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Le Corbusier, An Architect’s Global Heritage

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lecorbusierLe Corbusier was one of the greatest architects of the 20th century, and his work both built and written have had a enormous impact on the world. According to the UNESCO’s website, his work demonstrates major technical and conceptual changes of the Modern Movement in the field of architecture and Urbanism, and reflects an ongoing search for new forms as well as constructive principles and models for living. Le Corbusier wanted his work to be collective and universal, and accordingly he designed buildings not only in his native France but also in several other countries including Japan, Germany, Argentina and India. Le Corbusier was also a prolific theorist and his ideas were not only disseminated through his projects and constructions but also through his writings.

In the early 2000’s, France started creating a tentative list to be submitted to UNESCO to be featured on the World Heritage List at the time. Following this, and on the basis of a nomination project for the urban design of Firminy-Vert, where two works of Le Corbusier existed (without counting an unfinished project from that time), a review was conducted by the French Ministry of Culture and the Fondation Le Corbusier on the works of Le Corbusier that could and should be proposed for nomination for the World Heritage List. According to the UNESCO’s website, after initially focusing on the iconic monument of Le Corbusier, the reflection then turned to all of his work and the international influence that his work has had on the world. This analysis led to cooperation between several countries (France, Germany, Argentina, Belgium, Switzerland, Japan and India) and a project to develop a trans-boundary nomination proposal centered on the series of his work and its influence at the international level. On France’s initiative, with the support of the Fondation Le Corbusier, an important preparatory work was initiated to examine the feasibility of a nomination proposal.

In order to provide international support the France-UNESCO Cooperation Agreement assisted in the organization of two international experts’ meetings by the Fondation Le Corbusier and the French Ministry of Culture. One of them took place at the Fondation Le Corbusier on 18 June 2004 in Paris, followed by a second in Firminy-Vert and at Couvent de la Tourette (France) on 19 June. These information, coordination, and awareness-raising meetings with international experts led to the launch of a working group to put in place a working method in order to develop a nomination proposal. The challenge within the context of the France-UNESCO Cooperation Agreement (according to the UNESCO’s website) was to participate in an approach to promote modern heritage, underrepresented at that time on the World Heritage List, and to support reflection on the methodology of a serial and trans-boundary nominations.

Finally in 2008, the first proposal was submitted, and was examined during the 33th Session of the World Heritage Committee (Sevilla, 2009), but was referred, and was once again examined during the 35th Session of the World Heritage Committee (Paris, 2011), where it was deferred. A revised version was submitted in 2015.   France and six other countries have nominated 17 works as a single entry on the World Heritage List. The proposal will be reviewed again at the July meeting in Turkey, when the UNESCO World Heritage Committee reviews the nomination again.

Church of Saint Simeon Severely Damaged

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SimeonAccording to reports in several news outlets, the recent airstrikes have caused severe damage to the Church of Saint Simeon, part of the UNESCO World Heritage property of the Ancient Villages of Northern Syria. The photographs of the area show that the byzantine Church which is believed to have been built in the year 490 AD on Mount Simeon and used to be a popular destination for worshipers and tourists alike before the civil war has been mostly destroyed.

UNESCO reports that the Director-General of UNESCO, Ms Irina Bokova, has now issued a statement and has deplored the heavy damage incurred to the historic and heritage site in Northern Syria. It is believed that the destruction is possibly a result of an air strike on May 12th, 2016. 

UNESCO statement reads: “I again reiterate my call on all parties to the conflict to refrain from any military use and from targeting cultural heritage sites and monuments across all of Syria, in respect of their obligations under international treaties, particularly the 1954 UNESCO Convention on the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and its two Protocols, as well as the 1972 World Heritage Convention.”

It has also been reported that UNESCO has received information and photographic evidence showing that the Church appears to have suffered extensive damage, including to the remains of the pillars on which Saint Simeon is said to have spent forty years as a hermit.

According to the UNESCO’s site, the Church of Saint Simeon Stylites is part of the UNESCO World Heritage site of the Ancient Villages of Northern Syria, some 40 villages grouped in eight parks situated in north-western Syria that provide remarkable testimony to rural life in late Antiquity and during the Byzantine period. These villages are believed to have been abandoned in the 8th to 10th centuries, but they date back from the 1st to 7th centuries, and feature a remarkably well preserved landscape and the architectural remains of dwellings, pagan temples, churches, cisterns, bathhouses etc. The relict cultural landscape of the villages also constitutes an important illustration of the transition from the ancient pagan world of the Roman Empire to Byzantine Christianity. The archaeologists have also observed vestiges illustrating hydraulic techniques, protective walls and Roman agricultural plot plans which furthermore offer testimony to the inhabitants’ mastery of agricultural production.

 

Museum Day

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MuseumEvery year since 1977 International Museum Day is organized worldwide around May 18.

This day is an occasion to raise awareness on how important museums are in the development of society.

ICOM Advisory Committee organizes the theme of this event that, given the high number of countries involved, lasts a day, a weekend, a week or even a month.

From America to Oceania including Africa, Europe and Asia, this international event has confirmed its popularity. mozeh-meli-iran.htm-2

These recent years, International Museum Day has been experiencing its highest involvement with almost 30,000 museums that organized activities in more than 120 countries.

Egyptian Statue Disappears Into Private Collection

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Statue_of_Sekhemka_1950sThe case that created a campaign and so many objections from the public and international outcry might be over. It was reported yesterday that an ancient Egyptian statue described as an “irreplaceable masterpiece” has most probably left the United Kingdom (UK). The statute was sold to a mysterious private collector for nearly £16m by a British museum about two years ago. The campaigners now call for an end to anonymous auction house sales of art. The UK Government had put an export ban on the 4,500-year-old statue of Sekhemka, amid attempts in Egypt to crowd fund enough money to buy it. Campaigners in the UK (against the sale of the statute to a private buyer) and the Egyptian antiquities minister Mamdouh al-Damaty were appalled and described its sale by Northampton Borough Council as “a moral crime against world heritage” as a number of news outlets have reported.

The campaigners had asked the government to put a ban on the move of the statute even after it was sold. However, the export ban was lifted recently and the Save Sekhemka Action Group UK announced their failure in securing enough funds to buy the statute back. The group announced that they had found no official support for their campaign from the great national museums and that the impartial condemnation of Northampton Borough Council – which had sold the statute- by Arts Council England and the Museums Association made no impression.

The 4,500-year-old statue of Sekhemka has been rumored to have been sold to a private American collector. The limestone statue, which is about 2.5ft high, shows Sekhemka and a smaller figure, assumed to be his wife, kneeling beside him. It is believed that Spencer Compton, the second Marquis of Northampton, acquired the statue during a trip to Egypt in around 1850, but it was donated to the museum by the family about 30 years later.

Arts Council England has stripped Northampton Museum of its accreditation status until at least 2019, meaning the Museum is no longer eligible for a string of public grants and other funding, because the sale breached conditions covering the disposal of historic artifacts.

The campaign might be over for the UK group but the Egyptian government has decided to continue to seek legal advice over the unethical sale of Sekhemka. The UK group has however appealed publicly to the mysterious buyer to lend the statue permanently to the Brooklyn Museum, New York, which is already looking after a damaged statue of a similar age and history.

One Elephant Killed Every 15 Minutes

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As reported recently, The demand for ivory has skyrocketed and can now fetch more than $600 per pound on the black market. This increased demand has sent poaching rates soaring, with an estimated one elephant killed every 15 minutes.

Beyond the immediate effects this has on the ecosystem, poaching also threatens the livelihoods of people living in places where elephants range. Poachers spread crime and rob communities of one of their most valuable assets. Elephants draw tourists from around the world, providing a legal, sustainable source of income for people living in communities where elephants range.

In response, the Nature Conservancy in Africa has launched the African Elephant Initiative to scale up and expand our elephant conservation efforts.

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Mass Coral Bleaching of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef

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reefThe recent news from Australia will once again bring up the question of whether the Great Barrier Reef will soon be put on the UNESCO’s “in Danger” list. It has recently been reported by the environmentalists and experts from James Cook University, Australia that the mass coral bleaching event smashing the Great Barrier Reef has severely affected more than half its length and caused patches of bleaching in most areas.

The scientists have been conducting an extensive aerial survey of the damage and they now seem to have a good idea of the extent of the damage. They believe that climate change and a strong El Niño have caused hundreds of kilometers of the reef to bleach, as the higher water temperatures stress the coral, and they expel their symbiotic algae. If the bleaching is bad enough, or the temperatures remain high for long enough, the corals die, putting the future of reefs at risk. The mass bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef is part of what the US National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration has called the third global bleaching event. The first occurred in 1998. However, the current damage is three to four times worse than in 1998 or the second great bleaching in 2002.

The scientists and experts from James Cook University are currently examining to see what the total extent of bleaching is, and how far south and north the bleaching expand. The next step will be to examine how much of that bleached coral has died. If the corals are severely bleached, then a lot will die. However, some might regain their color over the next couple of months and there won’t be much mortality, as experts explained.

Last year, the Great Barrier Reef narrowly escaped being listed as “in danger” by UNESCO, even though environmental groups said it clearly met the criteria. UNESCO is not scheduled to examine the reef this year but considering the extent of bleaching it is possible that they may decide to look at the reef again soon.

Opening of a Factory in Ancient Pasargad Site

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Pasargad-Koorosh12A paste-making factory has recently been opened in the vicinity of the ancient Pasargad site in Iran. Pasargad, the old capital city of the Achaemenid Empire under Cyrus the Great, was constructed in the sixth century BC. It is now located near the city of Shiraz and is also the location of Cyrus’ tomb, an archaeological site and one of Iran’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Two years ago, the Iranian Cultural Heritage Organization (CHO), an organization that operates directly under the supervision of the President of Iran, issued permission to build the paste-making factory, without the public’s knowledge. Recently however, many archeological experts have begun to protest, although relevant authorities have not paid much attention to such actions.

On April 26, 2016, Mohammad Hassan Talebian, deputy of the CHO, told reporters that the local office of the organization gave permission to erect the factory two years ago, against all relevant laws. The CHO is now taking the case to court.

He also added that the factory is not standing inside the boundaries of the site, but is actually built on the edge.

Protecting The Environmentalists

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sandovalIn 2013, Jairo Mora Sandoval a 26-year-old Costa Rican sea turtle conservationist, who patrolled beaches near Limon, was murdered. To many conservationists and international organizations protecting the environment, it has seemed that there is no end to the violence against environmentalists and community-rights campaigners as Berta Cáceres (read our story in March of this year), a much-lauded Honduran indigenous activist, was also murdered.
But at least once in awhile, there’s a hint of justice as New York Times reported. Brave testimony helped to convict killers of Sandoval after three years. Four men were convicted of the murder and related attacks on four female volunteers who worked with the young man. Three other men were acquitted on all charges. A previous trial had ended in acquittals all around, largely because of missteps by investigators and prosecutors, but an appeals court sent the case back for retrial.
The major factor that helped to convict the killers was the gripping testimony provided last month by Skype of Almudena Amador, a Spanish veterinarian who was one of the attackers’ victims according to the reports. In fact, it was significant that the court found that the killing was no random incident, but clearly linked to the illicit trade of turtle eggs. The court’s panel of three judges highlighted Mora’s work with sea turtles as the primary motivation for his murder.
As more and more conservationists put their lives in danger in order to safe-guard the natural resources and heritage sites, it is important for local and national governments and authorities to create more restrict laws, regulations, measures, and punishments for crimes that focus on protecting these environmentalists and their organizations. The recent victory is a small one for conservationists and environmentalists but hopefully the first of many more for those who preserve and conserve our planet’s natural heritage.