July 7, 2005
The 2006 World Monuments Fund (WMF) Watch
List, announced in June, includes ancient and modern structures
alike. Every two years the WMF assembles a panel of experts
to identify 100 imperiled and irreplaceable cultural and architectural
sites around the world.
This year, events in Iraq prompted the
inclusion of the entire country. "Looters work night
and day to fuel an international art market hungry for antiquities,"
notes the WMF designation, which also cites recent damage
to Iraq's ancient Ziggurat at Ur and the 9th century Spiral
Minaret at Samarra. The designation enables work by the WMF,
the Iraq State Board of Antiquities and Heritage, the Getty
Conservation Institute, UNESCO, and other groups to evaluate
the damage and plan for long-term conservation.
Also, for the first time, the Watch List
includes buildings from the second half of the 20th Century.
Edward Durrell Stone's 1965 Two Columbus Circle in New York,
Richard Neutra's 1963 Cyclorama Center at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania,
and Oscar Neimeyer's 1963 International Fairground in Tripoli,
Lebanon, are all slated for radical renovation or demolition
by the end of 2005.
"All three sites," says
World Monuments Fund President Bonnie Burnham, "have
systematically not been recognized by their owners or the community as
significant architectural icons, and lack a designation
to protect them." The preservation of Postwar Modernism,
Burnham notes, is compromised by the influence of, "taste
rather than some kind of objective standard. Aesthetic issues
are very subjective at such a short remove in time."
Considering there have been no public hearings on the preservation
of Two Columbus Circle, Burnam adds, "A lot of New Yorkers
are wondering whether the Landmarks Commission is doing the
best job it could, and whether its process is sufficiently
independent of the political process."
Other sites on the list include Frank
Lloyd Wright's Ennis Brown House in California, Shackleton's
Expedition Hut in Antarctica, the Haji Piyada Mosque in Afghanistan,
Ernest Hemingway's former home at Finca Vigia, Cuba, and the
1936 Helsinki-Malmi airport terminal in Finland.