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The Port-Louis Theater, finished in 1822, is one of the oldest buildings in Mauritius. The traditional architecture of Mauritius is included on the 2016 World Monuments Fund Watch. (photo by Julien Venner, Fondation Marengo/World Monuments Fund)

The World Monuments Fund (WMF) has announced 50 sites around the globe that are in danger of disappearing due to development, war, neglect, natural disaster, or deliberate destruction. Since 1996 the World Monuments Fund Watch has identified heritage sites at risk in an effort to rally attention and funds for their protection.

Shukhov Tower in Moscow, Russia, in danger of being dismantled (photo by Alexander Muxin/World Monuments Fund) (click to enlarge)

The list includes two sites in the United States (Mission San Xavier del Bac in Arizona and San Esteban del Rey Mission in New Mexico, both in need of restoration), 15 in Europe, and seven in North Africa and the Middle East. Cuba has three entries, the highest number for a single country, all of them in peril due to a lack of financial resources and preservation management: the churches of Santiago de Cuba, the architecture of Havana’s El Vedado, and the deteriorating National Art Schools. However, the entire country of Nepal, hit by a devastating earthquake earlier this year, is included as one site on the list. Other entries range from feats of 20th-century architecture — the 1920s Shukhov Tower that stands 525 feet over Moscow, an engineering marvel that may be dismantled — to ancient places like Greece’s Pavlopetri, the oldest underwater city in the world, at risk due to both large sea vessels and pollution.

While there are some returning entries, like Jordan’s Petra, which was on the WMF Watch list in 1996, 1998, 2000, and 2002 yet still needs community support and future planning, most are newcomers that reflect the perils of cultural heritage now. This is best reflected in the inclusion not of a certain place on the list, but an idea. For the first time the Watch includes an “Unnamed Monument,” an entry “in recognition of the deliberate and calculated damage to thousands of cultural heritage sites in many areas of political and social instability.” It’s a catch-all because there are “too many sites at risk to be included individually on the Watch, and no immediate hope for resolution.”

Earthquake damage in Nepal (photo by René Fan/World Monuments Fund)

It might surprise some that no specific sites in Syria, where ISIS recently destroyed Palmyra, are included on the Watch, and rather listed indirectly through the “Unnamed Monument.” As Newsweek reported, Lisa Ackerman, executive vice president of WMF, explained at a press conference that the organization “felt this time the nominations were complex, having to do with conflict zones, but we also felt the problem rises so much above any one monument […] It’s not any one monument of any one country, we’re really seeing an assault on cultural heritage [globally].”

WMF is hosting a talk on the Watch’s history and the new sites on October 29 at its headquarters in the Empire State Building. You can also explore a complete list of this year’s 50 additions, as well as the now 790 sites the Watch has highlighted in its two decades, online.

The Chug-Chug Geoglyphs in Chile, a 1,000-year-old site in need of an archaeological park to preserve it (photo by Fundación Patrimonio Desierto de Atacama/World Monuments Fund)

El Vedado in Cuba (photo by Eduardo Luis Rodríguez/World Monuments Fund)

The abandoned Gala pool at the Moseley Road Baths in the United Kingdom, which are still in use and date to the Edwardian era, although they’re now at risk of being closed (photo by Vivienne Harrison/World Monuments Fund)

The 1951 Chapultepec Park in Mexico, which remains in limbo as a group plans its future (photo by Michael Calderwood/World Monuments Fund)

Antiguo Colegio de San Ildefonso in Mexico, with an example from the Mexican muralist movement. The museum is in need of updates to its outdated facilities. (photo by Arturo Ulises Mata Sifri/World Monuments Fund)

An example of the traditional wooden architecture in Tsukiji, Tokyo, where Japan is planning development for the 2020 Olympic Games (photo by Mitsuo Inagaki/World Monuments Fund)

Spaç Prison, a former labor camp in Albania that’s abandoned, mostly demolished, and in need of attention to become a memorial (photo by Kreshnik Merxhani/World Monuments Fund)

Gon-Nila-Phuk Cave Temples and Fort in India, showing one of the Buddhist wall paintings in danger of disintegration (photo by INTACH, Ladakh Chapter/World Monuments Fund)

Amedy, Iraq, facing development that may alter its historic structures (photo by Amedy Culture Center Archive/ World Monuments Fund)

Aerial view of Petra in Jordan, where tourist popularity must be balanced with preservation needs (photo by Martha Joukowsky/World Monuments Fund)

Read more about the 50 sites on the 2016 World Monuments Fund Watch

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Allison Meier

Allison C. Meier is a former staff writer for Hyperallergic. Originally from Oklahoma, she has been covering visual culture and overlooked history for print...

One reply on “The Most Endangered Heritage Sites of 2016, from Cuban Art Schools to the Oldest Underwater City”

  1. How about mentioning thousands of Armenian historic sites, starting with the city of Ani, occupied by Turkey? In the past century alone (i.e. after the Turkish genocide of the Armenians), Turkey has used these buildings, monuments, churches for army target practice, as inns, cinemas, stables and brothels, if not shattered them to smithereens. To rub salt on the wound, Turkish tourist flyers, signs, and guides identify these millennia-old Armenian examples of art and civilization as Turkish or built by unknown Turkish tribes. Welcome to progressive Turkey… “the liberal and democratic bridge between east and west”.

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