UNESCO and Italy Form Task Force to Protect Cultural Heritage in Conflict Areas

08:00 - 2 March, 2016
UNESCO and Italy Form Task Force to Protect Cultural Heritage in Conflict Areas, Destruction by the Islamic State of the Temple of Baalshamin in Palmyra (Syria) in August 2015. Image © Wikipedia licensed under CC BY 2.0
Destruction by the Islamic State of the Temple of Baalshamin in Palmyra (Syria) in August 2015. Image © Wikipedia licensed under CC BY 2.0

Italy and UNESCO have signed an agreement to create a special Italian task force to protect art, cultural sites, and ancient artifacts that are located in areas of war or conflict around the world. They will also form a center in Turin to train cultural heritage experts. The agreement arose from a proposal presented by Italy last October that was backed by 53 countries and the UN Security Council. 

Conceived as the cultural version of the Blue Helmets --  the UN’s peacekeeping forces -- the group will initially be composed of 30 police detectives specializing in art theft, and 30 archeologists and art restorers and historians, who “are already operational and ready to go where UNESCO sends them,” said Dario Franceschini, the Italian Minister of Culture, during the ceremony to sign the agreement.

A 6000-Year Old Unplanned Community Photographed From Above

14:00 - 14 February, 2016

Since time immemorial, and more recently, humans have wondered what the world looks like from above. This fascination has historically manifested in the plan drawing and aerial photography. In this vein, and using a motorized paraglider, National Geographic photographer George Steinmetz has captured a stunning bird’s-eye view of the ancient city of Ghadames, in Libya.

Arch From the Syrian Temple of Bel to be Replicated in London and New York City

04:00 - 30 December, 2015
Rendering of the arch's position in Trafalgar Square, London. Image © IDA
Rendering of the arch's position in Trafalgar Square, London. Image © IDA

The Institute for Digital Archaeology (IDA), a joint-venture between Harvard University (US), the University of Oxford (UK) and Dubai’s Museum of the Future (UAE) have announced that they will replicate a structure of architectural significance that was destroyed earlier this year by IS, or 'Islamic State', at full scale in the centre of London and New York City. The arch—all that remains of the Temple of Bel at the Syrian UNESCO World Heritage site—was captured by militants in May and destroyed. By no means an isolated case, IS have looted and demolished a number of similar architectural and anthropologically important sites that "pre-date Islam in Iraq," condemning them as "symbols of idolatry."

Detroit Becomes First City in the US to be Named a UNESCO "City of Design"

14:00 - 26 December, 2015

UNESCO has inaugurated 47 new cities into its Creative Cities Network, with Detroit being selected as the first "City of Design" from the United States. The Creative Cities Network is a selection of cities across the world that promote the creation of creative and cultural industries, within the categories of crafts and folk art, design, film, gastronomy, literature, media arts, and music.

The Prickly Question of Progress in an Urban World Heritage Site

04:00 - 17 December, 2015
The Prickly Question of Progress in an Urban World Heritage Site, Palazzo Vecchio. Image © Petar Milošević
Palazzo Vecchio. Image © Petar Milošević

The Italian city of Florence is, according to an article for The Observer, seeking "a better class of tourist." Palazzos are being sold off and converted into hotels and spas, and the ubiquitous 'luxury apartment' development brands are creeping ever closer to some of the city's most treasured architectural monuments.  In response, a recent report from UNESCO is urging the municipal government to consider the long-term effects of proposed infrastructural plans on the city, which was inscribed in 1982. "For many vocal and disgruntled Florentines," Stephanie Kirchgaessner writes, "the Palazzo Vecchio is looking less like a stately symbol of civic pride and more like an estate agency."

Belyayevo Forever: How Mid-Century Soviet Microrayons Question Our Notions of Preservation

10:30 - 14 November, 2015
Belyayevo, which was based on the example set by the Ninth Quarter of Cheryomushki. Image © Max Avdeev
Belyayevo, which was based on the example set by the Ninth Quarter of Cheryomushki. Image © Max Avdeev

What are the characteristics of preservation-worthy architecture? In his book "Belyayevo Forever: A Soviet Microrayon on its Way to the UNESCO List," Kuba Snopek finds uniqueness in the seemingly generic Belyayevo microrayon, and argues that in spite of its pattern-book design it is worthy of protection. In this excerpt from the book's first chapter, Snopek examines Belyayevo's predecessor - the Ninth Quarter of Cheryomushki, which was constructed in the 1950s as an experiment that would transform Soviet housing policy - finding it to be a place which challenges our preconceived notions about architectural heritage.

A foreigner’s first contact with Moscow might begin with Google Earth. Its virtual tour through Russia’s capital starts with a view of its radial-concentric plan: loops of circular roads radiating from the Kremlin are cut through with the straight lines of prospects (avenues) and streets leading from the center towards the outskirts. This general scheme is familiar to any European architect: many other cities have circular boulevards, straight avenues and ring roads.

Belyayevo. Image © Max Avdeev Belyayevo. Image © Max Avdeev Belyayevo. Image © Max Avdeev Belyayevo. Image © Max Avdeev +22

Is Edinburgh's UNESCO World Heritage Status Under Threat?

04:00 - 11 November, 2015
Is Edinburgh's UNESCO World Heritage Status Under Threat?, View over Edinburgh. Image via College Tribune
View over Edinburgh. Image via College Tribune

"A spectre," writes Kevin McKenna for The Guardian, "thought happily to have been exorcised from the heart of beautiful Edinburgh, is stalking the city’s old wynds and crevices once more." To put it more bluntly, the "formal recognition of [the Scottish capital] as one of the world’s most beautiful cities is under threat, amid a battle for the soul of its most historic quarter." As the UNESCO inspectorate moves in to determine whether the city's World Heritage Status should be renewed McKenna laments, through a series of case studies, the potentially bleak built future of one of Britain's most loved urban centres.

Kéré Architecture to Design Protective Shelter for Meroe Royal Baths in Sudan

06:00 - 14 August, 2015
Kéré Architecture to Design Protective Shelter for Meroe Royal Baths in Sudan, Rendered Interior View. Image Courtesy of Kéré Architecture
Rendered Interior View. Image Courtesy of Kéré Architecture

Kéré Architecture has placed first in a competition to design a protective shelter on the UNESCO-protected Meroe Royal Baths in Sudan, North Africa. Believed to have served nearby palaces from the great African Kingdom of Kush (now modern-day Sudan), the Meroe Royal Baths were listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2011 and is the focus of joint research by the German Archaeological Institute and the National Corporation for Antiques and Museums. Still marked by temples, palaces and over two hundred pyramids, the ruins of Meroe are a testimony to the exchanges of culture between the Mediterranean and Africa. Find out more about the proposal after the break.

Exhibition: Nightscape 2050- A Dialogue Between Cities-Light-People in Future

02:30 - 14 July, 2015
Exhibition: Nightscape 2050- A Dialogue Between Cities-Light-People in Future, 2050 NIGHTSCAPE LIGHTING PLANNERS ASSOCIATES
2050 NIGHTSCAPE LIGHTING PLANNERS ASSOCIATES

The emphasis on light and lighting now is more than ever and this is evident from the global initiative by UNESCO to declare and celebrate 2015 as the International Year of Light. With this in mind, Nightscape 2050 is a unique exhibition dedicated to Lighting and is aimed to explore a completely new horizon of lighting design. This exhibition aims to explore the interactions between people, light, and cities in the year 2050. 

Open Call: US Searches for Architect to Design New Embassy Compound in Brasília

14:10 - 4 June, 2015
Open Call: US Searches for Architect to Design New Embassy Compound in Brasília , Brasilia under construction (click for more images). Image © Marcel Gautherot
Brasilia under construction (click for more images). Image © Marcel Gautherot

The United States Department of State (DOS) has released a request for information (RFI) in search of architects interested in designing a New Embassy Compound (NEC) in Brasília, the federal capital of Brazil. The (up to) $350 million, design-bid-build project will be located on a 4.86 hectares (12 acres) site near the seat of the Brazilian Government within the city's planned "Diplomatic Sector." All proposals must take in considering the site's conditions, the city planning context and the architectural significance of Brasilia as a 1956 urban planned city and now UNESCO World Heritage Site. More details after the break. 

View All 1,070 Entries for UNESCO’s Bamiyan Cultural Centre Competition Online

11:50 - 18 March, 2015
View All 1,070 Entries for UNESCO’s Bamiyan Cultural Centre Competition Online, Winning Entry: Exhibition Space. Image Courtesy of UNESCO
Winning Entry: Exhibition Space. Image Courtesy of UNESCO

Last month the UNESCO office in Afghanistan, in collaboration with the Afghan Ministry of Information and Culture, announced the winning design for the Bamiyan Cultural Center. An Argentina-based team, led by Carlos Nahuel Recabarren alongside Manuel Alberto Martínez Catalán and Franco Morero, was selected from 1,070 design entries from teams in 117 different countries. Now, all of these submissions will be posted in an online gallery on the Bamiyan Culture Centre website for the next three months. “The competition achieved beyond expectation and contributed to portray a new and positive image of the culture sector in Afghanistan. This exhibition aims to showcase the extraordinary effort that the architectural community and each and every applicant put into this competition,” writes UNESCO.

With generous financial aid from the Republic of Korea, the culture center will be built on land adjacent to the Cultural Landscape and Archaeological Remains of Bamiyan World Heritage property. The center aims to promote art, history, music and community interaction. When evaluating the submissions the seven-member jury focused on “design principles emphasizing innovation, community needs, environmental consciousness, sustainability, and connection to the natural and cultural landscape of the Bamiyan Valley.”

Read on after the break for a round-up of images from some of the most interesting, unusual and unique proposals. You can search by ID number, Team Leader or Country to view the full project board with descriptions, renders and plans on the online gallery

BCC2947 Team Leaders: Lorenzo Baldini, Omar Baldin; United Kingdom, UK. Image Courtesy of UNESCO BCC2445 Team Leaders: Jinhee Park, John Hong; USA. Image Courtesy of UNESCO BCC1692 Team Leaders: Jérôme Chiarodo, Julien Gougeat; France. Image Courtesy of UNESCO BCC2031 Team Leader: Gilbert Berthold, MArch; Austria. Image Courtesy of UNESCO +16

UNESCO Reveals Winning Scheme For The Bamiyan Cultural Centre In Afghanistan

05:00 - 19 February, 2015
UNESCO Reveals Winning Scheme For The Bamiyan Cultural Centre In Afghanistan, Winning Entry: Exhibition Space. Image Courtesy of UNESCO
Winning Entry: Exhibition Space. Image Courtesy of UNESCO

, in collaboration with the Afghan Ministry of Information and Culture, have announced the winning proposal for the Bamiyan Cultural Centre. An Argentina-based team, lead by Carlos Nahuel Recabarren alongside Manuel Alberto Martínez Catalán and Franco Morero, were selected from 1,070 design entries from 117 countries. Prepatory work on implementing their scheme, entitled Descriptive Memory: The Eternal Presence of Absence, "will start immediately" close to the boundaries of the Bamiyan World Heritage site.

See the winning entry and the four runners-up after the break.

Runner Up [4]: Entrance View. Image Courtesy of UNESCO Runner Up [2]: Performance Space. Image Courtesy of UNESCO Runner Up [1]: Interior Perspective. Image Courtesy of UNESCO Runner Up [3]: Elevation. Image Courtesy of UNESCO +26

Ten Frank Lloyd Wright Buildings Nominated for UNESCO World Heritage List

00:00 - 3 February, 2015
Ten Frank Lloyd Wright Buildings Nominated for UNESCO World Heritage List, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. Image © Flickr CC User Richard Anderson
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. Image © Flickr CC User Richard Anderson

A recent nomination by the United States seeks to elevate ten celebrated buildings characteristic of influential architect Frank Lloyd Wright's style to UNESCO World Heritage Sites. If the nomination is fulfilled, the collection of buildings will join the 1,007 designated sites currently on the UNESCO World Heritage List, including some of the most recognizable buildings in the world like the Taj Mahal and Sydney Opera House. These structures are recognized for their extraordinary cultural significance and "outstanding universal values." See the ten nominated buildings, after the break.

Taliesin West. Image © Flickr User lumierefl Price Tower. Image © Flickr User ercwttmn Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. Image © Flickr CC User Richard Anderson Frederick C. Robie House. Image © Nat Hansen +11

UNESCO Launches Design Competition for Bamiyan Cultural Centre in Afghanistan

01:00 - 8 December, 2014
UNESCO Launches Design Competition for Bamiyan Cultural Centre in Afghanistan

As Afghanistan begins its second decade of democratic governance after nearly 30 years of political instability, through the funding from the Republic of Korea, UNESCO has teamed up with the Afghan Ministry of Information and Culture, to build a Cultural Center close to the boundaries of the Bamiyan World Heritage property. With the realisation of the Bamiyan Cultural Centre, Afghans have the opportunity to recapture their heritage, to create a new impact on a historical site and to foster a positive relationship between their struggles and their hopes.

“This new architectural programme can challenge cultural barriers, reaffirm Afghanistan’s remarkable ancient history and enforce culture as a foundational component to Afghan national identity and peace-building,” states UNESCO.

Five Cities Elevated by UNESCO “City of Design” Status

00:00 - 4 December, 2014
Five Cities Elevated by UNESCO “City of Design” Status, V&A Museum of Design planned for Dundee (click image for more). Image © Kengo Kuma & Associates
V&A Museum of Design planned for Dundee (click image for more). Image © Kengo Kuma & Associates

Dundee, Bilbao, Curitiba, Helsinki and Turin are often considered the cultural epicenters of their respected countries. Therefore it is no surprise that these five metropolises are the latest to achieve UNESCO’s City of Design status. Joining a list of 12 other cities, the newest City of Design selections are being recognized for the international influence on design. By awarding them “City of Design” status, UNESCO hopes to help further the development of creative industries and encourage cross-city cultural exchange in each selected metropolis. 

UNESCO: Friend or Foe?

00:00 - 30 August, 2014
UNESCO: Friend or Foe? , Right now Istanbul epitomizes the debate in question, with would-be developers taking on preservationists. Do new developments threaten Istanbul's world-class heritage, or does heritage protection restrict important new development? Image © Flickr CC User Jules Gervais
Right now Istanbul epitomizes the debate in question, with would-be developers taking on preservationists. Do new developments threaten Istanbul's world-class heritage, or does heritage protection restrict important new development? Image © Flickr CC User Jules Gervais

Earlier this week, two articles on Domus engaged each other in a debate over the affect of UNESCO World Heritage status on the cities they supposedly protect. Is UNESCO turning the world’s cities into museums and hindering their future cultural development? Or could it be a positive force for protecting architecture and culture? Read on after the break to learn more about these clashing opinions.

Norman Foster Joins Hollywood Stars in Petition Against Venice Cruise Ships

00:00 - 31 July, 2014
Norman Foster Joins Hollywood Stars in Petition Against Venice Cruise Ships, © Flickr CC User Ed Wohlfahrt
© Flickr CC User Ed Wohlfahrt

Over 50 Leading figures from architecture, art, film and fashion - Including Norman Foster, the director of London's National Gallery Nicholas Penny, the director of the Guggenheim Foundation Richard Armstrong, and Hollywood stars Cate Blanchett, Michael Douglas, Julie Christie, Michael Caine, Tilda Swinton and Rob Lowe - have signed a petition pleading Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and the Italian Minister of Culture and Tourism, Dario Franceschini to keep large cruise ships out of Venice.

The petition, created by the UNESCO-backed Association of the International Private Committees for the Safeguarding of Venice, says is a reaction to both the aesthetic intrusion caused by the cruise liners, but also what it believes is a "probable risk of catastrophe" due to the possible effects that such large ships could have on the fragile Lagoon surrounding Venice.

More on the cruise ship controversy after the break

Shigeru Ban Selected to Design Mount Fuji World Heritage Center

00:00 - 17 March, 2014
Shigeru Ban Selected to Design Mount Fuji World Heritage Center, Courtesy of Shigeru Ban Architects
Courtesy of Shigeru Ban Architects

Shigeru Ban was pulled from a selection of 238 competitors as the “best person” to design the new Mount Fuji World Heritage Center in the Shizuoka Prefecture of Japan. The 4,300 square meter structure is expected to cost up to ¥2.4 billion and complete in the year 2016. We will keep you posted as more detail become available.