Weighing in on Wonder: Evelyn Fujimoto, Gensler
Decision makers from Interior Design Giant firms react to the declaration of the New Seven Wonders of the World
Mark McMenamin -- Interior Design, 8/17/2007 12:00:00 AM
The New7Wonders Foundation conducted a global contest to find latter-day successors to the Ancient Seven Wonders of the World. More than 100 million Internet votes later, the winners were unveiled this summer in an over-the-top ceremony in Lisbon: The ruins of Macchu Picchu in Peru, the Roman Colosseum, the Statue of Christ the Redeemer in Brazil, The Great Wall of China, Chichen Itza in Mexico, the Taj Mahal in India, and the Jordanian city of Petra. Debate soon stirred regarding the winners, the losers, and the qualities that become a true wonder. To keep the pot boiling, we asked decision makers from three Interior Design Giants for their comments on the winners. Here, we hear from Evelyn Fujimoto, senior associate in the London office of Gensler.
Interior Design: What was your reaction to the list of New Seven Wonders?
Evelyn Fujimoto: I have been to several of the New Seven Wonders of the World and finalist sites. The ones that really moved me were the sites that point to the resiliency of the human spirit, and renewed my optimism about the world we live in. The first breathtaking glimpse of the Treasury at Petra and the site as it unfolds before you does exactly that. So a big thumbs up here!
I also agree with New7Wonders' stated objective of raising awareness of world heritage sites. They have obviously been very successful in using the Internet and popular media to reach high levels of media coverage. In many ways, this is a great marketing exercise. However, I do note that UNESCO was not involved in the effort. In fact, the official UNESCO site explicitly states that it is 'not involved in the new seven wonders of the world campaign.'
The N7W group missed out on a great opportunity to acquire gravitas and legitimacy on their effort under the auspices of UNESCO. My inclination would have been to appoint a board of judges in concert with UNESCO to come up with a short list of nominees along strict criteria guidelines.
ID: Any selections that don't make sense to you?
EF: In my opinion, a truly global selection of the New Seven Wonders of the World would not anoint what is essentially a Christian icon, Christ the Redeemer, without representation from the next largest religious groups—Islam and Hindu. Alternatively, given recent religious strife, a more secular approach may have been more appropriate. One of the lovely facts about [finalist] Hagia Sofia is that it was originally built as a church, subsequently became a mosque, and was converted to a secular museum in the 1930's in order to avoid the perpetual controversy over whether it should represent Christians or Muslims.
ID: Would you have chosen one of the other finalists, or another structure, in place of any winners?
EF: I would have looked at the nominations from two other criteria. The first would be to seek out what is aspirational in nature and truly speaks to a global audience. The second would be to look at the Wonders of the World that have been irretrievably lost.
The notion of countries putting aside their political differences to work towards shared goals and objectives really moves me. My first nominee would have been the United Nations. As an institution, it has its faults, but the aspirational nature of an organization, which counts amongst its new millennium goals the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger, reduction of child mortality, environmental sustainability, development of a global partnership for development, etc., is something to celebrate.
My second nominee would be the ISS, or International Space Station, currently under construction in space. The ISS is the result of Russia and US collaboration, and astronauts from 14 countries have visited the Space Station, with more to come.
I would also nominate significant cultural sites that we have irretrievably lost. Without delving into the geopolitical reasons behind those losses, I would nominate the giant Buddhas of Bamiyan in Afghanistan, as well as the cultural sites lost to the Three Gorges Dam in China. A personal favorite is the Taktsang Monastery in Bhutan, a sacred Buddhist site in the Himalayas, lost to fire in the late 1990's.
ID: What's your take on using Internet voting to select the winners?
EF: The Internet is a great communication tool and one of the most economical ways to reach people around the globe. It is a form of mass communication with truly global reach. But I am skeptical about the statistical merit in web-based voting. I can see this as a lobbying exercise by countries, not unlike what the Eurovision [song] contest is sometimes accused of. I would be very interested in seeing the percentage of votes by country to ascertain if there was disproportionate representation by the Americas and Europe.