The World Monuments Fund has just issued a new list of 67 endangered cultural sites around the globe.
U.S. sites on the watch list include woodworker George Nakashima’s house and workshop in New Hope, Pennsylvania, and Frank Lloyd Wrights’ home Taliesin in Spring Green, Wisconsin, where “the forces of nature, including exposure to the elements over time, have put the complex at risk.”
Sculptor Donald Judd’s buildings at The Chinati Foundation, a contemporary art museum in Marfa, Texas, are also in need of a preservation plan. “Today many of the original structures of the expansive campus are in a deteriorated state, and even routine repairs are becoming complicated for buildings that house precious art,” says the WMF.
One of the most public environmental threats is just outside of New York City. The WMF has singled out the Cloisters Museum and Hudson River Palisades, explaining that the planned construction of a new commercial building would spoil views from the cliffs on both the New Jersey and New York sides of the river.
As The New York Times reported back in January, the current design for the new headquarters of LG Electronics would be 143 feet tall and rise several stories above the tree line. “The building site is almost directly across the Hudson River from the Cloisters, the museum’s medieval outpost in Fort Tryon Park, which was built in the 1930s using architectural elements from five European cloisters built during the Middle Ages,” according to the Times. “We wish they would reconsider the design and perhaps come up with a plan that doesn’t pierce the treetops on the Palisades,” Harold Holzer, a museum spokesman, told the paper earlier in the year.
Here are some photographs I took of the Hudson River and cliffs while visiting the Cloisters. As you can see, the vista is expansive and quite breathtaking from the museum…
Wave Hill, the public garden and cultural center in the Bronx, has also expressed concern about protecting the “legacy” of their vista.
The World Monuments Fund worries about a dangerous zoning precedent:
Since its opening in 1938, a defining feature of visiting the Cloisters is an extraordinary vista across the Hudson River to the Palisades. Plans are underway to construct a corporate headquarters and a residential complex on the New Jersey side of the Hudson River, modifying zoning legislation to accommodate towers that rise above the once protected tree line of the Palisades. Proponents of the project have sought to emphasize the economic and environmental benefits of the new development, especially job creation and energy efficiency. But there are significant social costs that have not been adequately considered in the debate. These zoning modifications will alter the landscape and viewshed of the Palisades and will potentially set a precedent for more municipalities to build above the tree line.
The fund is blaming “large-scale cruise-ship tourism” for putting the historic city of Venice, Italy, at risk. Tourism has risen 400% over the past five years, with 20,000 visitors a day visiting in peak season. According to WMF, “the large cruise ships have had direct and indirect impacts on flooding, because of dredging requirements and the movement of large ships through the Grand Canal.”
The influx of visitors debarking in fragile historic areas has likewise affected the quality of life for residents, contributing to a 50% decline in the city’s population over the past decade. Local residents have formed groups in protest, and the municipality is endorsing the need to consider a large-scale redevelopment plan that would relocate and better manage cruise operations, and mitigate the negative impacts on both the historic fabric and the social wellbeing of the city.
War is also taking a toll. As the group explains, escalating violence in Syria is having a devastating effect on some of its monuments, including the citadel of Aleppo and the fortress of Qa’lat al-Mudique.
Industrial sites in England also made the “threatened” list. The Grimsby Ice Factory, Battersea Power Station, and Deptford Dockyard are all obsolete structures the fund said could be converted for cultural and community purposes. I suspect the WMF has the success of the Tate Modern in mind, when calling attention to the potential uses of these architecturally significant buildings. I must admit that I’ve had a long-time fascination with the Battersea Power Station and would love to see it transformed into a structure Londoners and visitors alike could enjoy.
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