Finally environmental and cultural preservers, not destroyers, receive recognition [image by Brood_wich via flickr]
UNESCO has ordained 890 world heritage sites around the world, one-third of which belong in the Middle East. While admiring Seville, Spain during a trip roughly two years ago, HRH Sultan Bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, from the country that is doing a lot to green the Middle East, conceived an idea to write about the top 100 stories from “the Heritage front lines.” And they are front lines, because the process of saving our heritage from the clutches of runaway development is as brutal as any war zone. Al-Saud’s worthy germ evolved into a 7-part BBC series that will be viewed by 300 million households.
[image by Jay Bergesen via flickr]
The Heroes Who Save Our Heritage
Al-Saud met in Sharjah with Mr Farroukh Darkashany, the director of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture, Dr Othman, the Director General of the Al Turath Foundation, and the BBC representative producer, Robert Lamb, to discuss their ideas. They glued together a unique series that favors the preservation and restoration of historical structures over high-tech urban development; first aired yesterday, June 19th, 2010, each episode will profile 3 of the heroes whose pluck and inspiration has led to the protection of such historical mementos. The last program will run until August 1st.
The individuals profiled are as unique as the places they preserve: there is the “militant trade unionist: from Sydney who became a “militant heritage protector,” and the story of Lebanon’s prime minister, who was murdered, and who resuscitated Beirut, as well as Turkey’s mayor, who transformed a ramshackle town by returning a 16th century Ottoman quarter to its “centerpiece.”
[image by Wolfgang Staudt via flickr]
The Perils of Preservation
According to Al-Saud, the series raises several questions: “For example, who will be responsible for safeguarding, restoring and maintaining the sites? Rescuing and restoring are only a beginning — the bigger challenge is maintenance. Asking how they can they pay their way, especially in the less well-off countries where there are so many other priorities, is a recurrent subject.”
How to to integrate restored sites, such that they become a “living and breathing part of the urban landscape” was among the other subjects raised during an architecture conference in Riyadh in May 2010. This discussion among urban experts will be aired on the final show.
A Few Good Men and Women
The tendency to think that solutions to the cultural and environmental detritus we’ve caused come in packages of new technology is struck down with this series. Because frequently it is what we used to know, the skills we used to have, and the buildings we used to build that reflect our better selves. Thankfully there are a few good men and women among us who have always known, and who fight the hard fight on posterity’s behalf.
Please go to the Heritage Heroes website to find a schedule of shows, and stay tuned for details of Middle Eastern Heroes.
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