Ancient irrigation system (Oman) and Palaces of Genoa (Italy) among ten new sites on World Heritage ListThe World Heritage Committee Thursday inscribed ten new sites on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. A number of outstanding proposals for inscription are to be discussed in the afternoon.
The new sites inscribed are:
Sewell Mining Town (Chile). Situated 85 km south of the capital, Santiago in an environment marked by extreme climate more than 2,000 m up the Andes, Sewell Mining Town was built by the Braden Copper company in the early 20th century to house workers at what was the world’s largest underground copper mine, El Teniente. It is an outstanding example of the company towns that were born in many remote parts of the world from the fusion of local labour and resources from an industrialized nation, to mine and process high-value natural resources. At its peak Sewell numbered 15,000 inhabitants, but was largely abandoned in the 1970s. The town was built on a terrain too steep for wheeled vehicles around a large central staircase rising from the railway station. Along its route, formal squares of irregular shape with ornamental trees and plants constituted the main public spaces or squares of the town. Off the central staircase, paths ran along the contours leading to smaller squares and secondary staircases linking the town’s different levels. The buildings lining the streets are timber, often painted in vivid green, yellow, red and blue. Designed in the U.S.A., most of them were built on a 19th century American model, but the design of the Industrial School (1936), for example, is of modernist inspiration. Sewell is the only mountain industrial mining settlement of considerable size of the 20th century to have been built for year-round use.
Yin Xu (China). The archaeological site of Yin Xu, close to Anyang City, some 500 km south of Beijing, is an ancient capital city of the late Shang Dynasty (1300 to 1046 BC). It testifies to the golden age of early Chinese culture, crafts and sciences, a time of great prosperity of the Chinese Bronze Age. A number of royal tombs and palaces, prototypes of later Chinese architecture, have been unearthed on the site. The site includes the Palace and Royal Ancestral Shrines Area (1,000m x 650m), with more than 80 house foundations, and the only tomb of a member of the royal family of the Shang Dynasty to have remained intact, the Tomb of Fu Hao. The large number and superb craftsmanship of the burial accessories found there bear testimony to the advanced level of Shang handicraft industry, and form now one of the national treasures of China. Numerous pits containing bovine shoulder blades and turtle plastrons have been found in Yin Xu. Inscriptions on these oracle bones bear invaluable testimony to the development of one of the world’s oldest writing systems, ancient beliefs and social systems.
Old Town of Regensburg with Stadtamhof (Germany). Located on the Danube river in Bavaria, this medieval town contains many buildings of exceptional quality that testify to its history as a trading centre and to its influence on the region as of the 9th century. It has preserved a notable number of historic structures spanning some two millennia, including ancient Roman, Romanesque and Gothic buildings. Regensburg’s 11th - 13th -century architecture – including the market, City Hall and Cathedral, still defines the character of the town marked by tall buildings, dark, narrow lanes, and strong fortifications. The buildings include medieval Patrician houses and towers, a large number of churches and monastic ensembles as well as the Old Bridge, which dates from the 12th century. The town is also remarkable for the vestiges that testify to its rich institutional and religious history as one of the centres of the Holy Roman Empire that turned to Protestantism.
Bisotun (Islamic Republic of Iran). Bisotun is located along the ancient trade route linking the Iranian high plateau with Mesopotamia and features remains from the prehistoric times to the Median, Achaemenid, Sassanian, and Ilkhanid periods. The principal monument of this archaeological site is the bas-relief and cuneiform inscription ordered by Darius I, The Great, when he rose to the throne of the Persian Empire, 521 BC. The bas-relief portrays Darius holding a bow, as a sign of sovereignty, and treading on the chest of a figure who lies on his back before him. According to legend, the figure represents Gaumata, the Median Magus and pretender to the throne whose assassination led to Darius’s rise to power. Below and around the bas-reliefs, there are ca. 1,200 lines of inscriptions telling the story of the battles Darius waged in 521-520 BC against the governors who attempted to take apart the Empire founded by Cyrus. The inscription is written in three languages. The oldest is an Elamite text referring to legends describing the king and the rebellions. This is followed by a Babylonian version of similar legends. The last phase of the inscription is particularly important, as it is here that Darius introduced for the first time the Old Persian version of his res gestae (things done). This is the only known monumental text of the Achaemenids to document the re-establishment of the Empire by Darius I. It also bears witness to the interchange of influences in the development of monumental art and writing in the region of the Persian Empire. There are also remains from the Median period (8th to 7th centuries B.C.) as well as from the Achaemenid (6th to 4th centuries B.C.) and post-Achaemenid periods.
Genoa: Le Strade Nuove and the system of the Palazzi dei Rolli (Italy). The Strade Nuove and the system of the Palazzi dei Rolli, in Genoa’s historic centre (late 16th and early 17th centuries) represent the first example in Europe of an urban development project with a unitary framework, where the plans were specially parcelled out by a public authority and a particular system of ‘public lodging’, based on legislation. The Rolli palaces were residences built by the wealthiest and most powerful aristocratic families of the Republic of Genoa at the height of its financial and seafaring power. The site includes an ensemble of Renaissance and Baroque palaces along the so-called ‘new streets’ (Strade Nuove). The grand residence palaces erected on the Strada Nuova (now Via Garibaldi) in the late 16th century, formed the quarter of the nobility, who under the constitution of 1528, had assumed the government of the Republic. Palaces are generally three or four stories high and feature spectacular open staircases, courtyards, and loggias overlooking gardens, positioned at different levels in a relatively tight space. The influence of this urban design model is evidenced by Italian and European literature over the following decades. The palazzi offer an extraordinary variety of different solutions, achieving universal value in adapting to the particular characteristics of the site and to the requirements of a specific social and economic organization. They also offer an original example of a network of public hospitality houses for visits of state, as decreed by the Senate in 1576. The owners of these palazzi were obliged to host state visits, thus contributing to the dissemination of knowledge of an architectural model and a residential culture which attracted famous artists and travellers, and of which a significant example is a collection of drawings by Pieter Paul Rubens.
The aflaj irrigation system (Oman). The property includes five aflaj irrigation systems and represents some 3,000 such systems still in use in Oman. The origins of this system of irrigation may date back to 500 A.D., but archaeological evidence suggests that irrigation systems existed in this extremely arid area as early as 2,500 B.C. Aflaj, is the plural of falaj which, in classical Arabic means to divide into shares and equitable sharing of a scarce resources to ensure sustainability remains the hallmark of this irrigation system. Using gravity, water is channelled from underground sources or springs to support agriculture and domestic use, often over many kilometres. The fair and effective management and sharing of water in villages and towns is still underpinned by mutual dependence and communal values and guided by astronomical observations. Numerous watchtowers built to defend the water systems form part of the listed property reflecting the historic dependence of communities on the aflaj system. Other buildings listed in association with the aflaj are mosques, houses, sundials, and water auction buildings. Threatened by the lowering level of the underground water table, the aflaj represent an exceptionally well-preserved form of land use.
Centennial Hall in Wroclaw (Poland). The Centennial Hall (Jahrhunderthalle in German and Hala Ludowa in Polish), a landmark in the history of reinforced concrete architecture, was erected in 1911-1913 by Max Berg, at the time municipal architect in Breslau, as the Polish city of Wrocław was called at the time, when it was part of Germany. The Centennial Hall, a multi-purpose recreational building, is a centrally-planned structure situated on the Exhibition Grounds. The structure of the Centennial Hall is a symmetrical quatrefoil form with a vast circular central space (65m diameter, 42m high) that can seat some 6,000 persons. The 23m-high dome is topped with a lantern in steel and glass. The windows are made of exotic hardwood and, in order to improve the acoustics, the walls are covered with an insulating layer of concrete mixed with wood or cork. The elevations have no decoration or ornament, but the exposed concrete texture is marked with the imprints of the wooden formwork. On the west side of the Centennial Hall is a monumental square modelled like an ancient forum. On its north side is the Four-Dome Pavilion designed by architect Hans Poelzig in 1912 to house an historical exhibition. In the northern section of the Exhibition Grounds, Poelzig designed a concrete pergola surrounding an artificial pond. Adjacent to the entrance is the office building of the company administrating the Exhibition Grounds (Breslauer Messe A.G.), built in 1937 to the design by Richard Konwiarz. A monumental gateway leading to the forum, is in the form of a colonnade with reinforced concrete columns, designed by Max Berg in 1924. The Centennial Hall is a pioneering work of modern engineering and architecture, which exhibits an important interchange of influences in the early 20th century, becoming a key reference in the later development of reinforced concrete structures.
Vizcaya Bridge (Spain) straddles the mouth of the Ibaizabal estuary west of Bilbao. It was designed by the Basque architect, Alberto de Palacio and completed in 1893. The 45-metre-high bridge with its span of 160m, merges 19th-century iron–working traditions with the then new lightweight technology of twisted steel ropes. It was the first bridge in the world to carry people and traffic on a high suspended gondola and was used as a model for many similar bridges in Europe, Africa and the Americas but only a few of which survive. With its innovative use of lightweight, twisted steel cables, it is regarded as one of the outstanding architectural iron constructions of the Industrial Revolution.
Crac des Chevaliers and Qal’at Salah El-Din (Syrian Arab Republic). The two castles represent the most significant examples illustrating the exchange of influences and documenting the evolution of fortified architecture in the Near East during the time of the Crusades (11th to 13th century). The Crac des Chevaliers was built by the Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem from 1142 to 1271. With further construction by the Mamluks in the late 13th century, it ranks among the best-preserved examples of the Crusade castles. It is an archetype of the medieval castle, particularly of the military orders and includes eight round towers built by the Hospitallers and a massive square tower added by the Mamluks. Similarly, the Qal’at Salah El-Din (Fortress of Saladin), even though partly in ruins, still represents an outstanding example of this type of fortification, both in terms of the quality of construction and the survival of historical stratigraphy. It retains features from its Byzantine beginnings in the 10th century, the Frankish transformations in the late 12th century and fortifications added by the Ayyubids dynasty (late 12th to mid-13th century).
Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape (United Kingdom). Much of the landscape of Cornwall and West Devon was transformed in the 18th and early 19th centuries as a result of the rapid growth of pioneering copper and tin mining. Its deep underground mines, engine houses, foundries, new towns, smallholdings, ports and harbours, and ancillary industries together reflect prolific innovation which, in the early 19th century, enabled the region to produce two thirds of the world’s supply of copper. The substantial remains are a testimony to the contribution Cornwall and West Devon made to the industrial revolution in the rest of Britain and to the fundamental influence the area had on the mining world at large. Cornish technology embodied in engines, engine houses and mining equipment were exported around the world. Cornwall and West Devon were the heartland from which mining technology rapidly spread. When Cornish and West Devon mining declined in the 1860s, large numbers of miners emigrated to work and live in mining communities based on Cornish traditions, in for instance South Africa, Australia, and Central and South America, where Cornish engine houses still survive.
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