catalogue was issued twenty years ago, with new locations added on every other year since then. With the most recent iteration included, the New York-based non-profit has identified 790 locations worldwide in an effort to promote awareness and ultimately collect funds for their protection.
This year includes two U.S. locations. The first is the Mission San Xavier del Bac in Tucson, Ariz. Built in 1692, Spanish settlers colonized this area, where the Tohono O’odham tribe originally inhabited, and mandated the native people to build the European-style church. Known as the White Dove of the Desert for its limestone exterior, it was also named one of the first National Historic Landmarks by the National Park Service in 1963. However, due to an impractical restoration process in 1953 that included layering cement on the building’s surface, the structure started to degrade from moisture trapped between the layers. Repairs to reverse this deterioration began in 1988, and have slowly been completed in intervals, yet still has not been totally completed.
The second is the San Esteban Del Rey Mission in Acoma Pueblo, New Mexico, built in the early 17th century by another set of Spanish settlers with the same direction—forcing the native Acoma people to construct it in the pueblo. It is the only mission church to survive the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, and was included on the 2002 World Monuments’ watch list for the restoration of the adobe walls, which were eroding at ground level. Despite these efforts, it’s ranked once again because the church’s roof requires repairs that have been overdue for decades.
Cuba has three entries for this year’s edition—the most of any country. These include the colonial churches of Santiago de Cuba, and El Vedado and the National Art Schools, both in Havana, which are all falling apart due to lack of funding and preservation. Two-thirds of the historical buildings within the country’s capital are in a state of ruin.
Other sites stick out for their special cases. The entire country of Nepal, for instance, stands as a single site due to the devastating earthquake it experienced in April. Pavlopetri, in Elafonisos, Greece, is an ancient civilization submerged under several feet of water near Vatika Bay. The surviving remains of the Bronze Age–era city face damage from pollution of anchored ships, a power plant, and thieves looking to loot artifacts.
Another is the “Unnamed Monument,” which is listed “in recognition of the deliberate and calculated damage to thousands of cultural heritage sites in many areas of political and social instability.” This includes the archaeological sites in Syria destroyed by ISIS, such as the Temple of Bel in Palmyra, WMF executive vice president Lisa Ackerman told Newsweek. However, on the WMF website, it does not directly identify this area or the destroyed places. But on the bottom of the page, WMF features “related projects,” which includes the “Cultural Heritage Sites of Syria,” and the “Cultural Heritage Sites of Mali,” which have both been featured on former lists. The Newsweek article also states that WMF said there were too many threatened locations to include on this particular entry.
Courtesy Flickr user Johan Siegers via Creative Commons