Historic Preservation in a Global Context
An International Perspective
RUSSELL V. KEUNE
In the last thirty years the world has become smaller as the result of faster, cheaper telecommunications, air travel, the Internet, and other modern technologies. It will surprise many to realize the extent to which we have already begun to borrow, reshape, and use some of the preservation tools and procedures of other nations. By the same token, it is reasonable to assume that the reverse is true—that some American approaches to preservation will find increasing application in the programs of various other countries. But in considering these possibilities, we must remember that precise analogies between American preservation practices and those of other countries are extremely difficult to draw because of differences in legal systems, government structures, economic conditions, cultural traditions, and the like. Political contexts and attitudes about historic preservation —what it is, how it should be accomplished—differ widely among nations. Having said that, however, at a very general level some commonalities do exist.
Virtually all countries in which property is privately owned have adopted some system for inventorying, listing, and protecting individual landmark buildings and historic areas against inappropriate new construction, additions, and demolition. But within this system, differences can be significant. For example, with the exception of a few federal states such as the United States, Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, most parliamentary democracies do not have an intermediate, sovereign, state-level government. In most countries, local regulatory authority over historic buildings is shared directly with a national government ministry; in these countries, unlike the American system, the central government may often intervene or override decisions of the local government, sometimes even without notice to the property owner.
As in the United States, most countries rate or grade buildings according to their importance or significance. Most countries, too, compensate owners or provide other relief when regulations become too burdensome. Restoration