Modern heritage – the architecture, town planning and landscape design of the modern era, or the last two hundred years or so – is still underrepresented on the World Heritage List. And yet it is an integral part of many urban ensembles, which represent a majority of sites on the List. Raising awareness of the significance of this heritage, and addressing issues on its preservation and valorization, is the focus of the World Heritage Centre’s Modern Heritage Programme, and of many heritage experts. Drawing attention to these structures, and encouraging the development of legal protection for them, is beginning to build momentum.
In this issue, we will look closely at the Sydney Opera House (Australia), from its construction to its role today as a vibrant cultural centre; Grimeton Radio Station (Sweden), a monument to early wireless transatlantic communication built in 1922-1924 and still in working condition; and the city of Brasilia (Brazil), that landmark of town planning by urban planner Lucio Costa and architect Oscar Niemeyer. We will also learn about the evolution of the identification of modern heritage in the Arab region, and in an interview with Hubert Jan Henket, architect and co-founder of the International Committee for Documentation and Conservation of Buildings, Sites and neighbourhoods of the Modern Movement (DOCOMOMO), we will explore the recognition of modern heritage, international collaboration and other aspects of conservation.
In addition, the issue presents the 21 new sites inscribed on the World Heritage List during the 41st session of the World Heritage Committee in Krakow, from 2 to 12 July 2017. These include two sites that are the first to be inscribed in their country: Mbanza Kongo in Angola, and in Eritrea, the site of Asmara: A Modernist City of Africa. Asmara is an exceptional example of early modernist urbanism at the beginning of the 20th century and its application in an African context. As pointed out in the lead article by Afredo Conti, Vice President of ICOMOS, the international community has started recognizing modern heritage that until recently was barely valued at all. Identifying and preserving our modern heritage is indeed an important issue of the moment.
Director of the UNESCO World Heritage Centre
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World Heritage Nº85