Tuesday, July 14, 2015

20th Century UNESCO - a Celebration of Architecture and Industry But Not Historical Heritage

UNESCO just added this year’s new World Heritage Sites! This is always fun for me, and, due to the new designations, I have now been to three more sites:

The Singapore Botanical Gardens (Singapore’s first World Heritage Site)

Ephesus (Turkey)

San Antonio Missions (USA – I have been to the Alamo)

Particularly, I’m bothered by the lack of US cultural sites. Of the American cultural designations, the breakdown goes like this:

Two mound sites, Cahokia, and Poverty Point

Three Southwestern sites, Mesa Verde, Taos, and Chaco Canyon

Two Spanish sites, San Antonio Missions, and La Fortaleza

Two English colonial sites, Independence Hall (1753), and Monticello (1772)

One American site, The Statue of Liberty (built in France)

The mixed property on the list, considered both natural and cultural, is Papahanamoukoukea. This site, of sacred value to native Hawaiians, has no actual structure, or monument, just cultural significance.

The US had a pretty big role in the 20th century. And a few tentative sites proposed deal with our history, such as three Civil Rights churches, the Dayton aviation sites, and… that’s it. There’s also a collection of Frank Lloyd Wright buildings under consideration, but these are of architectural heritage, not historic/cultural.

This brings me to an important point. UNESCO, with over 1,000 sites, has about 40 from the 20th century. Now, this number could be disputed. Some are hard to call, and it may be more, or (less likely) possibly fewer that are “properly” 20th century. I tried to include only those sites that are distinct, in some way, to the years after 1900. Some rule-bending did occur, though. So, you know: flexible set.

Of those 40 or so sites, 6 are of significance post-1950. These are the nuclear test sites of the Bikini Atoll, Robben Island, Brasilia, The University Campus of Mexico City, The University Campus of Caracas, and the Sydney Opera House.

And the breakdown of 20th century sites focuses overwhelmingly on architectural legacies, and industrialization. For the post-1950 sites, only two are historic, both negative (Robben Island and the Bikini atoll). Sites of historic importance are rare, indeed. In fact, there are only a handful in the whole list, including Auschwitz Birkenau in Poland, a cemetery in Sweden, the Genbaku Domu in Hiroshima, and they are memorials to the negative. One exception to this negativity are the Baha’i Holy Sites, although most of the structures are from the 1800s.

Here’s the list of all 36 sites I consider 20th century, which you can judge for yourself. I have labelled them I for industrial significance, A for architectural, and H for historic/cultural. A bolded asterisk marks the six sites predominately post-1950, as well as Le Havre, which is arguably of this period, although envisioned in the 1940s.

Fray Bentos Cultural-Industrial Landscape. I A meat-packing plant in Uruguay built in part from 1924.

Rhaetian Railway in the Albula/Bernina Landscapes. I An Alpine railway in Italy and Switzerland from 1904.

Grimeton Radio Station, Varberg. I “the only surviving example of a major transmitting station based on pre-electronic technology” from 1924 in Sweden.

Zollverein Coal Mine Industrial Complex in Essen. I A German coal mine, built in the 1920s.

Ir.D.F. Woudagemaal (D.F. Wouda Steam Pumping Station). I Dutch pumping station from 1920.

Rjukan - Notodden Industrial Heritage Site. I Important Norwegian industrial site “designed to manufacture artificial fertilizer from nitrogen in the air” back in the 1910s.

Sewell Mining Town. I Built in 1905, an extreme climate mining town in Chile.

Speicherstadt and Kontorhaus District with Chilehaus. I A number of port warehouses, dating from the early 20th century, from the 1920s to being rebuilt in the 1949-67.

Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution: Iron and Steel, Shipbuilding and Coal Mining. I Japan’s rapid industrialization is memorialized here, including a handful of sites from the very first years of the 20th century.

Van Nellefabriek. I/A 1920s factory in the Netherlands of the modern design.

Fagus Factory in Alfeld. A/I Modern German factory designed by Walter Gropius in 1910.

* Le Havre, the city rebuilt by Auguste Perret. A concrete French city built after the War, from 1945-1964.

Palau de la Música Catalana and Hospital de Sant Pau, Barcelona. A Built between 1901 and 1930, two sites of Art Nouveau in Spain.

Works of Anton Gaudi. A Site to commemorate Spanish architect Gaudi has seven buildings, one of which was built in 1910, one in 1904, one in 1908, one in 1914, and one, the Sagrada Familia, which they are still working on (Gaudi working on it until 1926).

Rabat, Modern Capital and Historic City: a Shared Heritage. A Morocco’s capital has a section built by the French between 1912 and the 1930s.

* Brasilia. A Created in 1956 by Oscar Niemeyer and Lucio Costa to be Brazil’s capital.

Centennial Hall in Wrocław. A Poland’s reinforced concrete masterpiece from 1913.

Rietveld Schröderhuis (Rietveld Schröder House). A Dutch De Stijl masterpiece from the 1920s.

* Ciudad Universitaria de Caracas. A Venezuela’s Carlos Raúl Villanueva designed this campus between 1940 and 1960, and is a great piece of modern architecture.

* Central University City Campus of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM). A Mexico City’s central campus, a modern architecture landmark, built between 1949-52.

Stoclet House. A Belgian home that displays the transition from Art Nouveau to Art Deco, completed in 1911.

* Sydney Opera House. A Completed in 1973, it is easily Australia’s most recognizable landmark, and one of modern architecture around the world.

Luis Barragán House and Studio. A Mexican architect Barragan’s studio was built in 1948.

Hospicio Cabañas, Guadalajara. A This Mexican hospital predates the 20th century, but Jose Clemente Orozco’s murals, from the 1930s, are part of the reason it was added.

Town of Luang Prabang. A Located in Laos, this is a rare example of a colonial architecture trying to fuse with the local traditions.

White City of Tel-Aviv – the Modern Movement. A From the 1930s to the 1950s, this is Israel’s greatest monument to modernism.

Tugendhat Villa in Brno. A 1920s home by Mies van der Rohe in the Czech Republic.

Rio de Janeiro: Carioca Landscapes between the Mountain and the Sea. A This Brazilian designation includes the famous Christ the Redeemer statue, completed in 1931.

Bauhaus and its Sites in Weimar and Dessau. A The Bauhaus style’s influence is preserved in these German sites, dating from the 1920s.

Berlin Modernism Housing Estates. A From 1910-30 these German estates were built as modernist landmarks.

Skogskyrkogarden. H An influential cemetery design from 1912 in Sweden.

Auschwitz Birkenau. H The legacy of the Holocaust in Poland, in operation from 1940-45.

* Bikini Atoll Nuclear Test Site. H Located in the Marshall Islands, used by Americans from 1946-1958 to test nuclear bombs, including the first H bomb.

* Robben Island. H “Its buildings, particularly those of the late 20th century such as the maximum security prison for political prisoners, witness the triumph of democracy and freedom over oppression and racism” in South Africa, notably Mandela’s incarceration from 1964 – 1982.

The Hiroshima Peace Memorial (Genbaku Dome). H Site commemorating the 1945 atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Japan.

Bahá’i Holy Places in Haifa and Western Galilee. H The Shrine of the Bab was constructed between 1909 and 1953.

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