Sunday morning local time, the 40th session of the World Heritage Committee meeting in Istanbul completed its consideration of the United States’ nomination of Key Works of Modern Architecture by Frank Lloyd Wright to the World Heritage List. After spirited discussion, the Committee decided to refer the nomination for further discussion. A motion by Croatia and Vietnam that would have seen 4 of the 10 nominated sites inscribed immediately was not agreed to by a vote of 8 to 10 (with 3 absentions).
The sites were represented in Istanbul by Lynda Waggoner (Fallingwater), Jeffrey Herr (Hollyhock House) and Stuart Graff (Taliesin and Taliesin West). They and their colleagues from the Frank Lloyd Wright World Heritage Council worked tirelessly to bring to the World’s attention these important sites. With the help of the US National Park Service’s Steve Morris and Phyllis Ellin, the nomination they brought forth was widely acknowledged at the World Heritage Committee meeting for establishing the outstanding universal value of Wright’s work as well as for addressing a gap in modern architecture on the list. Even so, a majority of the Committee members felt more elaboration of the justification for the series was needed, as well as other technical improvements.
There are four possible outcomes when a nomination is presented for inscription as a World Heritage Site. They are: to inscribe, to refer, to defer or to deny. A decision to refer is generally seen as being more encouraging and may lead to a quicker inscription in the future. Nominations which the Committee decides to refer back to the State Party for additional information may be resubmitted to the following Committee session for examination. The additional information must be received by the Secretariat by 1 February of the year in which examination by the Committee is desired. Referred nominations generally have a 3 year window in which to be brought back to the Committee.
Of the referral outcome, Fallingwater’s Lynda Waggoner said “While we would have preferred the series be inscribed at this session, we feel the decision to refer is fair. A serial nomination like ours is a very complex undertaking and it is certainly not unusual for such nominations to be reworked multiple times before inscription is achieved. We appreciate the opportunity to address the Committee’s concerns in the coming months and hope for inscription of the series in a few years.”
In February, 2015 U.S. Department of Interior Secretary Sally Jewel announced the U.S. was recommending that 10 buildings designed by Frank Lloyd Wright across the U.S. to be recognized as “sites of outstanding cultural value” for review and approval at UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee in 2016. Nominated buildings include Chicago’s Unity Temple and Robie House, Fallingwater in Pennsylvania (1936), Hollyhock House in Los Angeles and the Guggenheim Museum (1959). Two of Wright’s personal homes, Taliesin (Wisconsin) and Taliesen West (Scottsdale) were nominated as well as the only skyscraper Wright designed, the Price Tower, in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. The Usonian Herbert and Katherine Jacobs House in Madison and the Marin County Civic Center in Northern California completed the Nomination.