WMF Announces 50th Anniversary in its Commitment to Heritage Worldwide

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The organization is calling attention to the growing challenge of preserving the world’s important architectural and cultural heritage sites due to pressing global issues such as war and conflict, climate change, urban development, and neglect. The World Monuments Foundation, in recognition of its 50th Anniversary announced today the launch of a multi-year campaign to restore five major cultural heritage sites around the world including: The Farnese Gardens in Rome, Mughal Gardens near the Taj Mahal, a temple in Angkor Cambodia, the Qianlong Garden in the Forbidden City, China and Quinta de Presa in Lima, Peru.

“Our 50th Anniversary provides the opportunity to reflect on our past work while articulating a powerful vision for an even more engaged future role in preserving some of the world’s greatest treasures."

In recognition of its 50th Anniversary and defining a vision for the future, Bonnie Burnham, President of World Monuments Fund (WMF), announced today the launch of a multi-year campaign to restore five major cultural heritage sites around the world. The organization is calling attention to the growing challenge of preserving the world’s important architectural and cultural heritage sites due to pressing global issues such as war and conflict, climate change, urban development, and neglect.

Founded in response to the engineering challenges faced by the Leaning Tower of Pisa almost a half-century ago and extended to projects in over 100 countries, WMF is internationally acclaimed for its technical expertise, rapid response during emergency, and ability to collaborate with local communities to aid economic development. Ms. Burnham has led efforts to identify key sites that will become the cornerstone of WMF’s work for the next five years. Of these, five 50th Anniversary priority projects have been chosen as outstanding examples of architectural achievement that embody the rich heritage of their countries. Like all of WMF’s projects, the cultural sites chosen for restoration also serve as prime opportunities for local economic growth though job creation, skills training, and tourism.

“Every monument is enormously important to local economies, cultures, and communities,” said Ms. Burnham. “Our 50th Anniversary provides the opportunity to reflect on our past work while articulating a powerful vision for an even more engaged future role in preserving some of the world’s greatest treasures threatened by neglect, development, human strife, and natural forces.”

Embodying the depth and breadth of WMF’s global scope, the 50th Anniversary priority sites, which require continuing donor support, include:

  • Mughal Gardens, Agra, India: Located across the Yamuna River from the Taj Mahal, these gardens were inspired by Persian precedents but adapted to local conditions and represent one of the most important contributions that the Mughal Empire made to Indian culture. With newly constructed bridges across the river, the surviving gardens are now in the path of expanding urban development. Yet the gardens also offer Agra an opportunity to enhance the appeal of the city by promoting these and other nearby historic sites while also reducing the attendance pressure on the Taj Mahal itself. WMF, in partnership with the Archaeological Survey of India and Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design, will work to restore two of the most important gardens: Mehtab Bagh (“the Moonlight Garden”) and the Garden of the Tomb of I’timad-ud-Daulah. The restored gardens, with improved visitor facilities, will provide local residents and visitors with an opportunity to learn more about Indian and garden history and offer green spaces in the congested city of Agra.
  • Phnom Bakheng Temple, Angkor, Cambodia: Built in the late-ninth and early tenth centuries, this is one of Angkor’s oldest temples and one of the most popular tourist sites in the Angkor Archaeological Park. WMF has been active at Angkor for almost 25 years and at Phnom Bakheng for a decade, training a team of conservators to restore unstable and damaged portions of the temple and surrounding shrines. The temple’s popularity as a destination for panoramic sunset views over Angkor Wat has resulted in the need for a sustainable tourism component to the project in order to ensure minimal damage from visitors. The completed project will see a restored temple and a well-managed visitor system to ensure that it remains a model of good conservation as well as an economic benefit to the community.
  • Qianlong Garden in the Forbidden City, Beijing, China: This is one of WMF’s most dynamic projects of the past decade. The first phase of this project finished in 2008, and since that time WMF has been implementing the second of a planned four phases of work. The garden complex was created in the late eighteenth century for the retirement of the emperor Qianlong and contains some of the most important surviving buildings and interiors of Qing Dynasty China. The high level of craftsmanship in the buildings has proven to be both a challenge and an opportunity for conservation. WMF, in partnership with the Palace Museum, has worked to find practitioners of the traditional artistic and construction techniques used in the structures and has created a conservation lab and training program to teach a new generation of artisans how to restore and maintain the buildings. As the restoration of the complex proceeds, WMF is also working with the Palace Museum on the development of coordinated visitor access to the delicate and spectacular pavilions and gardens.
  • Farnese Aviaries, Rome, Italy: Located on the Palatine Hill, the heart of ancient Rome, these aviaries were constructed alongside gardens in the sixteenth century on top of rich archaeological remains. While the palaces built on the hill by aristocratic Roman families during the Renaissance are long gone, and large parts of the associated Renaissance gardens have been removed as part of archeological exploration of the underlying ancient Roman buildings, the aviaries built by the Farnese family survive. Stranded in close proximity to the far better known monuments of the Roman Forum, the buildings are now in a state of serious disrepair. WMF will help restore the aviaries in tandem with nearby, relevant sites. These restored buildings will enhance the visitor experience by providing insight into an important period of the history of the Palatine Hill and offering a breezy, green respite and spectacular views for visitors to the adjacent Forum.
  • Quinta de Presa, Lima, Peru: Built in a late-rococo style, this villa and its surrounding outbuildings reflect the social and economic history of the Spanish-Creole aristocracy of Lima in the eighteenth century. Owned by the Peruvian government since 1920, it is currently dormant after unsustainable conversions to other uses. Since its inclusion on the 2012 World Monuments Watch, WMF has been exploring with the Peruvian Ministry of Culture and the Patronato del Rímac a project to restore and adaptively reuse the site. A restoration program would ensure the building’s future, and its adaptive reuse would provide an opportunity to help revitalize the overlooked district of Rímac through increased tourism, cultural events, and other economic benefits to the community. Combined with the rejuvenation of two nearby parks that were also included on the 2012 World Monuments Watch—the Alameda de los Descalzos and Paseo de Aguas—there is a timely opportunity to use heritage sites in the district as a catalyst for positive change.

“Throughout my countless journeys all over the world, I have always admired the conservation of historic moments. Heritage preservation can be a tremendous engine of economic development as the restoration of a historic building can be the catalyst for the recovery of the surrounding communities,” said Mario Testino, world-renowned photographer, who recently became President of the Board of WMF Peru. "It is exciting to explore possibilities for the future of Quinta de Presa in Lima as my first project as President of the Board of the WMF Peru, as it was on the spotlight list of the late Marcela Pérez de Cuéllar, the founding leader of WMF’s presence in Peru.”

WMF 50th Anniversary Activities
A WMF 50th Anniversary commemorative book, to be published by Rizzoli in 2015, will explore some of the most compelling and pressing issues affecting global cultural heritage today, including the impacts of conflict, climate change, urban development, and the loss of traditions. The book will highlight key WMF project sites and include essays by renowned writers such as André Aciman, Anne Applebaum, William Dalrymple, Justin Davidson, John Julius Norwich, and Andrew Solomon. The imagery will be curated by the International Center of Photography.

The WMF 50th Anniversary also includes a global travel program that recognizes milestones in WMF’s work at major cultural heritage projects around the world, starting with a trip to the United Kingdom and celebratory event at Stowe House in Buckinghamshire in June 2014. Other trips include visits to the Qianlong Garden in the Forbidden City, Beijing, China; Annibale Carracci’s ceiling frescoes in the Palazzo Farnese in Rome, Italy; the Chancellerie d’Orléans in Paris, France; and the temple of Phnom Bakheng at Angkor, Cambodia.

Other WMF 50th Anniversary highlights include the 2015 Hadrian Gala in New York City, as well as lectures and events featuring some of the world’s most respected architects, thinkers, and authors.

His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales will serve as the Honorary Chairman of WMF’s 50th Anniversary.

For more information on WMF’s 50th Anniversary and related projects, please visit wmf50.org.

About World Monuments Fund
From America’s Route 66 to China’s Forbidden City, World Monuments Fund’s mission is to protect against the loss of the world’s architectural heritage, including the built environment, the artistic elements that enhance it, and the cultural traditions that it sustains. WMF builds global partnerships to conserve key cultural sites in response to urgent threats and broadens public understanding about the central importance of heritage in our lives. Its work makes historic places accessible and sustainable, builds and replenishes skills needed to care for our common heritage, and communicates the benefits to the global public.

In honor of its 50th Anniversary, WMF is launching a multi-year campaign of priority projects as well as lectures, events, publications, exhibitions, and donor travel programs. Headquartered in the iconic Empire State Building in New York City, WMF has offices and affiliates worldwide.

More on WMF: wmf.org, wmf50.org, twitter.com/worldmonuments, facebook.com/worldmonuments

Media Inquiries:
Ben Haley, World Monuments Fund: 646-424-9594 (ext. 582), bhaley(at)wmf(dot)org
Patricia Steele, Phil & Co.: 646-490-6446, patricia(at)philandcompany

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Phil & Co
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