by Mrinmayee BhootSep 26, 2023
Every year UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) reviews and inscribes new structures and natural landscapes to its World Heritage List. As an organisation, they have long encouraged the identification, conservation and preservation of cultural and natural assets across the world. Various aspects feed into the relevance of each of these sites, such as cultural and material history. As a result, these sites can provide insight into the evolution of a specific location and their heritage. In addition to enhancing a city's character and beauty, they promote a sense of community and serve as a reminder of what is still to be unearthed. Given the turbulent nature of the past year and a half, UNESCO has released a combined list for 2020-2021, and has inscribed 34 new sites. Here are 13 sites from their official list that captures the diverse nature of humanity's connection to their built and natural environment. These sites have cultural and historical significance that spans across time, and space.
A. Natural Sites
1. Arslantepe Mound, Turkey
Arslantepe Mound is a 30-meter-high archaeological mound in the Malatya plain, south-west of the Euphrates River in Turkey. Archaeological evidence from the site indicates that it was occupied from at least the sixth millennium BCE to the late Roman period. The site's most notable and affluent era is estimated to be the Late Chalcolithic period, during which the so-called palace complex was built. The items and weapons discovered at the site are among the world's first swords, implying the beginning of forms of organised warfare. The site depicts the procedures that resulted in the formation of a State civilisation in the Near East, as well as a complex bureaucratic structure that precedes writing. The excavation adds to our growing knowledge of what early civilisations looked like.
2. Roșia Montană Mining Landscape, Romania
Roșia Montană is located in the Metalliferous region of the Apuseni Mountains in western Romania. It has the most significant, vast, and technically diversified underground Roman gold mine complex known at the time of inscription. The Romans recovered around 500 tonnes of gold from the site by building highly complex objects and galleries along a seven km route length. These mines also feature several water wheels in four underground sites chosen for their high-grade ore. The site exemplifies a combination of imported Roman mining technology with locally created techniques, which is unusual for such an early period.
3. Amami-Oshima Island, Tokunoshima Island, Northern part of Okinawa Island, and Iriomote Island, Japan
The site encompasses 42,698 hectares of subtropical rainforests on four islands, located in the southwest of Japan. On the site, five mammal species, three bird species, and three frog species have been designated as Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered (EDGE). There are also a handful of endemic species that are unique to each island and cannot be found anywhere else on the property. The location, which is devoid of any human occupation, has a diverse and unique biodiversity that has warranted its inscription.
4. Getbol, Korean Tidal Flats, Republic of Korea
Seocheon Getbol, Gochang Getbol, Shinan Getbol, and Boseong-Suncheon Getbol are four components of this newly inscribed site, which is located in the eastern Yellow Sea on the southwestern and southern coasts of the Republic of Korea. The location demonstrates a complex mix of geological, oceanic, and climatological circumstances that have resulted in the creation of different coastal sedimentary systems. Each component represents one of four different types of tidal flats, namely estuarine, open embayed, archipelago and semi-enclosed. The site embodies a visible connection between geodiversity and biodiversity, and highlights the reliance of cultural diversity and human activities on the natural environment.
B. Cultural Sites5. Cordouan Lighthouse, France
In a very exposed and hazardous setting, the Cordouan Lighthouse stands on a small rocky plateau in the Atlantic Ocean located at the mouth of the Gironde estuary in France. Designed by engineer Louis de Foix at the turn of the 16th and 17th centuries, the structure was restored by engineer Joseph Teulère in the late 18th century. Its architectural forms are influenced by ancient models. Cordouan's tower is adorned with pilasters, columns, modillions, and gargoyles, making it a masterwork of maritime signalling. As an architectural and technological landmark, it exemplifies the art of lighthouse construction at a time of revitalised navigation, when beacons played a significant role as territory markers and were important safety equipment.
6. Padua’s fourteenth-century fresco cycles, Italy
A series of Renaissance frescoes adorning the wall of eight ecclesiastical and secular buildings, inside the old walled city of Padua, Italy, have also been inscribed this year. Painted between 1302 and 1397, the inscribed frescoes include Giotto's Scrovegni Chapel fresco cycle, as well as fresco cycles by Guariento di Arpo, Giusto de' Menabuoi, Altichiero da Zevio, Jacopo Avanzi, and Jacopo da Verona. These fresco cycles, seen as a whole, reveal how fresco painting has evolved over the 12th century.
7. Dholavira: A Harappan City, India
The ancient city of Dholavira, the southern centre of the Harappan Civilisation, is located on the desert island of Khadir in the western state of Gujarat in India. It consists of a walled city and a cemetery. Streets and homes of varying proportions indicate the diversity of what civilisation must have been. The site features a vast cemetery with six different styles of cenotaphs. During archaeological investigations at the site, bead processing workshops and a variety of objects, ranging from copper, shell, stone, semi-precious stone jewellery, terracotta, gold, to ivory were discovered. There is also evidence of inter-regional commerce with other Harappan cities, as well as cities in Mesopotamia and the Oman Peninsula.
8. Nice, Winter Resort Town of the Riviera, France
Known for its moderate temperature, coastline and location at the foot of the Alps, the Mediterranean city of Nice bears witness to the growth of the winter climatic resort. Having adopted a regulatory urban plan in 1832 with the goal of making it more appealing to foreigners, the seashore was expanded to become the now-iconic Promenade des Anglais. The varied cultural influences of the winter inhabitants, as well as the desire to make the most of the location's climatic conditions and landscape, moulded the urban planning and diversified architectural styles of those regions, adding to the city's fame as a cosmopolitan winter resort.
9. Sítio Roberto Burle Marx, Brazil
Located west of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, Sítio Roberto Burle Marx is the culmination of a successful 40-year effort by landscape architect and artist, Roberto Burle Marx (1909-1994) to construct a "living work of art" and a "landscape laboratory" utilising local flora and relying on Modernist concepts. Sinuous shapes, mass planting, architectural arrangements, and dramatic colour contrasts helped define Burle Marx’s work. He used tropical plants and included aspects of traditional folk culture to define the garden. Sítio Roberto Burle Marx demonstrates an ecological vision of form as a process, which includes social participation as the foundation for environmental and cultural preservation. It is the world's first contemporary tropical garden to be included on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
10. Sudanese style mosques, Côte d'Ivoire
The eight mosques, at Tengréla, Kouto, Sorobango, Samatiguila, M’Bengué, Kong and Kaouara are characterised by protruding timbers, vertical buttresses crowned by pottery or ostrich eggs, and tapering minarets. The inscribed mosques are the best conserved of 20 such edifices that remain in Côte d’Ivoire, where hundreds existed until the early last century. The mosques’ distinctive style, referred to as Sudanese, is specific to the savannah region of West Africa. Developed between the 17th and 19th centuries as traders and scholars spread south from the Empire of Mali, extending the trans-Saharan mercantile routes into the forest area. These structures are a physical manifestation of that transition and are of immense cultural significance.
11. The work of engineer Eladio Dieste: Church of Atlántida, Uruguay
The Church of Atlántida, with its belfry and underground baptistery, is located 45 kilometres from Montevideo in Estacio n Atlántida, Uruguay. The modern Church complex, which opened in 1960, features a unique exposed and reinforced brick facade. Built on a rectangular form with a single hall, the church has unique undulating walls that support a similarly undulating roof, which is made up of a series of reinforced brick Gaussian vaults designed by Eladio Dieste (1917-2000). The Church is a prime example of the great formal and spatial achievements of contemporary architecture in Latin America throughout the second half of the 20th century, symbolising the quest for social equality while conserving resources.
12. The Porticoes of Bologna, Italy
Made up of 12 components that are ensembles of porticoes and their surroundings, the porticoes of Bologna have been constructed from the 12th century to the present, in the Municipality of Bologna. Some porticoes are made of wood, while others are made of stone or brick, as well as reinforced concrete, and they cover roads, piazzas, and pathways on one or both sides of a street. The property has porticoed structures that do not create a structural continuity with other buildings and do not constitute part of a complete covered walkway or corridor. The porticoes are valued for their use as covered passageways and excellent places for commercial activity. The use of concrete in the 20th century enabled the replacement of classic vaulted arcades with new building options, and a new architectural language for porticoes arose, as seen in the Barca neighbourhood.
13. The works of Jože Plečnik, Slovenia
The work Jože Plečnik carried in Ljubljana between World War I and World War II presents an example of a human-centred urban design. Plečnik’s work successively changed the identity of the city following the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, when it changed from a provincial city into the symbolic capital for the people of Slovenia. Plečnik contributed to this transformation by creating a human-centric architectural dialogue between the old city and the requirements of 20th-century society. The inscription includes a series of public spaces and public institutions that were sensitively integrated into the pre-existing urban, natural and cultural context of the city. This highly contextual and human-scale urbanistic approach contributed to the city’s new identity.
Along with the aforementioned sites, UNESCO also added numerous other places to the list - The Slate Landscape of Northwest Wales, Petroglyphs of Lake Onega and the White Sea, Ivindo National Park, Ancient and Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and Other Regions of Europe, round up the Natural Sites list. Some of the other Cultural Sites include Cultural Landscape of Hawraman/ Uramanat, Jomon Prehistoric Sites in Northern Japan, The Place of Tolerance and Urban Hospitality, The Chankillo Archaeoastronomical Complex, Settlement and Artificial Mummification of the Chinchorro Culture in the Arica and Parinacota Region, Franciscan Ensemble of the Monastery and Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption of Tlaxcala, Frontiers of the Roman Empire – The Lower German Limes, ShUM Sites of Speyer, Worms and Mainz, Kakatiya Rudreshwara (Ramappa) Temple, Mathildenhöhe Darmstadt, Paseo del Prado and Buen Retiro, a landscape of Arts and Sciences, Quanzhou: Emporium of the World in Song-Yuan China, The Great Spa Towns of Europe, Trans-Iranian Railway, Ḥimā Cultural Area, Colchic Rainforests and Wetlands, Kaeng Krachan Forest Complex and Dutch Water Defence Lines.
(Text by Supreena Dash, intern at stirworld.com)