Recent damage to the Taq Kasra, a 1,500-year-old architectural masterpiece in Iraq, has renewed urgent calls for government officials and cultural heritage organizations to protect the Persian monument.
Located approximately 25 miles south of Baghdad, the Taq Kasra was built in 550 CE and dates back to the Sasanian era (ca. 224–651 CE). It is the only above-ground structure remaining of the ancient city of Ctesiphon, the former royal capital of the Persian Empire prior to the Muslim conquest. Known as the Archway of Ctesiphon, the monument is also architecturally significant for having the world’s largest single-span unreinforced brick vault arch.
According to a spokesperson from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), four meters of the arched roof collapsed following heavy rains in the region approximately 20 days ago. In a call between UNESCO and Ayad Hamza, director general of the Iraqi State Board of Antiquities and Heritage (SBAH), the latter said the site is in “dangerous and critical” condition and needs immediate support to the remaining part of the roof to prevent further collapse.
The UNESCO spokesperson told Hyperallergic that “no one from the Ministry of Culture or the Iraqi government asked UNESCO for any support.” They also noted that the site is not on its World Heritage List or Tentative List.
On social media, some have pointed to the building’s worsening state of disrepair in recent decades. Iranian and Iraqi officials had long discussed collaborating on the restoration of the monument, but the project never took off. In the wake of the most recent damage, Iran has agreed to restore the structure at an estimated cost of $600,000, Tehran Times reports.
Over the last few weeks, cultural preservation activists and organizations have criticized the local government for neglecting the monument. Among those urging immediate action is Liwan, an independent NGO led by a team of Iraqi archaeologists, architects, engineers, historians, and others concerned with safeguarding Iraq’s heritage.
“Taq Kasra is one of Iraq’s significant cultural sites. Like other major archaeological and cultural sites, there has been significant neglect due to lack of funding and support in Iraq,” Liwan told Hyperallergic. “The Ministry of Culture and the State Board of Antiquities and Heritage, which are responsible for Taq Kasra, has not been allocated sufficient funds by the Iraqi government to engage in emergency interventions as well as conservation. It is an emergency crisis.”
Liwan attributes the Taq Kasra’s precarious state to the larger problem of insufficient resources allocated to protect the country’s architecture and monuments.
“Iraq has high caliber conservation experts but the work on Taq Kasra requires sufficient funding, which has not been coming,” Liwan said. “Taq Kasra is a glaring case of the neglect of Iraq’s cultural heritage in a context of Iraq’s politics. International support is required, namely financial support, to safeguard Taq Kasra from further collapse. Without international support, it is most likely Taq Kasra’s famous arch will collapse in the next few weeks and months.”
What would it look like if museums turned their billions toward positive good instead of questionable investments simply for profit?
Patricio Guzmán combines reflection on the past, observation of the present, and hope for the future into an expansive vision of all the ideas he’s explored in his work.
Artists reflect on histories of oppressive power structures in Brazil in this exhibition at the Visual Arts Center at the University of Texas at Austin.
So closely do Disney’s animators assimilate the sensibility of French design that on occasion their source material appears almost more Disney than Disney itself.
The Grand Avenue Billboard Project enables artists like Karen Fiorito to publicly express their political views.
The museum opens to the public on October 8 with a 24-hour kickoff and a rebooted California Biennial.
The report estimates that 6.7 million Indigenous objects and human remains continue to be held in Canadian institutions, most of which do not have formal repatriation policies.
Funding options at UB include full-tuition scholarships for MFA students, the Arthur A. Schomburg Fellowship Program, and additional opportunities for MA students.
The Association of Art Museum Directors announced a shift in its longstanding policy, which restricted the use of funds from sales of art to new acquisitions only.
Martín Mobarak may have broken Mexican law, but he burned the proof.
Your list of must-see, fun, insightful, and very Los Angeles art events this month, including the Maya Codex of Mexico at the Getty, Beatrice Wood, Trenton Doyle Hancock, and more.