Architecture: Guardians of the Wonders of the World ; Tourism and World Events Are Endangering the World's Treasured Monuments; the World Monument Fund Seeks to Protect Them
Nieswand, Nonie, The Independent (London, England)
THE WORLD Monuments Fund is an international private charity, the architectural equivalent of the World Wildlife Fund, dedicated to the protection of endangered monuments rather than species. It presented its first Hadrian award in 1990 to Prince Charles for his "concern for architecture and preservation".
At the time, the Prince of Wales was on a rollercoaster with his pronounced views on architecture. Possibly a bit of an endangered species himself, Prince Charles declined this year to become its patron. That honour has gone instead to Prince Michael of Kent. What has he ever done for architecture, I wondered?
There are those Tinseltown elaborately scrolled tinfoil gates at Hyde Park which Princess Michael of Kent installed in honour of the Queen Mother, a monument that is universally disliked. The interior designer and aesthete Nicholas Haslem memorably described them in the Spectator as falling into the "My Little Pony school of architecture". But we can't hold Prince Michael responsible for his wife's transgressions.
He has been deeply involved in the restoration of the Alexander Palace at Tsarskoe Selo, the last residence of Tsar Nicholas and Alexandra and well known to the Prince's grandmother, Helen Vladimirovna, Grand Duchess of Russia. It is this that has encouraged WMF to make him their patron. His appointment will be announced tonight at the Southwark Ball. This event is to raise funds for the conservation of the Flag Pavilion in a park on the Neva River which will mark the arrival of WMF in St Petersburg. The annual WMF Watchlist has identified seven sites in Russia.
Will Black of the WMF says that the Prince speaks Russian and even looks like Nicholas, the last Tsar. The WMF's success at both fund raising and conservation is demonstrated by the fact that the Chinese Palace in Oranienbaum commissioned by Catherine the Great has half its roof back. Now it is open to the public. Since the rouble crash of August 1998, conservation slipped down the list of funding projects, but as Prince Michael points out: "Raising money for conservation in Russia is not quite the daunting prospect itsounds. Money spent there often goes further than in the West."
A major concern of the WMF and its new patron is how war and the refugee crisis in the Balkans has changed the face of Eastern Europe. They suggest that the worldwide sympathy for rebuilding cultural heritage could be a "mechanism for social healing" in former Yugoslavia and Albania. …