Track 2: Sustainability and Conservation of Built Heritage in the Americas
Traditional villages or rural areas are the birth place of a country’s identity. They may vary across the globe because of climate conditions, morphology of the land, or the ecosystems that surround them, but they all share a deep connection between natural and built environment. This relationship in turn, sustains their social and cultural fabric, making these areas difficult to address from a single angle. Strategies developed for one topic will most likely have repercussions in other subjects, whether we planned for it or not.
Global policies and development plans have failed to understand these complexities. Their scope has not yet explored beyond agriculture and tourism, ignoring these different layers of rural culture and the rural experience. Preservation plans have also struggled with addressing rural heritage, with tools that often fall short to protect small scale vernacular architecture.
Disaster management plans are one of the most dramatic examples of this. Despite them being inextricably multifaceted strategies that involve a variety of stakeholders, they have consistently ignored the particular challenges that affect rural areas when determining deadlines or allocating resources. More often than not, they have deemed vernacular architecture and rural communities as incorrect or unwanted, forcing urban or foreign standards on them. The results are so disruptive of people’s way of life that in many cases they are not able to recover.
The post-disaster experience in Chile after the 2010 earthquake managed to address these issues with unprecedented success. Through a comprehensive analysis and adaptation of existing legislation, policies and procedures, a Heritage Rebuilding Program was implemented in the affected regions, and the results proved that vernacular architecture is a feasible subject for housing subsidies. It demonstrated that preservation requires innovation as much as it needs reclaiming building traditions, and that public-private partnerships and active local governments are key elements for the success of any rebuilding effort.
This paper explores the different aspects that made this rebuilding process a unique experience, not only from a disaster management perspective, but also from the lessons learned by the different stakeholders about preservation and community engagement. Ranging from legal framework, time-frame, partnerships and technical innovation, Chile’s experience is a tangible example of how these plans can be more effective at a local scale, capitalize from existing tools, and include preservation as a tool for development and resilience. It also poses important questions about how existing tools and regulations are addressing the issues that rural areas are facing today, and how through a holistic approach we can design comprehensive rebuilding strategies for them that are efficient, cover mid and long-term aspects, and transform disasters into an opportunity for sustainable development.