The city has approved plans for a controversial tower designed by Cesar Pelli, the Argentine architect, despite objections from UN culture chiefs who fear the new construction will have a detrimental effect on the city’s historic centre.
The complex includes the Giralda minaret, which at 320ft was at one time the world’s tallest tower in the world and the vast gothic cathedral containing the tomb of Christopher Columbus.
But the skyline is threatened with the construction of the new headquarters for savings bank Cajasol less than a mile away on the opposite bank of the Guadalquivir river.
Work began at the site early this year and is scheduled for completion by end of 2011 after planning chiefs ignored a request by Unesco to delay construction until a thorough impact report could be completed.
The city is likely to be put on the World Heritage site endangered list when the organisation’s committee meets in Brasilia next month and could be removed all together if the proposal for the tower is not modified.
“We are not very optimistic. Work has not stopped. There has been no change,” said Victor Fernandez Salinas, of ICOMOS-Spain, the advisory arm of Unesco in Spain, which visited Seville this week.
“A realistic scenario would be for Seville to enter the list of endangered World Heritage Sites after the Brasilia meeting. And in the worst of cases, Seville could be kicked out,” he warned.
It would be only the second time that a city has lost its prized status since the World Heritage list was created in 1972. Last year the German city of Dresden was taken off the list after constructing a bridge over the river Elbe that ruined its beautifully conserved river landscape.