Architecture and UNESCO: Rethinking Preservation and Cultural Heritage

Architecture has always been about permanence and ephemerality. How we build is directly related to how we think about the future and what we preserve. UNESCO continues to study the interplay between history, growth, preservation, and change. It is an international organization that promotes cooperation in education and the arts, sciences, culture and the sciences. Cultural context is crucial as cities, landscapes, and architecture are increasingly threatened by climate change and unrest.

© Emre Dörter

UNESCO is an Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization of the United Nations. It works to promote peace through international cooperation in Education, Science and Culture. Their programs also contribute to the achievement the Sustainable Development Goals, which were adopted by the UN General Assembly as Agenda 2030 in 2015. They state that peace must be built on mutual understanding and dialogue. Peace must be built on the intellectual and moral solidarity between humanity. A World Heritage Site refers to a place or landmark that is legally protected by an international convention managed by the UNESCO. World Heritage Sites can be designated because they have a historical, scientific, or cultural significance. These projects explore what it means for awareness and understanding.

Persepolis Entrance Pavilion/theAlliance

© Deed Studio

The 200-square-meter Persepolis Entrance Pavilion, a multi-functional, open-space pavilion, is located at the entrance to Iran’s UNESCO World Heritage Site, The Persepolis. Our team developed an indirect modelling algorithm that uses axial lines at the core of the space to guide form finding. This algorithm is in turn guided by form finding and geometry. This strategy allows for the creation of “Medial Surfaces”, which are controlled by axial lines, eliminating direct control over the surface’s geometry.

Giants Causeway Visitor Centre / Heneghan Peng Architects

© Hufton+Crow

The project is located on the ridgeline of North Antrim’s coast, at the gateway to UNESCO World Heritage Site. Two folds can be seen in the landscape to explain the proposal for new visitor facilities. The first folds upwards, revealing the building. The second folds down to create the carpark and hide it from the view of the approach road. A ramp connects the two folds to the coast ridgeline, which has been restored at this location.

Valerio Olgiati – Pearling Site Museum and Entrance

© Archive Olgiati

This site includes ruins that are part of the UNESCO Pearling Path. The whole building serves as both the entrance to cultural heritage and the foyer to the medina. It’s an urban space for Muharraq, with the size of a public park. To create a new location in the densely populated city, concrete elements are placed at the property boundary. This creates a large space in which wind towers and columns hold a horizontal plate at 10 meters above the ground.

Visitor Center UNESCO World Heritage Site Kinderdijk / M& DB Architecten

© Ossip van Duivenbode

Kinderijk is the best example of a Dutch windmill landscape. The landscape’s collection of mills and pumping stations were declared Unesco World Heritage Site in 1997. The new Visitor Center, which is half land and half water, restores the long visual line that runs along the quay. The Visitor Center’s architecture unifies the various visitor flows, and restores the landscape’s identity.

Tourist Office of Blaye / Gayet Roger Architects

© Arthur Pequin

The Blaye Tourist Office is located in front of the Vauban Citadel which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Local stone was chosen by the architects as an obvious choice. They wanted architecture that would be in dialogue with the region’s history and knowledge. This project is a perfect fit for a rich heritage context without making any compromises to its modern design.

UNESCO World Heritage Site Cloister Lorsch / Topotek 1

© Hanns Joosten

In 1991, the “Lorsch Abbey” of Southern Hesse was designated a World Heritage Site. The Altenmunster, which dates back to the reign of Pippinthe Short, was the first monastery built on the site. The monastery became more influential in spiritual and economic matters, so an abbey was established nearby on a large glacial dune. This complex was an important centre to restore the cultural memory/inheritance from antiquity.

Museum of Troy/ Yalin Architectural Design

© Emre Dörter

Because of its exceptional universal value, the archeological site Troy was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site by the United Nations in 1998. It has served as a major influence on the development and arts and literature of Europe over the past two millennia. The Museum of Troy is located 800m from the site. It is an opportunity to honor this heritage and to share the rich history of Troy’s natural, cultural, and archeological context.

Salt Museum / Malcotti Roussey Architectes + Thierry Hheza

© Nicolas Waltefaugle

The salt works of Salins-les-Bain, which have been closed since 1962, were an important production site right in the heart of France’s Franche Comte city. The city authorities set out the goal to transform the salt works into a monument to local production history when the 2006 competition was announced. The site was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is not intended to be a museum of salt, but an open-air museum of local historical events.

Desert X AlUla Visitor Centre /

© Colin Robertson

Walled date plantations are a common sight around Al Ula. They are usually rectangular in form with large centrally located gates. The palm tree crowns rising above the walls of sand-coloured sand can be seen as a reminder of the shade that lies within. It is a place one can find respite from the desert environment. Hegra is Saudi Arabia’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site, known for its monumental rock-cut tombs. It is located just outside Al Ula. Visitors are welcome to the Desert X Al Ula Exhibition at the Visitor Centre, a simple square structure located at the Hidden Canyon’s entrance.