Saving sites before they're missed

We didn't really love 'em until they were gone.

The twin towers of the World Trade Center were never the darlings of many architects or urban planners. But they were far too gigantic not to make a lasting impression. So since their collapse Sept. 11, they've been missed.

The World Trade Center "is our phantom limb. You feel it, but it's not there; you look to where you feel it should be," Ric Burns, who directed a documentary film about the history of New York City, told The New York Times this week.

Earlier this month, the World Monument Fund made Historic lower Manhattan a special 101st addition to its latest biennial list of the 100 most-endangered architectural sites on the planet. The towers may be gone, but the 1.5-square-mile area south of Canal Street around their former location still has more than 65 individual landmarks and six historic districts and "is one of the most important historical areas in the United States," the fund says.

The fund's 2002 list contains famous sites, such as China's Great Wall, and many lesser-known places, like Vietnam's My Son Temple. Left off the list were the giant Buddhas in Afghanistan, destroyed by the Taliban, apparently because they were already beyond help.

Since 1995, the fund has put 234 sites in 82 countries on its architectural "endangered species" list in an effort to promote their preservation. A new book, "Vanishing Histories: 100 Endangered Sites from the World Monuments Watch," by Colin Amery with Brian Curran (Harry N. Abrams Inc.), tells the stories of 100 of the sites, accompanied by stunning color photos.

For more information about the fund and its preservation efforts, visit

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