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, 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 bestexamples 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, New Orleans, LA, United States
The glass-and-steelPhillis Wheatley Elementary School was built in 1954 by the architect CharlesColbert and is a rareexample 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, Port au Prince, Haiti
The city’s Bois Verna neighborhood is legendary for these elegant, turn-of-the-century housesdetailed with fretted wood and intricate latticework. The Gingerbread Houses reflect a time of prosperity and creativityduring which Haiti was a vibrant part of the international community,hosting the Paris Exposition in 1900 and incorporating foreigninfluences into its indigenous art and architecture. Recent political instability in the region and severe economic strife has stalledpreservation programs in the country and many of the Gingerbread Houses have fallen into disrepair.
Desert Castles of Ancient Khorezm, Republic of Karakalpakstan, Uzbekistan
Thesefortifications first began to appear in the 7th century B.C., as a combination of mud brick, cob, andpakhsa that allowed the creators to build massive walls, gates, towers, and architectural details includingvaulted corridors, decorative niches, and arrow slots. The structures have softened through centuries of exposure to windand other natural elements. And now, local cotton cultivation has salinized thesoil 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 DrugomZhigpo, who traveled south from Tibet to Bhutan to spread the teachings ofthe Drukpa Kagyud. Consisting of ten temples and a series ofmeditation houses, Phajoding has since been the regional center for aspiritual 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 andmeditation needs.