One of the most interesting parts of travel is getting to see human-built structures or natural wonders that have been around for hundreds or thousands of years (or at least what’s left of them). The city or landscape around them has changed, but the sites gives us a glimpse into life in the past. Even back in the day (a few months ago) when we could pack our bags, buy a plane ticket and leave the country, we’d only be able to see what some of these ancient wonders look like today. But now, thanks to a new project, we can see six endangered United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) sites in all their original glory. Here’s how.
How to take a virtual trip through time
You’re probably familiar with the UNESCO World Heritage List, which includes 1,121 properties in 167 countries that have notable cultural and/or natural significance. Part of that list includes a subset of 53 properties that are currently in danger for a variety of reasons (deterioration, war damage, over-tourism, etc). To provide a better understanding of these sites, architect Jelena Popovic teamed up with an Australian insurance company to make animated gifs of the structural evolution of six of these endangered UNESCO World Heritage sites.
The six sites with computer-generated renderings and animations are:
- Hatra (Al-Jazīrah – Iraq)
- Leptis Magna (District of Khoms – Libya)
- Palmyra (Tadmur, Homs Governorate, Syria)
- Portobelo-San Lorenzo Fortifications (Province of Colon, District of Cristobal, Panama)
- Nan Madol (Temwen Island, Federated States of Micronesia)
So, aside from being fun to look at, what’s the aim of this project? According to the people behind the project:
Time doesn’t stand still. Human culture is built from moving parts. The way we define, preserve, and interact with sites of importance says as much about who we are as the monuments themselves.
UNESCO sites such as Old Jerusalem remain part of everyday life, and some historians believe the destruction of other monuments is itself the making of history. However, taking care of the centuries of knowledge and meaning embedded in UNESCO’s most endangered sites seems a pretty good way to progress as a culture.
In the meantime, there are actually quite a few UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the United States, so there may be one within road-tripping distance.