Five Endangered Cultural Monuments That Need Your Help

The World Monuments Fund has released its annual watch list of architectural and heritage sites desperately in need of preservation. Five are especially hard-hit from recent political and environmental events.


Since 1966 the World Monuments Fund has published a Watch List that includes cultural sites in danger of being demolished or permanently damaged due to encroaching development or environmental disasters. A total of 93 sites have now been denoted “at risk,” but here’s the good news: The attention brought to them through these efforts often helps to rally preservation and stewardship groups around the monuments. From the 2010 list, here are five that we think need the most help due to recent events.

Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras

Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras, Luzon, Philippines
These stunning man-made terraces were built during the 16th century for the seemingly impossible task of cultivating rice on the steep cliffs. Today,
these structures are still heralded as some of the world’s best
examples of soil conservation technology, but the terraces face abandonment as traditional rice farmers have moved on to other jobs. Here not only must a site be preserved, but also the way of life for an entire culture. And that is something that has changed exponentially in the last few years–especially in light of the devastating flooding due to the double typhoons that recently plagued the region.

Phillis Wheatley Elementary School


Phillis Wheatley Elementary School, New Orleans, LA, United States
The glass-and-steel
Phillis Wheatley Elementary School was built in 1954 by the architect Charles
Colbert and is a rare
example of regional modernism. Its cantilevered design helped protect it from major damage during Hurricane Katrina. But after the hurricane passed, the school was closed and demolition was proposed. A new proposal to convert the school into a community center has surfaced. The restoration of this architectural gem could become an important landmark for a neighborhood still reeling from the disaster.

Gingerbread Houses

Gingerbread Houses, Port au Prince, Haiti
The city’s Bois Verna neighborhood is legendary for these elegant, turn-of-the-century houses
detailed with fretted wood and intricate latticework. The Gingerbread Houses reflect a time of prosperity and creativity
during which Haiti was a vibrant part of the international community,
hosting the Paris Exposition in 1900 and incorporating foreign
influences into its indigenous art and architecture. Recent political instability in the region and severe economic strife has stalled
preservation programs in the country and many of the Gingerbread Houses have fallen into disrepair.

Desert Castles of Ancient Khorezm

Desert Castles of Ancient Khorezm, Republic of Karakalpakstan, Uzbekistan
fortifications first began to appear in the 7th century B.C., as a combination of mud brick, cob, and
pakhsa that allowed the creators to build massive walls, gates, towers, and architectural details including
vaulted corridors, decorative niches, and arrow slots. The structures have softened through centuries of exposure to wind
and other natural elements. And now, local cotton cultivation has salinized the
soil surrounding the structures, eating away at the foundations. One severe climate change-induced drought–frequent in the region–could completely eradicate the fragile structures forever.



Phajoding, Thimphu, Bhutan
This mountainside temple was built in 1224 by Phajo Drugom
Zhigpo, who traveled south from Tibet to Bhutan to spread the teachings of
the Drukpa Kagyud. Consisting of ten temples and a series of
meditation houses, Phajoding has since been the regional center for a
spiritual tradition that seeks the divine through solitary meditation. With Bhutan’s stringent tourism standards starting to open up, this isolated site may soon be overrun by tourists hoping to cash in on the country’s Gross National Happiness, calling for improvements that can help balance visitation and
meditation needs.

Check out more of the 93 sites named over the last 40 years on the WMF’s impressive world map.

[World Monuments Fund]

About the author

Alissa is a design writer for publications like Fast Company, GOOD and Dwell who can most often be found in Los Angeles. She likes to walk, ride the bus, and eat gelato