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Save our sights: Europe's most neglected heritage landmarks

Throw away the guidebooks. It's time to meet Europe's lost landmarks on the brink of obscurity. Which would you vote to save?

Published 2 Feb 2018, 12:00 GMT, Updated 28 Jul 2021, 11:09 BST
Buzludzha Monument, Bulgaria

Buzludzha Monument, Bulgaria

Photograph by GETTY IMAGES

Next time you admire the whimsical spires of the Sagrada Familia, or twist your neck to take in the Leaning Tower of Pisa, spare a thought for the sights that didn't make your bucket list. These are Europe's left-behind landmarks that are tumbling into obscurity: mainstays of cutting-edge design, groundbreakers and precedent-setters, and heavyweight historic monuments. The following 12 have all made it onto Europa Nostra's list of 'at-risk' heritage sites, and seven will eventually make the 'Most Endangered' list, announced on 15 March this year. But which ones would you save? Get the lowdown on these forsaken landmarks and have your own say.

The longlist

Aerial cableway network, Chiatura, Georgia

Threading through the wooded cliffs around the town of Chiatura, the impressive cableway network still boasts its original design and mechanics from the beginning of the 20th century. The extensive network was a product of Chiatura's thriving mining industry in the early 1900s. Though a few of the lines still run, the majority fell into serious disrepair through lack of maintenance. But are things on the up for the cable cars?

Buzludzha Monument, Bulgaria

Set high in the mountains of deepest Bulgaria, there are few examples of 20th-century Modernist architecture more imposing than the Buzludzha Monument. Built in the Seventies as the House-Monument of the country's Communist Party, it was used for a mere eight years before being abandoned, ransacked and gnawed by harsh weather. Is the future looking brighter for this brutalist icon?

Castle of Sammezzano, Tuscany, Italy

Architecturally, Sammezzano has all the promise of a world-class monument: a giddy mix of ambitious Moorish architecture, with rainbow-coloured flourishes and elaborate stucco to boot. But the reality is quite different for the fairy-tale castle. Neglect, uncertain ownership and a lack of maintenance have dulled the any of its former shine, and gradually seen it crumble away. Time for some TLC?

Coal Preparation Plant, Beringen, Belgium

The only preserved coal preparation plant in the world, this vast behemoth of a factory has clung on where similar plants have disappeared. But the classified historic monument faces another stumbling block — its developers suggest demolishing three out of the four of the buildings, disregarding the complex's historical and industrial importance as a whole. But will it make the list?

Constanța Casino, Romania

Grandly presiding over the Black Sea, this casino was an extravagant exercise in art nouveau by architect Daniel Renard in 1910. Fast-forward 90 years and the casino lies empty, stripped of all its glamour and its facades thrashed by sea winds and violent storms. With its roof also expected to collapse, are all bets off for this grande dame of a landmark?

David Gareji Monasteries and Hermitage, Georgia

Things are looking precarious for this 6th-century complex, hewn into rock faces in eastern Georgia. The monasteries, churches and sanctuaries face irrevocable damage from disintegration of the very rocks they're built into. The monasteries are still functioning, making their potential preservation all the more critical. But what does the future hold?

Grimsby Ice Factory, UK

Languishing in its red-bricked shell, the Grimsby Ice Factory is a hulking great reminder of the town's flourishing fishing heritage. It's both the earliest surviving ice factory in the country, and is Grade II-listed, but since closing in 1990, the giant plant has seriously deteriorated, and efforts to secure development of the factory have proved unsuccessful. As a threat of potential demolition looms, what's in store for this northern giant?

Historic centre of Gjirokastra, Albania

A UNESCO World Heritage site it may be, but a recently announced, controversial bypass road still looms over the future of this historic town in the Drino Valley. An outstanding example of cohesive urban design, the centre has a myriad of spectacular urban buildings, many of which are at risk of collapse. Is it time to breathe new life into this forgotten city?

Historic centre of Vienna, Austria

One of Europe's heavyweight capitals, Vienna has always had huge importance in the continent's art, music, food and cultural scenes. But the much-feted spires and silhouettes of the city's skyline are threatened by the City Council's plans to erect several high-rises that would tarnish the elegant profile of the Austrian capital's heart. Would you vote to rescue the city's skyline?

Post-Byzantine churches, Voskopja and Vithkuqi, Albania

A dozen churches, masterpieces of post-Byzantine architecture, sadly stand in jeopardy in southeastern Albania. A grim history of war, pillaging and adverse weather has taken its toll, and a waning clergy means the churches' future is very much in danger. With the authorities responsible neglecting these historic gems, is it time to step in and save them?

Prehistoric rock art sites, province of Cadiz, Spain

More than 300 caves and shelters are covered with diverse and intricate symbols, which are believed to have been created over a period of some 20,000 years. The artwork is of significant interest, but the rate at which the caves are deteriorating, mixed in with vandalism and misuse, is alarming, and its quality could be compromised forever. Is it time to act before it's too late?

Prinkipo Greek Orphanage, Princes' Islands, Turkey

Supposedly the largest wooden building in Europe, this Greek Orthodox orphanage fits all the spooky stereotypes of an abandoned building. Look past its eerie facade and elaborate, ambitious architecture reveals itself, much of it devastated by fire in 1980. As whole sections of the building begin to collapse, is there light at the end of the tunnel?

See who made the seven-strong shortlist here.

Read More

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