Academic journal article Change Over Time

LEARNING FROM A LEGACY: Venice to Valletta

Academic journal article Change Over Time

LEARNING FROM A LEGACY: Venice to Valletta

Article excerpt

Changing Principles on and Approaches to Heritage

What iS now called 'cultural heritage management" has in the past primarily focused on the protection of monuments and areas designated as cultural heritage.1 Cultural heritage has seen a shift in theory, leading to changed principles and approaches. From an approach that avoided changes at all costs, protection is now defined as an approach in which changes are managed rather than prevented; preferably, in relation to the connected communities and their sustainable future.2 As a result, cultural heritage management has been moving toward a more inclusive approach, especially when it comes to managing heritage located in urban areas, which are constantly evolving and changing to meet the needs of their communities.

The earlier approach was focused on the protection of the tangible dimension of cultural heritage assets, for example, building materials, façades, or (groups) of buildings. Although this approach unquestionably helped to retain the cultural significance conveyed by those tangible remains, cultural heritage management was mostly defined by an intolerance to change. This positioned protection opposite development, given that one of the few constants in urban management is that cities will change over time. To overcome this dichotomic relation between urban (or even human) development and heritage management, the global discourse on heritage management has evolved considerably over the past decades. Notions such as the intangible, setting and context, and urban and sustainable development are included in current theory, as is a greater consideration of the socioeconomic needs of (historic) cities and their communities.3 This so-called landscape-based approach aims to manage change and integrates heritage management into the larger framework of urban development.

The origins of such a landscape-based approach can be traced back in theories to at least the beginning of the twentieth century, when the link between urban development and urban heritage was first discussed.4 It was only some thirty years ago that urban management started to be intentionally explored in parallel with heritage theory and practices.5 At the same time, cities became strategic in their urban management.6 This resulted in a widening of expertise and a more trans-disciplinary interest in the city, culminating in the promotion of an independent field of urban sciences.7 Sassen argues that cities in the 1980s became "a lens into the larger economic and political struggles of an emergent new global epoch" and relates this tendency to the increased urge to rebuild entire urban centers, and prepare them to become platforms for the current urban century.8 The subsequent development pressures in urban areas reinvigorated the need for understanding and protecting the urban landscape as a social construct that is an important part of (international, regional, and local identity, as well as morphology, history, and memory.9 In short, this is what experts would now call a landscape-based approach, an approach that reconsiders, reuses, and retains heritage not only from an object perspective, but also from a cultural, socioeconomic, ecological, and urban perspective. In this process, preservation became a driver for sustainable development.10 Thus, departing from a strong intolerance to change, change is now being managed using heritage as a driver for urban development. A common way to stimulate and support the implementation of this approach in subnational policy is to simulate the integration of heritage management into the larger framework of urban development through its socioeconomic and urban policies.

This landscape-based approach is expected to be positioned even more centrally in cultural heritage management, as a key approach that fosters sustainable development.11 Such expectations are largely built on theory, although they have already proven to be successful in a few case studies. …

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