UNESCO’ World Heritage program, adopted in 1972, catalogues, names and conserves sites of outstanding cultural or national importance to humanity’s common heritage. There are almost 1,000 sites included on the World Heritage List. UNESCO calls the architecture of Willemstad a “European colonial ensemble in the Caribbean of outstanding value and integrity.
“The city’s historical architecture is of a strikingly genuine and colorful European origin set in a tropical environment. Nothing like it can be found elsewhere in the Dutch West or East Indies.”
Getting listed by UNESCO was a joint process, says Anko van der Woude. “When we started working toward the designation in 1985, we calculated that we needed $250 million to restore the buildings. At this point, maybe 60 percent are restored and we are still $100 million short.”
The funds for redevelopment and preservation are provided by the Island Government of Curaçao, the Government of The Netherlands and the private sector. The Curaçao Monuments Foundation, the Willemstad Urban Rehabilitation Corporation and the Curaçao Housing Foundation also have budgets and funds for financing their restoration and building projects.
“In the early 1960s, buildings began to deteriorate fast,” Van der Woulde says. Prosperous families, escaping the heat, had already moved to outlaying suburbs and the old family homes in the city had been rented out. They were costly to maintain because of termites, the fact that coral stone attracts salt, and leaky gutters encourage rot, he explains. “Incoming rents did not cover the cost of upkeep and within 25 years, the buildings were completely dilapidated.” Which is around the time when he became involved with Curacao’s conservation movement. Born and raised in Curacao, van der Woude studied architecture at Delft University Netherlands. When he returned to the island in 1984, he began conducting tours as a hobby, which he continues to do. As a restoration architect – his firm is IMD Design – he and his associates have restored a number of historic buildings on the island.
Phone numbers for van der Woulde tours:
Phone contact is for his tour on Thursday + 59994613554.
Michael Newton’s tour on Wednesday +59995106978
Gerda Gehlen Punda Tour +59996688579