The Archaeological site of Ererouyk and the village of Ani Pemza in Armenia, Patarei Sea Fortress in Tallinn inEstonia, Helsinki-Malmi Airport in Finland, Colbert Swing Bridge in Dieppe in France, the Kampos of Chios in Greece, the Convent of St. Anthony of Padua in Extremadura in Spain, and the Ancient city of Hasankeyf and its surroundings inTurkey have been named as the 7 Most Endangered heritage sites in Europe in 2016. Europa Nostra, the leading European heritage organisation, and the European Investment Bank Institute (EIBI) made the announcement during a public event at the Ateneo Veneto in Venice, Italy.
These gems of Europe’s cultural heritage are in serious danger, some due to lack of resources or expertise, others due to neglect or inadequate planning. Urgent action is therefore needed. Expert missions to the sites will be arranged and feasible action plans submitted by the end of the year. ‘The 7 Most Endangered’ has the support of the Creative Europe programme of the European Union, as part of Europa Nostra’s network project ‘Mainstreaming Heritage’.
Europa Nostra and the European Investment Bank Institute, together with other partners and the nominators, will visit the 7 selected sites and meet with key stakeholders in the coming months. The heritage and financial experts will provide technical advice, identify possible sources of funding and mobilise broad support.
The 7 Most Endangered for 2016 were selected by the Board of Europa Nostra from the 14 sites shortlisted by a panel of specialists in history, archaeology, architecture, conservation, project analysis and finance. Nominations were submitted by civil society or public bodies which form part of Europa Nostra’s vast network of member and associate organisations from all over Europe.
The 7 Most Endangered heritage sites in Europe in 2016
Ererouyk is a superb monument of Early Christian architecture, an architecture of great variety and distinction, today often subjected to neglect, if not willful destruction, in most of its original homeland around the Eastern Mediterranean. Armenian religious architecture, amongst the finest and most innovative, is well represented by Ererouyk. The monument dates back to the 6th century and lies on a rocky plateau close to the river that forms the border with Turkey, in the vicinity of the ancient capital Ani. All around the three-aisled basilica lay the remains of funerary and other relevant monuments which deserve immediate study and preservation. This is crucial for the understanding of a settlement within a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural framework during the Middle Ages, as demonstrated by relevant archaeological findings that also need to be studied and displayed.
The site is at constant danger from earthquakes, a danger increased by the condition of the monument. Yet, if preserved and well managed, it has the potential to give life to the whole region as a site that will attract visitor, with the nearby Soviet-era style village of Ani Pemza, built in 1926, serving as a potential centre for cultural tourism.
The Centre of Studies and Documentation of Armenian Culture in Italy (CSDCA) submitted the nomination for ‘The 7 Most Endangered’ 2016.
Patarei is a complex of buildings, originally built as a naval fortress under Tsarist rule in 1829-1840. It became a prison between 1920 and 2005, and contains monuments to victims of both Nazi and Stalinist rule. The site is thus closely linked to the sad vicissitudes of Estonia’s recent history. Its rapid deterioration is due to lack of maintenance in harsh climatic conditions.
Helsinki-Malmi Airport is a rare surviving example of pre-World War II aviation architecture, built for the 1940 Olympic Games, scheduled to be held in Helsinki but cancelled due to the war.
Malmi Airport, complete with its original hangar, terminal and runways, is still in use with about 40,000 landings per year, offering the only free-schedule international service within 150 km. The area has been declared a cultural environment of national significance by Finland’s National Board of Antiquities. Its open meadow has considerable biodiversity and makes the nature path encircling the site very popular among locals. Helsinki’s new General Plan proposes to fill the airport with apartment blocks to be constructed in the early 2020s, while the state is to withdraw its operations from the airport by the end of 2016.
The Colbert Bridge, built in 1889, is contemporary with the Eiffel Tower and still functions with its original system of hydraulic pression, carrying about 12,000 vehicles and 1,800 pedestrians daily, makes it an important example of the technical and architectural achievements of the late 19th century. It swings 6 to 8 times each day for the harbour traffic and ensures greater reliability than many modern bridges.
Although one of the earliest examples of “moveable” architecture, a living memory of Dieppe’s cultural and social history and potentially a tourist attraction, its owner, the Syndicat Mixte du Port de Dieppe is planning to demolish it and replace it with a new structure in 2017.
The Kampos of Chios is a semi-urban, semi-rural area where the islands’ wealthier families built beautiful mansions of local stone, surrounded by citrus orchard estates. The 200 houses and towers which survive, combined with high stone walls separating the estates and narrow surrounding lanes, create a poetic landscape.
The Convent of St. Anthony of Padua near Cáceres comprises a late Gothic church, built in 1476 with some small additions in the Renaissance period and, most notably, others from between 1656 and 1661. The convent lies in the village of Garrovillas de Alconétar, which has a long history and a wealth of monuments; all in danger of dereliction as its inhabitants move on to larger cities.
Hasankeyf, sitting on the banks of the River Tigris, is one of the most important architectural and archaeological sites in Europe, boasting a rich biodiversity and 12,000 years of human history. Masterpieces of Islamic architecture, dating from the 12th to 15th centuries C.E., make the town one of the best preserved witnesses to Seljuk urban culture, particularly from the Artukid and Ayyubid dynasties.
In addition, Europa Nostra and the EIB Institute – following a firm recommendation from an international advisory panel of experts – decided that the Venice Lagoonin Italy should be declared the most endangered heritage site in Europe.
There could be no Venice and no Venetian civilization without the lagoon. Few historic sites in the world demonstrate so clearly the interdependence of humankind with our environment, of nature with culture.
Yet just as the world contributes to the conservation of monuments in the city, unsustainable development is cutting the physical branch on which Venice has always perched.