Europa Nostra Awards
May 2023, Charles Thomson
The 7 Most Endangered monuments and heritage sites in Europe in 2023 - the 10th anniversary year of the programme - were announced by The Hague on 13 April.
With one exception, they are all located in countries formerly - wholly or partly - under communist/undemocratic control. Many of the problems highlighted reflect the difficulties they have inherited, in terms of weak public accountability and a lack of funding in support of heritage sites.
In alphabetical order of country, they are as follows:
Kortrijk Railway Station, BELGIUM - the original 19th century railway station in Kortrijk, near the western border of Belgium close to Lille, was heavily bombed in 1944 following the invasion of Normandy and was rebuilt in 1951 with both neoclassical and contemporary elements. Proposals for the construction of a new station would involve the loss of public space as well as of an architectural gem.
Partisan Memorial Cemetery, Mostar, BOSNIA/HERZEGOVINA - built in 1965 and one of the largest anti-fascist assembly of monuments in the Balkans, it features some 700 individual tombstones and is part of a series of monuments and sites built in the region in memory of the Yugoslav partisans who died during World War II. Its contested status has resulted in repeated acts of vandalism, leaving the Memorial Cemetery in urgent need of a holistic plan for its conservation and maintenance.
Tchakvinji Fortress, Zugdidi, GEORGIA - the fortress, situated close to the city of Zugdidi in Georgia, was constructed between 2nd and 5th century BC and remained in use until the 18th century. It later served as a shelter for locals during the period of Tsarist Russia, when the fortifications were bombarded by cannons, causing significant destruction. Excavations took place in the 1960s revealing the site's continued habitation since the late Bronze Age. In 2017 the Georgian Government placed the fortress in the category of Monuments of National Significance.
Sisters' House Ensemble, Kleinwelka, Saxony, GERMANY - the Sisters' House Ensemble (a former Moravian settlement) was founded in the early 18th century for Protestant refugees from neighbouring Czechia. They established a number of settlements in Germany and set up education and healthcare systems for themselves and locals, including children who subsequently left and followed their parents as missionaries. Since the early 20th century tenants have moved out in search of better housing and the buildings have deteriorated. Once restored, they will share local history and provide space for social activities of local, regional and cross-border significance.
Memento Park, Budapest, HUNGARY - the Memento Park - situated on the outskirts of Budapest and also known as the 'Statue Park' - is the resting-place of statues which used to symbolise communist ideology on the streets of Budapest from 1945-89. Opened in 1993, it is a history museum, educational centre and tourist attraction, showing that only democracy can provide an opportunity to think freely about dictatorship. However, income from visitors is now unpredictable and insufficient for expert conservation. It is hoped that the site's 7ME status will raise European awareness of dissonant heritage.
Cultural Heritage of Sveti Stefan, Pastrovici, MONTENEGRO - Sveti Stefan is a 15th century fortified town built as the cultural and administrative headquarters of the Pastrovici region. The 1.2 hectare islet, with its stone houses, churches, streets, lanes, squares and gardens, is connected by a low bridge to the mainland - close to a park which includes the former residence of a Yugoslav royal family. Despite the fact that Sveti Stefn has both a National Cultural Heritage classification and UNESCO funding for the restoration of the islet's oldest church, the uncontrolled development of tourism and real estate still pose a threat to its integrity.
The Watermills of Bistrica, Petrovac na Mlavi, SERBIA - The watermills of Bistrica, along the Bistrica river in eastern Serbia, are a unique complex of historic mills used from the 19th to the mid-20th century for grinding grain and rolling cloth. The mills present the small-scale, folk characteristics of traditional wooden structures in the Balkans as well as the agricultural way of life, but their long-term abandonment and exposure to harsh weather conditions have threatened their preservation.
In other recent Europa Nostra awards news:
The Costa Carras European Citizens Award was presented, for the first time, on 26 April within the framework of the Delphi Economic Forum and in the presence of the President of the Hellenic Republic.
The Award was won by the Romanian civil society organisation 'ARA' (Architecture Restoration Archaeology) for its protection of the historic mining landscape of Rosia Montana and its persuasion of the Romanian authorities to prioritise heritage-led sustainable development. Rosia Montana is situated in the western area of the Carpathian mountains. ARA's activity began in 2007, when a potential new mining project threatened valuable community buildings, including two parish houses. The rescue campaign developed with the assistance of local people and students from architectural schools.
This new award was established in memory of Costa Carras (1938-2022): iconic champion of the protection of the environment and cultural heritage in Greece and more widely in Europe.