Track 2: Sustainability and Conservation of Built Heritage in the Americas
The Colonial City of Santo Domingo was the place where the European colonization of the Americas began over 500 years ago. The City constituted the center of cultural, political, and economic activity in the Americas. Based on these criteria UNESCO designated it as World Heritage site. Like many historic sites on the continent, the City grew beyond its own walls and people migrated along with it. Hence, the old city center ceased to be a desirable living place. Although today it is establishing itself as a vibrant locality, 23 percent of its historic buildings remain uninhabited, and therefore underutilized.
An empty building constitutes an open invitation to the detriment of the character of the built fabric. Vacancy is the first step for a building toward its decay; therefore, the best way to protect a building is to keep it occupied. However, when permanent solutions for safeguarding the historic fabric are not immediately viable, the role of conservation should shift from dogmatic practices to embrace initiatives that can spark innovative thoughts on how the building could be utilized in the interim.
This presentation studies the concept of temporary use as a potential conservation tool to safeguard the built heritage placed at risk for an extended period of vacancy. When no budget or a formal conservation program exists, but there is a demand for free and affordable spaces, temporary uses come to be the more viable solution. Temporary Use works as a trigger for a positive development of the contemporary scene while reaffirming the sense of place of the community.
A platform for temporary uses of vacant buildings within the Colonial City of Santo Domingo is proposed as a result of this investigation. This platform is supported by a network of institutions and management systems. The mechanism works as an intermediary between the owner of the property, the creative sector and the bureaucratic organizations. The platform selects and compiles a list of the vacant properties in the World Heritage Site and subsequently, it establishes specific management plans, through which it offers advice on many aspects of temporary use.
The project will start as a pilot plan, in which a small group of vacant properties will be chosen, to set a first precedent in the City, while giving the platform credibility, before implementing the rest of the project. Through this conservation scheme, a longstanding and fruitful connection between all the parties involved, and primarily between the community and their historic site, will be established. And most importantly, the historic buildings will be reinserted both into the urban fabric and in the memory of the community.