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 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

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 status. Joining a list of 12 other , the newest selections are being recognized for the international influence on design. By awarding them “” 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?

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 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

© 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 .

More on the cruise ship controversy after the break

Happy Birthday Jørn Utzon

Jørn Utzon in front of the Opera House during construction, 1965. Image Courtesy of Keystone/Getty Images

Pritzker Prize winning architect Jørn Utzon, who died in 2008 aged 90, was the relatively unknown Dane who, on the 29th January 1957, was announced as the winner of the ‘International for a national opera house at Bennelong Point, Sydney’. When speaking about this iconic building, Louis Kahn stated that:

The sun did not know how beautiful its light was, until it was reflected off this building.

Unfortunately, Utzon never saw the Sydney Opera House, his most popular work, completed. Learn of his fascinating story, after the break.

Shigeru Ban Selected to Design Mount Fuji World Heritage Center

© Shigeru Ban Architects

Shigeru Ban was pulled from a selection of 238 competitors as the “best person” to design the new World Heritage Center in the Shizuoka Prefecture of . 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 details become available.

UK Government Grants Approval to Liverpool Waters Scheme

Courtesy of Rust Studios

controversial plan to redevelop a large area of ’s waterfront has received an effective green light after the Communities Secretary of State, Eric Pickles, chose not to call in the scheme for a public inquiry. The £5.5 billion scheme is designed by Chapman Taylor and provides 9,000 homes, 300,000 square meters of office space and 50,000 square meters of hotel and other facilities. The scheme also includes the 55-story ‘Shanghai Tower’ and a cruise ferry terminal.

The plan has attracted criticism, in particular from English Heritage and UNESCO who worry that the size of the developments will negatively affect the Liverpool skyline, dominated for almost a century by the ‘Three Graces’ a trio of listed buildings that have come to define the view from the Mersey River. UNESCO has strongly opposed the development, placing Liverpool’s world heritage site on it’s ‘endangered’ list and threatening that if the scheme goes ahead, the area could lose its world heritage status.

Read more about the reaction to the scheme after the break…

WMF partners with Google to Preserve World Heritage Sites

Stonehenge, Avebury : Screenshot via World Wonders Project

From the archeological areas of Stonehenge to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial, Google’s World Wonders Project is dedicated to digitally preserving and virtually sharing the World’s Heritage Sites. Users can explore some of the world’s greatest places through panoramic images, 3D laser scanned models, videos and informative text. Although Google World Wonders is a new and ongoing project, they already have more than 130 sites in 18 countries featured. The project is also an educational resource, allowing students and scholars to use the materials to discover some of the most famous sites on earth. A selection of free educational packages are available to download for classroom use.

Google World Wonders is made possible through the partnership of Google, UNESCO, the World Monuments Fund and , with a shared mission to preserve world heritage sites for future generations.

Start exploring here.