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3-6 November 2008

Historic Urban Landscapes: Responsibilities & Opportunities, Preserving Spirit of Place & Partnering for the Future of Urban Heritage

Center for the Study of Architecture in the Arab World
CSAAR 2008B Conference
Petra University, Amman, Jordan

Valued villages, towns and cities are legible, multi-sensory vessels of spirit of place that combine tangible and intangible heritage. The cultural landscapes of urban areas comprises about half of the space and contribute significantly to the character of the place.  The public and private urban cultural landscape expresses traditions and values, and forms a record of ongoing interactions between people and place. Patricia M. O’Donnell’s professional practice in cultural landscapes supports the assertion that historic urban landscapes (HUL) and urban cultural landscapes (UCL) are interchangeable terms. These interactions and the values they embody yield both tangible and intangible heritage, of the landscape. When adequately understood as an integrated matrix of cultural landscape values, the tangible expressions of place and people and the intangible values residing in those places can be understood, preserved and managed as the unique spirit of place.

In managing urban heritage and ongoing change a series of tools can be applied.  Ideally, multiple tools are used simultaneously to foster community engagement, to provide appropriate planning, to shape and enforce laws and to incorporate finance and the local economy. Tools that have been used in the author’s work in the preservation of cultural landscapes are organized into four groups. These include educational and community involvement tools, financial tools, advisory tools, and regulatory tools.

HUL/UCL is a shared heritage resource. The urban landscape is one of the strongest communicators of the character of a village, town or city. This inherited urban landscape expresses those values. Heritage documentation is at core of the work required to understand tangible and intangible and advocate for them effectively. The landscape of towns, cities and villages can be assessed by its character-defining features and form the basis of guidance for change that can be managed without loss of heritage values. Continuous community engagement is a cornerstone of heritage recognition, value and value-based conservation. The overriding goal is to manage urban continuity and change to retain tangible and intangible value.  A diverse, robust tool kit can be applied to these efforts and tested in the unique constructs of different places. Heritage conservation and contemporary and future urban vitality are compatible through managed change that sustains heritage values. Heritage preservation experts possess relevant skills and should continue to engage in the dialogue and formation of guidance for urban heritage preservation, stewardship and management.

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