The glorious Belvedere Gardens in Vienna; the elegant Tanah Lot thatched pagodas in Bali, Indonesia; the exquisite wooden onion-domed Church of the Transfiguration on Kizhi Island in Russia; the ancient Giraffe Rock carvings in Niger; the simple Amish countryside in Lancaster County, Pa. -- all are among the world's cultural and historical treasures. War, weather, modernization, religious tension, neglect or tourism -- sometimes more than one -- have ravaged these treasures, imperiling their existence. Many pictures in Vanishing Histories: 100 Endangered Sites From the World Monuments Watch (Abrams, $60) are sad. They depict monuments like the Thomaskirche in Leipzig, where Johann Sebastian Bach was choirmaster, Richard Wagner was baptized and Martin Luther preached, now suffering from pollution, damp and insect infestation. Or the My Son temple complex in Quang Nam province, Vietnam, built between A.D. 300 and 1200, ranking in size and importance with Angkor Wat, now overrun with weeds. The book spans the globe, encompassing famous landmarks like Petra in Jordan and obscure ones like the Tipasa archaeological site in Algeria. With many of these sites shown in lush color, "Vanishing Histories" is a beautiful book. Colin Amery, the former architectural correspondent of The Financial Times in London, and Brian Curran Jr., director of projects for the World Monuments Fund in Britain, briefly describe the history of each site, then provide details of its troubles and preservation efforts. What they write is plain and simple. But together with the pictures, their words deliver an eloquent message that is hard to ignore.
100 Endangered Sites From the World Monuments Watch
by Colin Amery and Brian Curran Jr.
Abrams, 2002. $60
Reviewed by Judith H. Dobrzynski
The New York Times Book Review
April 21, 2002