June 28, 2009

More European Sites Added To World Heritage List

UNESCO has now included a number of European sites in its World Heritage List, such as the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Canal in Wales, a Spanish lighthouse, and two Swiss watch manufacturing towns.

The World Heritage List includes 890 properties forming part of cultural and natural heritage, which its committee considers as having "outstanding universal value."

The UN cultural agency's World Heritage Committee meeting in Seville, Spain, said that the 11 mile long Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Canal in northeastern Wales is "a feat of civil engineering of the Industrial Revolution."

Completed in the early 19th century, its construction "required substantial, bold civil engineering solutions, especially as it was built without using locks," it said in a statement.

The committee called the 1,007-foot aqueduct built by Thomas Telford and William Jessop, "a pioneering masterpiece of engineering and monumental metal architecture".

The committee also added the almost 1,900-year-old Tower of Hercules, the lighthouse that guards the entrance to the harbor of the northwestern Spanish city of La Coruna, on the list.  It was rehabilitated in 1791, and still stands 180 feet tall overlooking the North Atlantic coast of Spain. It is the oldest Roman lighthouse still in use.

First built by the Romans in the late 1st century AD, the Tower of Hercules "is unique as it is the only lighthouse of Greco-Roman antiquity to have retained a measure of structural integrity and functional continuity."

The committee also added the geographical twin Swiss watch manufacturing towns of La Chaux-de-Fonds and Le Locle to the World Heritage List as "outstanding examples of mono-industrial manufacturing-towns which are well preserved and still active."

After the town was devastated by fires in the early 19th century, the town fathers relocated to the Jura Mountains to meet the needs of the watchmakers and redesigned the towns in a modern, grid like fashion unlike the common meandering streets of most European cities.

Also added to the list was the Stoclet House in the Belgian capital Brussels, designed by Austrian architect Joseph Hoffmann between 1905 and 1911, whose "austere geometry marked a turning point in Art Nouveau." It is considered to be one of the most luxurious and refined private homes of the twentieth century.

The Great Saltworks of Salins-les-Bains in eastern France, where brine has been extracted since at least the Middle Ages, was added to the World Heritage List as an extension to the site of the Royal Saltworks of Arc-et-Senan. Salins is named after the saline waters, used for bathing and drinking. There are also salt works and gypsum deposits.

The committee will continue meeting until Tuesday, marking a full week of adding new sites all across the globe.


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