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World Heritage Dream List

 
 
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Author Jonas Bergmann
Partaker
#1 | Posted: 15 Oct 2021 07:02 
Hello Dear Worldheritagesite Community,

as a World Heritage Site Newbie I went deeper into WH only in the last several months. By doing this it came to my mind more and more to think about what I would have included in the list if I had been the WHC during the decades, but without all the growing AB turnovers, political infightings and back door deals, just by deciding: What has a real OUV or is at least a good example/selection? What are the most important cultural and natural gems all over the world?

The result has been a - let's call it - "World Heritage Dream List". It has not only been a simple keeping of the important ones, adding of the TOP missing sites and skipping of the less rated ones, but a process often more focused on reviewing sites by merging, dividing, shrinking, expanding or new defining/renaming them.

But still I have around 90 cases where I am not sure how to decide ranging from very general questions to special aspects relating only one site. Therefore I need the swarm intelligence of the site members what their opinions are so that (hopefully) I can come to my final WH Dream List. And maybe I can also encourage some of you to think also about your own WH Dream List.

I hope for your (more experienced) support and your endurance cos 90 cases won't be done in a short time.

Jonas

Author Jonas Bergmann
Partaker
#2 | Posted: 15 Oct 2021 07:17 
Jonas Bergmann
Hello Dear Worldheritagesite Community,

I will begin the discussion with the general questions and go down to the special aspects in the course of time.

Let's start with case No. 1: Reconstructions

As a litte bit green newbie I have been really surprised (and in some cases really shocked) how many reconstructions exist and have been accepted as world heritages. For example I never would have thought that the well-known entrance of the forbidden city (with the giant Mao portrait) is nearly a complete reconstruction. (I am not discussing the cases in which a site is on the list because of the value of the reconstruction itself, e.g. Warsaw).

In the meantime I have accepted the fact in general. But I want to ask the community in which cases the members are of the opinion that the reconstruction (in quality and quantity) is too much for still being unspoiled and therefore the site should not be part of an ideal WH List.
Two examples: Imo the reconstruction of the Vilnius castle already destroyed in 1801 without having any major original remains after an inscription as WH is one bridge too far. But I have no problems with Rila Monastery. For me this is a complete new building of the 19th century constructed at the spot of an older one but mainly not trying to replicate it. It has authenticity for the time built. Therefore here I can understand (in that specific case) the overturn of the ICOMOS evaluation.

But in general I am open for any opinions and proposals concerning reconstructed WHS.

Jonas

Author hubert
Partaker
#3 | Posted: 15 Oct 2021 08:45 
Jonas Bergmann:
Reconstructions

I would like to refer to a scene described by Douglas Adams in his wonderful book (with Mark Carwadine) "Last Chance to See":
Got to Chapter 5, pp. 148-149

https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Last_Chance_to_See

Author elsslots
Admin
#4 | Posted: 15 Oct 2021 09:23 | Edited by: elsslots 
As hinted upon by Hubert (with the excellent quote), this is a bit of a cultural thing between the West and the East. In the East they don't see it as a reconstruction, but as "... always the same building."

Also, I think it is quite normal that buildings evolve during the ages, especially in historic city centers in Europe.

I draw the line when reconstructions become laughable - such as at Xanten (Lower German Limes WHS) where Roman buildings have been "reconstructed" as ruins. (BTW - these may be in the buffer zone, though the borders are unclear; the nom file says "It is proposed that reconstructions and visualisations located within the boundaries of component parts should be considered as belonging to the buffer zone." ICOMOS wrote in return "Given that the archaeological materials at these sites are primarily preserved below the ground, these reconstructions are not of great concern in relation to the authenticity of the nominated serial property")

Author elsslots
Admin
#5 | Posted: 15 Oct 2021 09:45 
Jonas Bergmann:
Imo the reconstruction of the Vilnius castle already destroyed in 1801 without having any major original remains after an inscription as WH is one bridge too far

Regarding this one, I think it is important to look at why Vilnius city center was inscribed. Not because of the castle, but for its town planning and rich diversity of buildings that have organically evolved during 5 centuries. There were also no negative remarks by ICOMOS on the reconstructions.

Author hubert
Partaker
#6 | Posted: 15 Oct 2021 12:09 
It is also important when the reconstruction took place. From a certain point in time, the reconstruction itself is historical.

For example, Carcassonne: the restoration under Viollet-le-Duc in the 19th century was highly controversial and is now part of the history of the site.
Or the Saalburg. It is widely considered the best place to visit the Limes in Germany. But the reconstruction is more than a hundred years old. And it illustrates more the enthusiasm for the Roman Empire in the imperial period under WIlhelm II than it is an authentic representation of a Roman fort.

Author Jonas Bergmann
Partaker
#7 | Posted: 15 Oct 2021 12:14 | Edited by: Jonas Bergmann 
Thank you Hubert for the brilliant quote and link.

I have accepted the fact in general and now I try to find out (as a guy from the west), where my red line is. E.g. I have found my peace with the need to renew mud brick buildings permanently and don't see the restorations of the temples in Kathmandu Valley and the churches in Assisi after the earthquakes as a problem, because the buildings stayed intact mainly and they use the original pieces for reconstructions as much as possible. Also the anastylosis, often seen in Greece, is no reason for me to remove these sites from the list, because old and new parts are clearly distinguishable from each other and the older elements dominate the restorations. But Tombs of Buganda Kings are in my opinion lost, because the thatched buildings burnt down completely, and for Stari most, the highlight of Mostar, too much new material has been used. I hope it is now better to understand where I see the line atm.

I visited Xanten (Lower German Limes WHS) very often when I was young because I grew up in this region. So I can confirm your view Els. And in general it has more a touch of an archaeological fun and reenactment parc. But apart from that: I have skipped it from the list because there are already too many roman remains included. And additionally: the best example of Frontiers of the Roman Empire in my view is the Hadrian's Wall. There is no need for weaker examples. But that is another case.

Author Jonas Bergmann
Partaker
#8 | Posted: 15 Oct 2021 12:41 
hubert
Carcassonne is completely acceptable because one of the main reasons for inscription is the way the reconstructions have been done although they have been wrong in wider parts. But they show the attitude towards restoration at a specific time in history. Therefore also Wartburg Castle can remain on the list for the same reason (example for romantic movement).

In contrast to Carcassonne and Wartburg Castle, Saalburg is a complete reconstruction and way less important for the history of restoration as e.g. Carcassonne or Warsaw. Apart from that I clearly prefer Hadrian's Wall as an example for Frontiers of the Roman Empire.

Author hubert
Partaker
#9 | Posted: 15 Oct 2021 13:08 
Jonas Bergmann:
Saalburg is a complete reconstruction and way less important for the history of restoration as e.g. Carcassonne or Warsaw

But the Saalburg illustrates how the view on historical sites has changed in comparison to modern methods of research and conservation.
Hadrian's Wall can be preferred to the German Limes from a visitor's point of view. But you can't say it's historically more significant. 'Nice to visit' is not what world heritage is about.

Author elsslots
Admin
#10 | Posted: 15 Oct 2021 13:13 
Jonas Bergmann:
Tombs of Buganda Kings are in my opinion lost

Their way of construction is very vulnerable of course, but you can compare it to wooden structures in the East which have burned down and then rebuilt. They keep their historical and spiritual function, and so does this one I believe. It was also inscribed under criterion vi, which highlights this function.

Author Jonas Bergmann
Partaker
#11 | Posted: 15 Oct 2021 14:37 | Edited by: Jonas Bergmann 
So my red line for reconstructions seems to be: There have to be a lot of (physical) remains and they have to be mostly old/original and unchanged since inscription. That may also explain, why I decided not to put Monte Cassino on my provisional WH Dream List although I realize the extreme importance of this site for the histoy of Latin Europe and why I have no problems to add Cluny.

Els and Hubert, you both seem to have a less critical/more open view to reconstrcutions than I do in general. That helps to clearify my own stance which is now already a lot less critical than in the beginning of my research months ago. But can you call a site (except from Xanten) from the list, where you would say: This is too much reconstruction/restoration/replica and does not belong on the list because of this reason?

Apart from that: The different parts of Frontiers of the Roman Empire is another case on my long list. So better discuss this in depth later.

Author hubert
Partaker
#12 | Posted: 15 Oct 2021 15:36 | Edited by: hubert 
Jonas Bergmann:
Els and Hubert, you both seem to have a less critical/more open view to reconstrcutions than I do in general.

I wouldn't say that. Integrity and authenticity are important criteria.
My point is that reconstructions are often an essential part of preservation.
The Frontiers of the Roman Empire are a different discussion, indeed. But here the reconstructions are not a crucial for the OUV.

Author Astraftis
Partaker
#13 | Posted: 15 Oct 2021 18:57 
Hello, Jonas Bergmann!

I think that nfmungard started a similar endeavour some time ago in this thread. It is a more country-centric attempt, but it still is a sieving exercise.

About reconstructions, well... I had also my "shocking" moment the same way as Douglas Adams. I think that especially in Italy there is an idolatry for everything that's old and that appears old, or even ancient, hoary. Heck, I was quite perplexed when, studying (Erasmus) in Bonn, restoration works began at our department (Mathematics, for who's wondering): the building (of the beginning of XXth c.) was doing perfectly fine! A little bit worn down, maybe, but no need to refurbish it like that (look at the first picture here)! Let it be old, no need to make it appear as if it were built yesterday! But they were of another advice. And I often hear people assessing the value of some place from its age and decrepitness alone. So it took some time to me too to accept the fact that panta rei, and that sometimes a building is the same even if there is no original stone anymore. I have recently read of the Japanes temple Ise Jingu where a ritual ventennial rebuilding cycle is in place since 690!!! Now that's actually glorious.

I think that my red line with regard to OUV is continuity: this is much more important than actual physical identity, even if this latter surely can confer an even greater value. Changes often also mean that the place has lived, so, under this light, I can find a place even more interesting. And it is ture that, as conservationist we may like to think we are, in Europe there are lots of reconstructions, or, conversely, it has happened so many times that places in a ruinous state have just been swiped away (like in Kaliningrad)... and sometimes with a good reason, or anyway with a reason, even if we do not agree anymore (e.g. the many churches razed by Napoleonic forces). So original monuments are exceedingly rare. But what I would not accept as having a valid OUV is a reconstruction just for the sake of it. So I look somehow unfavourably even to anastyloses... if there is no purpose, it should not be overdone and we should also accept that what is gone is gone.

Some examples:
- Kaliningrad (OK, no WHS): the fate had it that the old city vanished along with an era. Ruins were really not salvageable. To me the reconstruction of the castle, as I think some proposed, would be a pointless madness. Instead, the present house of soviets deserves to be conserved in all its brutalist monsotrosity to me, even if I know that it is more or less doomed.
- Vilnius: I am also critical about the reconstruction of Gediminas's castle on the hill, it seems a rather nationalistic move to me... at least the result is somehow historical. Instead, the rebuilding from 0 of the palace of the grand dukes is just plain ridicuolous, as the farfetched "exhibitions" inside. But the fact is, the value of Vilnius is elsewhere, mainly in its baroque traits and churches, so this does not change much.
- Riga: Hmm, what to think about the house of the Blackheads... probably like Vilnius, the city and its nomination are more than that. Eventually, it can be accepted as a kind of "reintegration" to the city's picture.
- Bagan: Now, if I am not mistaken, a big part of the controversy about its inscription was apparently tied to its authenticity. I find this totally preposterous, of course... politics was the real reason. The value of Bagan goes beyond that of the single temples. In fact, most of the minor temples are not really unforgettable taken alone, so why bother if they were mostly reconstructed? The big, landmark temples would suffice alone, the rest are more like details... What comes out of it is a unique place with an incredible atmosphere. And the long Buddhist tradition and vigorous devotion of Burmese make it all the more living. So, to me no problems with reconstructions here.

What I still cannot be totally at peace with, and is maybe the other face of the coin, is when places are overconstructed, let's say. For example, as I reported of a holy mountain in Mongolia: let's build bigm long concrete stairways to come to the top! And temples and lots of statues all around! And maybe, with time, some shopes, and restaurants... I was somewhat surprised that this happened in Mongolia, where nature is venerated by so many and its pristine status seen as a value. But hasn't this happened lots of times in Europe, too?

Author Colvin
Partaker
#14 | Posted: 15 Oct 2021 23:26 | Edited by: Colvin 
It's the Ship of Theseus problem! I'm not against reconstructions so long as they are done professionally and in the spirit of the original building (with the understanding that some safety concessions may need to be put into place).

I suppose the philosophical question that concerns me more with World Heritage is whether it stifles human creativity or shapes cultural memory by choosing to freeze select areas or structures in time for posterity. What if UNESCO existed in the nineteenth century, and the Banks of the Seine was inscribed as a World Heritage Site before the 1889 World's Fair? Or what if the Acropolis of Athens was inscribed in the seventeenth century before the Venetians shelled the Parthenon? Our world might look very different today...

Author Solivagant
Partaker
#15 | Posted: 16 Oct 2021 01:59 | Edited by: Solivagant 
Another aspect of "Reconstruction" which Forum members might like to consider/discuss is that known as "Facadism". ("The practice of preserving the fronts of old buildings while demolishing the backs, often constructing modern interiors behind the old fa├žades.")
Just as "Anastylosis" applies mainly to ancient ruins this aspect of reconstruction applies mainly to "living" towns/cities. I have long looked for a "Connection" which identified inscribed cities where a significant aspect of the "streetscape" is primarily a facade - but it is difficult to discover published examples. I suspect there is a lot more around than is widely known! Uninscribed London is packed with examples. I remember once (back in my "expense account" days!) staying in a top hotel in inscribed Amsterdam which, behind its 17th/18th C facade, was a very different building!

As always the question is - "Does it matter?". If what we "value" is the streetscape and it is necessary to repurpose the buildings behind that frontage and this requries their redesign whilst keeping their facades then.....so what? There is of course the issue of the loss of the "value" of the interiors but the reality is that, apart from relatively few major buildings in a city, the aspect of the heritage we "value" most is the external "look and feel" of the place which can be "preserved" via this technique. On the other hand does a "Disneyfied" simulacrum of a city have real value? The answer of course is "yes" if enough people think so since "value" in this domain is entirely a subjective construct. There is no such thing as "Universal Value" - outstanding or otherwise! An issue which might also be worth discussing is who determines the "value"!! Particularly in relation to that identified and "maintained" by UNESCO. Is too much power given to so-called "heritage experts"?

This article about plans to redevelop parts of the WHS of Queretaro might be of interest as an example - it is rather detailed but indicates the sort of thing which can be, and is being, done. I remember being in Casco Viejo Panama a few years ago. It was being "gentrified" and the crumbling colonial facades were being held up by buttresses whilst the main parts of the buildings behind them were being rebuilt.

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