UNESCO Dreaming

Lisa HonebrinkSeptember 26, 2019
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Photos by Madison Rutherford, Wikimedia Commons
Photos by Madison Rutherford, Wikimedia Commons

In July, Taliesin West in Scottsdale earned UNESCO World Heritage Site distinction as one of a collection of eight Frank Lloyd Wright-designed buildings. Following the Grand Canyon, it’s the second Arizona spot on the list of 1,121 world sites, 24 of which are in the United States. The list boasts the Taj Mahal and the Pyramids of Giza. It’s a big deal.

The 20th-Century Architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright consists of eight buildings designed by the architect, including Fallingwater and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. In 1972, UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) established the World Heritage Site program to preserve cultural and natural heritage.

It took more than 15 years for the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation to apply and be accepted, according to Stuart Graff, president and CEO, and it was stymied by the U.S. pulling out of UNESCO on January 1. “We now had to worry that [it] would be denied because of the political/diplomatic situation,” Graff says. In July, their nomination received official designation. “Cultural heritage triumphed that day,” Graff says. “As delegates from around the world came over to congratulate our team and share their own love of Wright’s work, we knew, truly, that his work had always belonged to the world.”

In 2015, Tucson became the first U.S. city to receive UNESCO’s Capital of Gastronomy designation, which has made a difference, says Dan Gibson, senior director of communications at Visit Tucson. It has started “conversations – with other cities in the network… with food writers about food culture here, with visitors,” he says. “It also has helped bring attention to organizations doing work in the field… and encouraged local chefs to do more work with local ingredients. For Tucsonans, it’s been something to be proud of.”

Now Valley dwellers can experience the same pride for Taliesin West.

UNESCO Predictions

Our picks for additional Arizona designations, if/when the U.S. rejoins UNESCO:


Old Oraibi 

This Hopi village is the oldest continuously inhabited settlement in the state and country.


Pueblo Grande Ruin 

Centuries-old ruins in present-day Phoenix contain remnants of homes and irrigation canals.


San Xavier del Bac 

Dating to 1699, this Spanish mission near Tucson is one of the oldest standing European structures in the country.


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