Professor and Director Cornell University (Ithaca, NY)
This session has been approved for 1.5 hours HSW.
During this unprecedented time of a global pandemic, where cities have become epicenters of the spread of COVID-19, are the concepts of the Historic Urban Landscape (HUL) approach still appropriate? After several months of “lockdowns” throughout the world resulting in the closure of borders, the dramatic reduction of all forms of travel, less air pollution and the recovery of nature, many cities have the opportunity to rethink their quality of life, the social justice and equity for those who live in them, and their engagement with mass tourism. How can we re-envision cities so that they continue to be economic engines and intellectual stimulus for their inhabitants without losing their identities in a time when the need for social distancing has become the norm? Considering that urban areas over the centuries have been transformed and redesigned as a result of epidemics, what can we learn from these past exercises to make cities healthier, more equitable and livable?
Background: Following the issuance of various doctrinal texts on the care of historic urban centers (1964 Venice Charter, 1983 Appleton Charter for the Protection and Enhancement of the Built Environment, 1987 Washington Charter 2005 Vienna Memorandum), a new approach to the conservation of historic centers was devised through a series of meetings organized by the World Heritage Centre beginning in 2006, culminating in the adoption of the UNESCO Recommendation on the Historic Urban Landscape in 2011 by UNESCO’s General Conference. This document considered the better integration of conservation of historic urban areas with new development in order to maintain urban identity.
In the past decades, there has been tremendous pressure exerted on cities around the world by the continuous influx from the countryside to urban centers that has resulted in a greater percentage of the world’s population now living in cities. Demolition and urban renewal following World War II provided the impetus for preserving historic cores; however, this was typically done in isolation without integrating them into their broader urban context. The result has been their abandonment by traditional populations and loss of identity, gentrification and/or touristic enterprises. Historic cores then lose their relevance due to lack of modern infrastructure or loss of population and quality of life. Once vibrant historic centers often become either slums suffering decay or well-preserved “Disneyfied” touristic destinations that are devoid of everyday life and traditional values.
The Historic Urban Landscape (HUL) approach views urban heritage, including intangible and tangible assets, not “as a ‘sum’ of monuments and urban fabric” but instead “as a comprehensive system, marked by historical, geomorphologic and social relationships with its setting and its environment, and characterized by a complex layering of meanings and expressions.” This approach is more in line with Kevin Lynch’s concepts of urban fabric in The Image of the City (1960).
Rather than consider the historic urban center a separate entity, the Recommendation notes “the need to better integrate and frame urban heritage conservation strategies within the larger goals of overall sustainable development, in order to support public and private actions aimed at preserving and enhancing the quality of the human environment. It suggests a landscape approach for identifying, conserving and managing historic areas within their broader urban contexts, by considering the inter-relationships of their physical forms, their spatial organization and connection, their natural features and settings, and their social, cultural and economic values.” Furthermore, it considers “cultural diversity and creativity as key assets for human, social and economic development and provides tools to manage physical and social transformations and to ensure that contemporary interventions are harmoniously integrated with heritage in a historic setting and take into account regional contexts.” Those tools include civic engagement, knowledge and planning, regulatory systems, and financial.
Demonstrate the HUL (Historic Urban Landscape) method to reinvigorate and re-envision historic cities during a pandemic.
Explain how the use of participatory planning and stakeholder consultation can produce conservation and development policies that enhance social wellbeing.
Achieve appropriate urban-planning decisions through the reintegration of historic centers into the larger modern urban context to which they belong.
Discuss strategies for creating economically diverse historic centers that do not rely on monocultures such as tourism to create a sustainable revenue base for maintaining infrastructure and avoiding blight.
Justify how using the HUL methods create urban areas with better quality of life through social justice and equity for inhabitants with economically and environmentally sustainable models for living historic centers.