Zürich, 10 October 2023
The number one magazine in Switzerland publishes a cover article honouring the New 7 Wonders movement Founder-President, Bernard Weber. Coop magazine, with a readership of 3 million in a nation of 9 million inhabitants, also tells the story about how the world’s first ever global voting campaign for the New 7 Wonders of the World happened. The magazine’s Editor, introducing the feature article with a twinkle in his eye, changes for once the saying that “nobody is a prophet in his own country”, and says that when wonders happen someone can also be a prophet in his own country!
Read the English translation below
“Wunder gescheh’n” (“Wonders happen”), Nena once sang in one of her hits.
But sometimes they don’t just happen, sometimes you have to help them along a little.
There’s no shame in that: after all, the water at the wedding at Cana did not turn into wine all by itself.
Our prophet in our own country is Bernard Weber, an adventurer, pilot and visionary who was born in Geneva and raised in Münchenstein, Basel-Land.
The legacy of the 71 year-old: the New 7 Wonders of the World.
These include the Taj Mahal, the rock city of Petra, the Great Wall of China, Chichén Itzá, Machu Picchu, the Colosseum in Rome and the statue of Christ Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro. The wonderful thing: these most interesting sights were not chosen by a time-honoured committee, but by millions of people from all over the world.
Weber had the idea for this decades ago. But it wasn’t the only way he made friends, as he tells us in our cover story (starting on page 22). Nevertheless, he did not let himself be dissuaded.
In the meantime, Weber even has a new idea: he wants to have the world’s symbols of peace chosen.
Not an easy undertaking in this day and age.
But that’s just it: Wonders happen…
WORLD OF WONDERS
How the Swiss Bernard Weber created the Seven World Wonders
By Andreas W. Schmid
The New Seven Wonders of the World officially exist only for 16 years, but today they are an integral part of a good general education. They were initiated by the Swiss Bernard Weber, who didn’t let the critics stop him and steadfastly pushed through the first global audience vote.
In February, a police chief marches through Günther Jauch’s “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” programme on RTL up to the 125,000 euro question. Then she starts sweating. Because the question is tough: “How many modern nations are the locations of the Ancient Seven Wonders of the World spread across?” Of course it would help if you could list them. That’s difficult enough, because only the pyramids of Giza remain. It is understandable that these original Wonders of the world have disappeared from the collective memory: what is no longer there is forgotten.
The New Seven Wonders of the World are now better known: the Jordanian rock city of Petra is one of them, the Great Wall of China, the ruins of Chichén Itzá in Mexico and Machu Picchu in Peru, the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro, the Taj Mahal in India and the Colosseum in Rome. The latter was recently on everyone’s lips again because a young Swiss woman had carved her name into the ancient walls in a stupid act. What is less known or has long been forgotten is that this list of the New Seven Wonders of the World is thanks to a Swiss man: Bernard Weber.
The 71-year-old, born in Geneva and raised in Münchenstein, Basel-Land, has tackled a lot in his life. He made films, as he mentions in conversation, he wrote books and curated various Le Corbusier exhibitions. At some point he also became interested in the Ancient Seven Wonders of the World. The Greek Antipater of Sidon mentioned these outstanding masterpieces of architecture in the 2nd century BC for the first time in an inscription. As a result, the list was hotly discussed and has since been changed. Ultimately, however, his suggestions prevailed as the Ancient Seven Wonders of the World.
The Chapel Bridge is also involved
But on the threshold of the millennium, Bernard Weber believed that the time was ripe for new Wonders of the world: “I asked myself which buildings would be chosen today.” He founded the “New7 Wonders Foundation” in Zurich and allowed people around the world and a jury of world-famous architects such as Zaha Hadid (1950–2016) to nominate the buildings from which the New Seven Wonders of the World would be chosen – also by public vote. The Chapel Bridge in Lucerne also made it into the shortlist. The oldest surviving wooden bridge in Europe receives even more votes than St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome or Big Ben in London.
Weber has 25 thick books printed for himself from hundreds of thousands of emails, as contemporary testimonies of this historic election, so to speak. A Gregorio from Portugal thanks him in his email “for the fact that people get the right to choose history.” Cem from Turkey writes: “The winner is: the world!”. It is a gigantic election that Weber is organizing: millions of votes from all over the world arrive via the internet and SMS and have to be evaluated. According to his own statements, he finances the costs with income from TV rights, sponsorship, SMS votes and with money that he invested himself.
He learned to think big from his mother. Interior designer Heidi Weber (96), the driving force of the “Heidi Weber Museum – Centre Le Corbusier” in Zurich (now renamed “Pavilion Le Corbusier” by the city), told him that “you should always look beyond and above the first floor”. This is how Weber consistently follows through with the vote for New 7 Wonders of the World.
He visits all 21 sites that made it to the final round of voting and ceremoniously presents a certificate to their representatives. “In Rio, Brazilian President Lula da Silva stood in front of the Christ the Redeemer statue and campaigned for votes with a T-shirt.” With success: over 20 million voted for the statue. Weber is only not welcome in Egypt. The authorities are angry that the Giza pyramids even have to face a choice. They should “live in the hearts of everyone and do not need approval to be one of the seven wonders of the world,” say the Egyptians. Weber instead vividly remembers how he was warmly welcomed in Petra by Queen Rania of Jordan. “In Egypt,” he smiles, “the welcoming committee consisted of the national police, who isolated my team in the hotel and prevented me from holding a press conference.” For the sake of peace, Weber removes the building from the candidate list of the new seven wonders of the world and gives it the special status of an “eternal wonder”.
But there were even more critical voices back then. The bishops from Rome reported that it was unacceptable that not a single church made it into the final round of elections. Unesco is quick to distance itself from the election and describes it as a private campaign without scientific criteria – in contrast to its own world cultural heritage initiative. However, this itself is being criticized today. The ethnologist Christoph Brumann recently dispraised in the “NZZ” that “almost everything is on the list”. There are currently over 1000 sites listed in 168 countries. Switzerland is represented by 13 world heritage sites. Interestingly, the architectural works of Le Corbusier are also included.
Which brings us back to Bernard Weber. He points out that only 21 members of the World Heritage Committee decide what goes on the Unesco list. “We allowed hundreds of millions of people around the world to vote for the New Seven Wonders of the World.” These were announced on July 7, 2007 in a big show in Lisbon with numerous stars and world-famous personalities. Since that day, the New Seven Wonders of the World have become part of common knowledge.
For Weber, who always looks beyond the first floor, the choice of the wonders of the world does not mean the end of his journey, which began over 20 years ago. Further projects and public choices – such as the New Seven Wonders of Nature – have followed and will continue to follow. A primary election is currently underway to choose the most popular symbols of peace. In addition, as was recently the case on the Great Wall of China, three-meter-high signposts are to be erected at all wonder sites. “They point the way to the other wonders of the world,” says Bernard Weber, “and at the same time are a symbol that our cultural heritage can have a unifying effect among peoples.”
As for the police chief, the phone a friend helps her with the wonders of the world question. This is a historian for whom the answer is easy: the wonders of the ancient world are located in four countries. The law enforcement officer takes home 125,000 euros because she can no longer answer the next question about what Bibi Blocksberg’s real name is.