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Eight new sites, from the Straits of Malacca, to Papua New Guinea and San Marino, added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List

Eight new sites, from the Straits of Malacca, to Papua New Guinea and San Marino, added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List
  • © UNESCO / Milos Dudas
  • The Wooden Churches of the Slovak part of Carpathian Mountain Area

The World Heritage Committee meeting in Quebec City has added eight new cultural sites to UNESCO’s World Heritage List on the morning of the 7 of July. With these inscriptions, Papua New Guinea and San Marino enter the World Heritage List for the first time.

The new sites inscribed are:

Melaka and George Town, historic cities of the Straits of Malacca (Malaysia) have developed over 500 years of trading and cultural exchanges between East and West in the Straits of Malacca. The influences of Asia and Europe have endowed the towns with a specific multicultural heritage that is both tangible and intangible. With its government buildings, churches, squares and fortifications, Melaka demonstrates the early stages of this history originating in the 15th-century Malay sultanate and the Portuguese and Dutch periods beginning in the early 16th century. Featuring residential and commercial buildings, George Town represents the British era from the end of the 18th century. The two towns constitute a unique architectural and cultural townscape without parallel anywhere in East and Southeast Asia.

Kuk Early Agricultural Site (Papua New Guinea) consists of 116 ha of swamps in the southern highlands of New Guinea 1,500 metres above sea-level. Archaeological excavation has revealed the landscape to be one of wetland reclamation worked almost continuously for 7,000, and possibly for 10,000 years. It contains well-preserved archaeological remains demonstrating the technological leap which transformed plant exploitation to agriculture around 6,500 years ago. It is an excellent example of transformation of agricultural practices over time, from cultivation mounds to draining the wetlands through the digging of ditches with wooden tools. Kuk is one of the few places in the world where archaeological evidence suggests independent agricultural development and changes in agricultural practice over such a long period of time.

Stari Grad Plain (Croatia) on the Adriatic island of Hvar is a cultural landscape that has remained practically intact since it was first colonized by Ionian Greeks from Paros in the 4th century BC. The original agricultural activity of this fertile plain, mainly centring on grapes and olives, has been maintained since Greek times to the present. The site is also a natural reserve. The landscape features ancient stone walls and trims, or small stone shelters, and bears testimony to the ancient geometrical system of land division used by the ancient Greeks, the chora which has remained virtually intact over 24 centuries.

Fortifications of Vauban (France) consists of 13 groups of fortified buildings and sites along the western, northern and eastern borders of France. They represent the finest examples of the work of Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban (1633-1707), a military engineer of King Louis XIV. The serial property includes towns built from scratch by Vauban, citadels built on plains, urban bastion walls, bastion towers and a residence. There are also mountain forts, sea forts, a mountain battery and two mountain communication structures. This property is inscribed as bearing witness to the peak of classic fortifications, typical of western military architecture. Vauban also played a major role in the history of fortification in Europe and as far away as the American continent, Russia and East Asia.

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Berlin Modernism Housing Estates (Germany) . The property consists of six housing estates that testify to innovative housing policies from 1910 to 1933, especially during the Weimar Republic, when the city of Berlin was particularly progressive socially, politically and culturally. The property is an outstanding example of the building reform movement that contributed to improving housing and living conditions for people with low incomes through novel approaches to town planning, architecture and garden design. The estates also provide exceptional examples of new urban and architectural typologies, featuring fresh design solutions, as well as technical and aesthetic innovations. Bruno Taut, Martin Wagner and Walter Gropius were among the leading architects of these projects which exercised considerable influence on the development of housing around the world.

Mantua and Sabbioneta, in the Po valley, in the north of Italy, represent two aspects of Renaissance town planning: Mantua shows the renewal and extension of an existing city, while 30 km away, Sabbioneta represents the implementation of the period’s theories about planning the ideal city. Typically, Mantua’s layout is irregular with regular parts showing different stages of its growth since the Roman period and includes many medieval edifices among them an 11th century rotunda and a Baroque theatre. Sabbioneta, created in the second half of the 16th century under the rule of one person, Vespasiano Gonzaga Colonna, can be described as a single-period city and has a right angle grid layout. Both cities offer exceptional testimonies to the urban, architectural and artistic realizations of the Renaissance, linked through the visions and actions of the ruling Gonzaga family. The two towns are important for the value of their architecture and for their prominent role in the dissemination of Renaissance culture. The ideals of the Renaissance, fostered by the Gonzaga family, are present in the towns’ morphology and architecture.

San Marino Historic Centre and Mount Titano (San Marino) covers 55 ha, including Mount Titano and the historic centre of the city which dates back to the foundation of the republic as a city-state in the 13th century. San Marino is inscribed as a testimony to the continuity of a free republic since the Middle Ages. The inscribed city centre includes fortification towers, walls, gates and bastions, as well as a neo-classical basilica of the 19th century, 14th and 16th century convents, and the Palazzo Publico of the 19th century, as well as the 18th century Titano Theatre. The property represents an historical centre still inhabited and preserving all its institutional functions. Thanks to its position on top of Mount Titano, it was not affected by the urban transformations that have occurred from the advent of the industrial era to today.

The Wooden Churches of the Slovak part of Carpathian Mountain Area (Slovakia) inscribed on the World Heritage List consist of two Roman Catholic, three Protestant and three Greek Orthodox churches built between the 16th and 18th centuries in small, poor villages in an area formerly known as Upland Hungary. The property presents good examples of a rich local tradition of religious architecture, marked by the meeting of Latin and Byzantine cultures. The edifices exhibit some typological variations in their floor plans, interior spaces and external appearance due to their respective religious practices. They bear testimony to the development of major architectural and artistic trends during the period of construction and to their interpretation and adaptation to a specific geographical and cultural context. Interiors are decorated with paintings on the walls and ceilings and other works of art that enrich the cultural significance of the properties.

During the morning session, the Committee also approved the extension of the Mountain Railways of India with the inscription of the Kalka Shimla Railway, a 96km long, single track working rail link built in the mid-19th century to provide a service to the highland town of Shimla.

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  • 07-07-2008
  • © UNESCO / POP-EYE / Thomas Bartilla - Housing Estates of the Berliner Moderne
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