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News from Seville (WHC meeting 2009)

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Author Solivagant
#31 | Posted: 28 Jun 2009 02:26 | Edited by: Solivagant 
Folowing the inscription of Ponycysyllte I have just been rereading my review of it on this site made when it was only on the T List and was reminded that Telford's bridges in N Wales at Conwy and Menai were previously rejected by ICOMOS/UNESCO on grounds of lack of "authenticity" - due to the replacement of some iron and wooden parts by more modern (and "safe"?) steel ones.
I don't believe that the UNESCO statement, repeated verbatim by Nem, about the Tower of Hercules being "unique as it is the only lighthouse of Greco-Roman antiquity to have retained a measure of structural integrity and functional continuity" would stand up to an equally rigorous assessment!!! The "measures" of continuity and structural integrity are in fact very small - almost infinitessimal! On this site was indeed an ancient lighthouse. Between then and the construction of the massive neoclassical structure in 1791 were many centuries of ruin and non use as a lighthouse. Inside are some ruins of the old structure (and there are such ruins in other Roman etc sites). The lighting equipment installed then (interestingly only around 30 years before the Menai bridge) was later totally modernised - just like the chains and deck of the Telford bridges. I am inclined to agree with Els's hints that Spain was throwing everything in for a slightly weak proposal. But it needn't have worried - as our "Connection" shows the host nation usually gets a "present" in the form of an inscription (and avoidance of discussion on "unfortunate matters?)" Perhaps that is where Germany went wrong - it should have hosted the WHC and schmoozed with Matsuura et al!

So, it is all a "judgement call" really by people whose views are subject to the same sorts of political pressures and aesthetic fashions as those of all of us in our "smaller ways" - except that they are in a position to impose their will - but that doesn't make their judgements any more "correct" or less subject to analysis and criticism! And there are plenty of grounds for both. As with examples I have quoted before - Warsaw was considered authentic following its reconstruction following WWII - but Dresden was not (although UNESCO now says it "might" be!). Cidade Velha is ok now because UNESCO wants a least one inscribed site from every ratifying state but in 1992 did not meet the criteria (note - not just "deferred" until its management plan was improved). But political imperatives have changed as have the people - hang on in Dresden - your time will come. Who knows - your bridge might even be regarded as a "beautiful" addition to the scene!

Author Nem
#32 | Posted: 28 Jun 2009 02:47 | Edited by: Nem 
I simply quoted to give a flavour, but it seems that there's more to the site than the lighthouse.

No, I don't think that bridge will ever be considered beautiful. And it's slap where it shouldn't be really. I'm personally pleased that it's been removed, it might encourage the others.

Here are some recent pictures:

However, certainly views on conservation do alter over time, it's not a great deal different with listing buildings. It's all a balancing act.

Like for like repairs are generally OK, replacement with something different, which alters the character, and the significance, not. But it's usually on a case for case basis, there's no simple 'layman's check list'. And there's at times disagreement.

I'm just pleased that the list is being added to, which should give important sites more protection, and a focus for long term management plans. Who knows, they may even get some cash spent on them.

I think that the discussions re other matters are still to come - although it's all running a day behind.

As for schmoozing - Matsuura visited Edinburgh and was schmoozed, but he still managed to rock the boat by being critical and asking for a halt to development until the mission had visited. City of Edinburgh Council tried to schmooze the mission, with minders and civic receptions, as did Bath - but from what we see Bath hasn't had an entirely uncritical report (and had the Dyson Academy plans not been withdrawn I think it would have been far worse), and for those in the know it's all very welcome, and from what we know so far City of Edinburgh Council planning isn't getting a clean bill of health either.

Germany's latest WHS pictures

Liverpool's a lost cause. That's to be discussed also, but really, too late to save the waterfront. s/2009/06/24/jury-still-out-on-mann-island-blocks-92534-23960446/

Author Nem
#33 | Posted: 28 Jun 2009 08:17 | Edited by: Nem 
Interesting to note that the list is updated rapidly!

Dresden is deleted by being scored out, although the description remains.

Author Solivagant
#34 | Posted: 28 Jun 2009 08:25 
No surprise there! That is exactly what they did for Oman 2 years ago - and still it remains "scored out" - a permanent international "nose rubbing" from those people crying in pseudo religious speak that they are in as much pain and anguish as the deleted sites themselves - Cobblers!!

Author Nem
#35 | Posted: 28 Jun 2009 08:31 | Edited by: Nem 
But it's the same when buildings are delisted in the UK - they remain on the list, with the date of delisting. It think it's probably more connected with leaving some record of what was important about it, before the OUV was spoiled. The brief history is there also of attempts to seek some alternative.

I suspect people are in 'pain and anguish'. I doubt anyone delights in what has happened, apart from those in the construction industry making money from the bridge, and the Philistines who are everywhere. I think it extremely sad, but I also think a stand had to be taken. The bridge is appalling, and there is little point in applying for world heritage status then spoiling what it is which makes the place special.

As a member of the 'international community' for whom Dresden was supposed to be protected, I feel that I have been let down. I feel something of value to humankind has been allowed to be spolied. I think international finger pointing and disgrace is appropriate.

But then I actually care for 'heritage' as more than just a list to be ticked off of places to visit.

Author elsslots
#36 | Posted: 28 Jun 2009 09:44 
Peru's Sacred City of Caral-Supe has just been admitted too!

Author Solivagant
#37 | Posted: 28 Jun 2009 09:47 | Edited by: Solivagant 
Comments from some more "Philistines" who, like us ordinary mortals, don't possess Nem's higher levels of care for heritage and greater aesthetic sensibilities! My sympathies lie with their views - particularly the second.

It is interesting that the Frankfurter Rundschau also believes that UNESCO would only accept a tunnel when Bandarin now says that a better bridge would have done - to try to get himself of the hook which he had put in place!
The points about UNESCO seeing itself as "keeper of the grail" and the (over) emphasis on "purism" are also well made I believe.

Center-left Der Tagesspiegel writes:
"In recent years, UNESCO has been very liberal about who it bestows its honorary title upon. But it becomes absurd when any old thing can be classified as belonging to our 'global cultural heritage' and you run into such sites everywhere you turn.... Dresden will continue to be 'Florence on the Elbe,' and this slap on the wrist isn't going to scare floods of tourists away from visiting the city."

The left-leaning Frankfurter Rundschau writes:
"It would be disingenuous to attribute this situation exclusively to the complications of a democratic process.... UNESCO's World Heritage Committee also played a clear role; it sat back and watched Dresden squirm while placing a questionable emphasis on purism. Behind this behavior is an attitude which holds that only the untouched have the right to claim the title of being part of the world's cultural heritage; that culture is a sacrosanct remnant from the past. Early on, UNESCO put its foot down and insisted that the only alternative would be to build a tunnel running under the Elbe. The committee emerged as the Keeper of the Grail for whom the only cultural goods that have value were those of museum quality. But cultural goods are also invigorated when they are called upon to stand as a witness to a past that is re-integrated into everyday life. ... UNESCO might have reached a decision, but it didn't find a solution."

Author Nem
#38 | Posted: 28 Jun 2009 10:01 | Edited by: Nem 
I suspect tha Bandarin isn't the be all and end all of what happens with World Heritage, or who makes all the decisions. He may have been also speaking off the cuff in an interview.

It is possible that if some sensible discussion had taken place then some other compromise might have been reached, but it seemed to be that bridge or no bridge, and the wider legal and other situation is complex.

I think that many ponder on conservation who are not involved and have little idea of the philosophy or the difficulties, and indeed consider that UNESCO has a great deal of power to step in when it hasn't. It has done what it can, it could hardly send in a gunboat.

Those couple of rants are simply that, newspaper editorial page filling. The Liverpool, Bath and Edinburgh pages are often full of similar, much of it quite laughable. Left, right, makes little difference, blame everyone but those building the appalling bridge, or those who allowed the Oryx sanctuary to be degraded. I could take them apart, but honestly, why bother?

The longer I live, the more grateful I am for those who strive, against almost insuperable odds, to try to preserve some of what's good. Mostly it's a thankless task.

However, good news about Peru.

Author Solivagant
#39 | Posted: 28 Jun 2009 10:34 | Edited by: Solivagant 
Rules for the Avid Campaigner striving against almost insuperable odds
1. Always dismiss contending arguments as rants or as "laughable" or not worth answering
2. Always take the moral high ground
3. Always claim that you have special knowledge and capabilities that your opponents are just too ignorant or inexperienced to understand
4. Always keep on until you have the last word - you might eventually wear down your opponents!

Author Nem
#40 | Posted: 28 Jun 2009 10:49 
No, I just clearly have different insights and different values than you do, and frankly, thirty seconds thought would see that those are simply editorial posturing. They fill pages.

Have you been involved in trying to 'conserve' anything?

Author elsslots
#41 | Posted: 28 Jun 2009 11:00 | Edited by: elsslots 
Solivagant & Nem: please stay within the subject of this Topic, which is News from Seville!!! And not: Personal views on conservation.

[EDIT]: I am the editor of this Forum and will delete any off-topic discussions

Author Nem
#42 | Posted: 28 Jun 2009 11:41 
There's an update re the decison to send a mission to Canada, a situation which is clearly causing major concern to many

Author elsslots
#43 | Posted: 28 Jun 2009 14:38 
Deliberations on new inscriptions seem to have come to an end: link, with Mtskheta placed In Danger

Author Khuft
#44 | Posted: 28 Jun 2009 18:04 
13 new Sites and 3 extensions - not a lot, this time!

It will be interesting to see in the official documents what happened to the other nominations. I thought, for instance, that the Triple-Arch Gate of Dan had good chances (last time, the comment was quite kind on it... it seemed only to be deferred for minor reasons). I'm also surprised that Harappa didn't make it as an extension of Mohenjo-Daro (the Indus civilisation could certainly be better represented by having both sites), but maybe that's because of technical reasons (lacking Management Plan, etc.).

It's also interesting to note that out of the 13, 3 are sites from countries that didnt have sites until now (Loropeni, Cidade Velha, Sulamain-Too) - the WHC is showing its keenness on supporting countries without sites. Also, two are African cultural sites - so again the diversity of the list is improved. China managed to get a site - but China has so many important sites that it's bound to get one per session anyway.

For Europe the message was: Natural sites are ok; modern and industrial sites are ok as well (fits into the "diversification of the list policy"), more "traditional" cultural sites (e.g. baroque palaces; medieval churches; etc.) are out of favour. For Latin America: Paraty and San Luis Potosi didn't make it (so colonial LA sites see also out of favour), but Caral-Supe managed to get it (so there's still room for unrepresented pre-Colombian cultures).

Global sites (Le Corbusier; the Mercury/Silver Road) got rejected - maybe because it's just the state parties didn't manage to get the plethora of necessary documents together; or because the connection between the various sites is too tenous. This makes you wonder whether it's worth the effort... Struve Geodetic Arch took ages to organise, and Qhapac Nan (the Andean Inca road) is still being worked on - obviously the Corbusier and Mercury teams underestimated the complexity of such multi-country nominations.

In all, a small but interesting crop of sites - not your standard WH material.

Author Nem
#45 | Posted: 28 Jun 2009 18:20 
As they are running so late, do you feel that some inscriptions haven't happened through running out of time? Possibly those can wait until next year?

I agree - interesting, diverse.

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