UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee, currently holding its forty-first annual session in the Polish city of Krakow, inscribed twenty new cultural sites on its World Heritage List, including the historic city of Ahmedabad in India, archaeological sites in Cambodia and Brazil, and a “cultural landscape” in South Africa. The Committee also added extensions to two sites already on the list: Strasbourg in France, and the Bauhaus in Germany. On the other hand, the historic center of Vienna was inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger as the Committee examined the state of conservation of one-hundred-and-fifty-four of its listed sites.
The walled city of Ahmedabad, India’s 28th cultural addition to the list, is strongly tied to India’s independence movement; the city’s Sabarmati Ashram was home to Gandhi from 1917 to 1930 before he left to undertake the Salt March, a major act of civil disobedience against the British Raj. Founded in the fifteenth century as the capital of the Gujarat Sultanate, the city later earned the title, “Manchester of India,” due to its burgeoning textile industry. This varied history has left Ahmedabad with a rich architectural heritage: fort walls and gates, mosques, tombs, Hindu and Jain temples, and modern mills. The urban fabric, however, is the city’s most unique element: traditional houses (pols) are densely packed along gated traditional streets (puras) with characteristic features such as bird feeders and public wells.
Also included on the list was the Valongo Wharf Archaeological Site. Located in the former harbor of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the structure provides the most important physical trace of the arrival of African slaves on the South American continent. An estimated 900,000 enslaved Africans landed on the stone wharf which contains floor paving in the characteristic pé de moleque style.
The Committee also added the city of Asmara to the list. The Eritrean capital was initially developed as a military outpost for the Italian colonial power before it underwent various phases of planning between 1893 and 1941. This large scale construction program saw the application of the Italian rationalist idiom of the time to the city’s governmental edifices, churches, mosques, and synagogues. Today, Asmara stands as an exceptional example of early modernist urbanism and its application in an African context.
An important site which received inscription is the Tarnowskie Góry Lead-Silver-Zinc Mine in southern Poland. While the majority of the site is underground, the surface remnants of the mine’s nineteenth-century steam water management system are of particular importance – they testify to the continuous efforts made over three centuries to drain undesirable water from the mines to supply towns and industries.
Other examples of cultural sites that made it to the list include the island of Okinoshima in Japan, which provides a chronological record of the tradition of worship of a sacred island, and the international settlement of Kulangsu in China, where the urban fabric showcases the result of cultural fusion that emerged out of early-twentieth-century Sino-foreign exchanges.
Furthermore, the Committee extended the bounds of the Bauhaus site in Germany, home to the movement which revolutionized architectural thinking and practice in the twentieth century. Originally comprising the groups of buildings and monuments located in Weimar and Dessau built under the direction of Walter Gropius, the site now includes the Houses with Balcony Access in Dessau–three-story brick blocks for low-income students–and the ADGB Trade Union School in Bernau built under the direction of Gropius’ successor, Hannes Meyer.
The List of World Heritage in Danger, designed to inform the international community of the present conditions of heritage sites, and to encourage corrective action, received two additions; Georgia’s Gelati Monastery was removed. The Historic Center of the Austrian capital of Vienna received inscription on the list due to the threat it faces from high-rise projects that fail to comply with the Committee’s decisions. The medieval Mamluk town of Hebron / Al Khalil in Palestine, a new addition to the World Heritage List, was simultaneously added to the endangered list. The town’s distinctive housing typology of room arrangement according to a tree-shaped system, which has persisted through its Ottoman occupation, faces several threats today.
Below we list the twenty new additions to the World Heritage List:
- Hebron / Al Khalil Old town (Palestine)
- Mbanza Kongo, vestiges of the capital of the former Kingdom of Kongo (Angola)
- Asmara: a Modernist City of Africa (Eritrea)
- ǂKhomani Cultural Landscape (Republic of South Africa)
- Temple Zone of Sambor Prei Kuk, Archaeological Site of Ancient Ishanapura (Cambodia)
- Kulangsu: A historic international settlement (China)
- Historic City of Ahmadabad (India)
- Historic City of Yazd (Islamic Republic of Iran)
- Sacred Island of Okinoshima and Associated Sites in the Munakata (Japan)
- Venetian Works of Defence between the 16th and 17th Centuries: Stato da Terra–Western Stato da Mar (Croatia, Italy, Montenegro)
- Kujataa Greenland: Norse and Inuit Farming at the Edge of the Ice Cap (Denmark)
- Taputapuātea (France)
- Caves and Ice Age Art in the Swabian Jura (Germany)
- Tarnowskie Góry Lead-Silver-Zinc Mine and its Underground Water Management System (Poland)
- Assumption Cathedral and Monastery of the town-island of Sviyazhsk (Russian Federation)
- Aphrodisias (Turkey)
- The English Lake District (United Kingdom)
- Valongo Wharf Archaeological Site (Brazil)
- Strasbourg: from Grande-île to Neustadt, a European urban scene [extension of the property “Strasbourg – Grande Ile”] (France)
- The Bauhaus and its Sites in Weimar, Dessau and Bernau [Extension of the property “The Bauhaus and its Sites in Weimar and Dessau”] (Germany)
The UN Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (commonly referred to as UNESCO) has named 17 projects in 7 countries by revolutionary Modernist architect Le Corbusier to their list of World Heritage Sites. Given to places of special cultural or physical significance, the designation will help to protect and preserve the buildings for future generations.