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Place and Heritage Conservation



In the specialist field of heritage conservation, ‘place’ has a distinctive meaning. This chapter explores how the concept of ‘place’ has been deployed within conservation practice by architects, planners, consultants and policymakers. With reference to international heritage charters including the 1994 Nara Document on Authenticity and the 2009 Québec City Declaration on the Preservation of the Spirit of Place, the focus is Australia where ‘place’ most forcefully entered the conservation lexicon via the 1979 Burra Charter. Key tensions around the concept of ‘place’ in conservation are investigated, including disconnections between heritage thought and practice, and the artificial distinction between ‘tangible’ and ‘intangible’ place heritage.
Citation: Lesh, James. “Place and Heritage Conservation.” In The Routledge Handbook of Place,
edited by Tim Edensor, Ares Kalandides, and Uma Kothari, 431441. Oxon: Routledge, 2020. 38
Place has a distinctive meaning in the field of heritage conservation. Within conservation practice,
understandings of place tend towards the pragmatic and rationalised. This contrasts with the
diverse notions of place theorised and applied in other chapters in this volume, as well as within
the academic field of heritage studies. Readers of this volume are engaged in a critical and dynamic
dialogue around the idea of place. Conservation practitioners, however, employ specific renderings
of place in support of their efforts to safeguard buildings, precincts and neighbourhoods.
Furthermore, conservation operates as part of dominant architectural, planning and economic
processes, which shape how conservationists apply concepts. There is a divide between critical
conceptions of place and the practice of conservation.
This chapter explores the shifting and often difficult relationship between conservation and the
concept of place. The 1979 Burra Charter Australian practitioner guidelines for the safeguarding of
cultural heritage significance forcefully introduced ‘place’ as a formal unit of practice within
conservation. Embodied within the Burra Charter and many other international heritage charters
has been, however, a specific and problematic tension: an artificial distinction between that which is
tangible and that which is intangible at places. Within conservation practice, the tangible relates
directly to historic fabric and physical forms. The intangible embraces the social and human
perceptions and constructed meanings of place, incorporating that which cannot be overtly seen,
touched or observed.
In Western conceptions of heritage, and for historical reasons explained below, the tangible is
perceived as more real and important than the intangible, and so, in attempts to achieve authentic
or best-practice heritage outcomes, the former tends to be the focus of conservation at the expense
of the latter. This conception of place, distinguishing between the tangible and intangible,
moreover, conicts with conceptions of place within human geography and other academic fields,
which have long-avoided such clear-cut divisions. The continued emphasis on the tangible over the
intangible means that people’s diverse expectations and experiences of place are always at risk of
being sanitised and erased when a place enters the remit of conservation. As Madgin et al. (2018:
587) argue, ‘international [heritage] charters provide a recognition that whilst material fabric does
have value we also need to be aware that this value is intimately connected to the feel, use, and
experience of place’. Indeed, there is an urgency to reconcile the intangible and tangible in
conservation, and to do so would make strides towards conserving places in ways that are more
responsive to communities. Heritage scholars Schofield and Szymanski (2011) have suggested this
is achievable: a ‘sense of place can be understood, assessed and accommodated in the increasingly
democratic process of managing change, at least as it is represented through heritage practices in
the developed world’.
As this chapter explores, the notion of place in conservation has evolved in recent decades to reach
this point. However, there has been little examination of this specific term. Often the moniker
‘place’ has simply been adopted in practice in ways that may appear to simply refer to the location,
area, site or building subject to conservation, rather than engaging with the full realm of
possibilities that the concept of place offers. Within what Smith (2006) calls the ‘Authorised
Heritage Discourse’, particular ways of doing heritage come to dominate practice; limiting the
prospects of conservation, and so concepts such as place. This chapter analyses the ‘grey literature’
of conservation since the 1960s: the specialist documents and international charters that inform the
day-to-day activities of practitioners. In conservation, this literature holds considerable sway. The
geographic emphasis of this chapter is Australia, because this is where the concept of place was
formally introduced into global conservation practice via the Burra Charter. To understand the
meaning of place within conservation, Silberman suggests focussing on the processes, rather than
the sites, of heritage conservation (2015: 30).
Finding place
Conservation is an area of specialised professional practice that is concerned with the identification,
assessment, rejuvenation, maintenance and interpretation of places (Aplin, 2002; Avrami et al., 2000;
Delafons, 1997; Fairclough et al., 2008). Depending on intellectual and geographic context, places
can also be called monuments, ensembles, areas, landscapes and historic environments (Sonkoly,
2017: 42); however, the focus of this chapter is specifically on the term ‘place’. Heritage places range
in scale from plaques, memorials and buildings to entire streets, neighbourhoods and towns. The
key actors within this segment of heritage management, or the heritage industry, include
conservation architects, urban planners, policymakers, generalist consultants, civil society and
academics. Heritage governance regimes for places operate at various scales, ranging from the local
municipal sphere, to the nation state, to UNESCO World Heritage (Sonkoly, 2017). The
International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) the key advisor on historic
environments to UNESCO operates alongside various national and local practitioner and civil
society and activist organisations involved in discussions about heritage conservation, including
approaches to place. Authorities regulate conservation through urban planning, environmental and
heritage legislation. Within this world of practice, it is standards, benchmarks, regulations, reports
and charters heritage management’s grey literature which constitute renderings for best-practice
conservation and, for our purposes, the meaning of the term ‘place’. At the same time, urban
development and the property market exert tremendous sway on conservation outcomes (Logan,
The interdisciplinary academic field of heritage studies is concerned with the theory and practice of
conservation. Scholars of heritage studies are drawn from urban studies, social and architectural
history, sociology, geography, archaeology and elsewhere, and many explore heritage places. In
particular, Smith (2006) has written about how conservation expertise and practice becomes
distanced from communities. The emphasis in conservation practice on the tangible means concepts
such as ‘place’ operate in ways that prioritise materiality and fabric and tend to de-emphasise
communities and their sense of place. In order to overcome this, Harrison (2018) has suggested the
need for refreshed ontological models (conceptual apparatus) for heritage. Recent reports within
heritage studies, necessarily involving allies in practice, are seeking fresh approaches to provide
more nuanced conceptions of place (cf. Tait and While, 2009).
Since the 2000s, the notion of ‘intangible heritage’ has been intended as one such antidote (Craith
and Kockel, 2015; Smith and Akagawa, 2009). Harrison (2013: 13), for instance, writes about the
‘process of “dematerialising” heritage by introducing an ever-increasing emphasis on intangible
aspects of heritage and tradition as part of the exponential growth in objects, places and practices
that are considered to be defined as heritage’. Within and beyond the remit of the conservation of
places, intangible heritage refers to ‘practices, representations, expressions, knowledge, and skills’
(UNESCO, Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, 2003), and so can
have both material and immaterial aspects. Scholars are also turning their attention to the social,
affective, emotional and experiential aspects of place in order to overcome the enduring privileging
of fabric and materiality (Garduno-Freeman, 2018; Madgin et al., 2018; Smith and Campbell, 2015).
An assumption of this research agenda, and an explicit contention of this chapter, is that the
physical forms and social meanings of place cannot be neatly disentangled. Materiality first became
privileged in heritage due to the modern field’s origins in nineteenth-century Europe. From Eugene
Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc, John Ruskin and William Morris onwards, the idea was that the
physicality of a building, its aesthetics and bricks and mortar, should be the focus of conservation.
Buildings were to be restored in prescriptive ways, restoring or conserving them to a specific state
that was imagined as genuine and thus authentic. Conservationists were also to resist processes of
change, development and decay in order to safeguard heritage (Jokilehto, 1999; Pendlebury, 2013).
Operating in a Western tradition indebted to Cartesian dualism, conservation favoured that which
could be seen and touched (the rational) over what could be experienced and felt (the irrational)
(Byrne, 2014; Harrison, 2013). The notion that there is only one (European) best-practice way for
achieving authentic conservation outcomes also has overlapping genealogies (Winter, 2014).
In present-day practice, the privileging of fabric in conservation means the replication of outmoded
conceptions for heritage. A key goal for critically engaged conservation, then, has been to overcome
this tradition; to recognise that the tangible and intangible are just as socially and politically
charged as each other, and that heritage and change are overlapping rather than opposed
phenomena (Bandarin and van Oers, 2012). To conserve a place is always to physically and socially
change it, and this happens through development, intersecting with property interests. Within
heritage processes themselves tied to social, economic, planning and architectural factors
historic fabric is not any more or less important than the social meanings of a place and requires
equal effort to achieve positive heritage and social outcomes.
The crucial heritage concept in need of destabilisation is the longstanding principle of inherency.
Ordinarily implied rather than made explicit, the principle of inherency refers to the idea that
building fabric and physical forms seemingly have enduring and objective meaning beyond their
historical or social context (Byrne et al., 2003; cf. Sullivan, 2015). In reality, place cultivates heritage
significance only because people attach meaning to that said place in all its physical and social
dimensions. Whether we are thinking about its tangible or intangible aspects, there is nothing
naturally or inherently important about a place or its parts. Heritage places become valuable due to
factors such as age and rarity, and for historical, aesthetic, architectural, social, archaeological,
scientific and spiritual reasons (Avrami et al., 2000; Gibson and Pendlebury, 2009). A place develops
meaning at once for and because of people. Geographer Mike Crang (2010, p. 103) writes that
‘Spaces become places as they become “time-thickened”. They have a past and a future that binds
people together around them’. Even seemingly enduring values such as age the notion that the
older a place the more important it is have varied perceptions of import attached to them. A
patina of age can be just as crucial as actual longevity. Many of the distinctions and priorities of
conservation practice prove themselves to be different to how people actually relate to places,
which is through a diversity of social, memory and experiential practices (Sleight, 2018).
The principle of inherency is a legacy of historical conservation approaches and international
heritage charters. The most influential source of this principle is the Venice Charter (1964). The
founding document of ICOMOS, the Venice Charter was a European mid-twentieth-century
modernist document containing a series of stipulations for the conservation of monuments (Hardy,
2008). The scholarship on the Venice Charter has identified that it assumed the intrinsic importance
of the sites subject to its stipulations, and that it focussed almost exclusively on materiality and
fabric (Glendinning, 2013; Jokilehto, 1999). Being a modernist endeavour, it assumed the possibility
of wholly knowing, documenting and restoring heritage for and on behalf of the community by
experts who adopted universal approaches. The UNESCO World Heritage Convention of 1973 had
a similar ideological basis. The absolute privileging of expertise in conservation arguably continues
to the present day (Schofield, 2014; Wells, 2010).
The subject of conservation in the Venice Charter was the ‘monument’. Traditionally, monuments
were buildings and objects deliberately designed and built to commemorate events and people,
typically in service of city or state. Alongside antiquities, relics and ruins, physical monuments had
been the emphasis of conservation back to Western Antiquity, though overtly so since the
nineteenth century. The ‘monument’ also had its critics. In 1903, Riegl (1996) problematised this
term, suggesting the need to distinguish between ‘deliberate monuments’ and ‘artistic and historical
monuments’. The former related to the ancient remit of conservation, while the latter referred to an
expanding range of heritage sites bound to creative and human endeavours classical ruins,
striking architecture, pleasing boulevards and other physical signposts representing the progress
and achievements of human civilisation which modern conservationists sought to protect. The
adoption of the term ‘monument’ in the Venice Charter as in the 1933 Athens Charter was the
conventional and convenient European shorthand for the focus of conservation during the first half
of the twentieth century (if not much of the second half). By the 1970s, however, even the ‘main
author’ of the Venice Charter, Raymond M. Lemaire, took issue with the term. Lemaire proposed
the idea of ‘urban ensembles’ to better engage with historic cities, including in his own country of
Belgium (Houbart, 2014). Referring to heritage only as ‘monuments’ was becoming problematic.
From monument to place
As in Europe and North America (cf. Harwood and Powers, 2004; Page and Mason, 2004), the
1960s–1970s were a tumultuous period for conservation in Australia (Davison and McConville,
1991). The influential Australian heritage movement incorporating environmentalists, resident
action groups, construction unions, architects and planners, policymakers, academics and many
others brought about sizeable shifts in the management and regulation of heritage. Emboldened
by their success at home, at the fifth general assembly of ICOMOS in Moscow in 1978, Australian
conservationists, and specifically architectural historian Miles Lewis, sought to have the Venice
Charter revised to incorporate a broader conception of ‘monuments’ so as to embrace a wider range
of contexts including Australia. Lewis (1985, 1990, 2011) perceived the conservation philosophy
embedded within the Venice Charter as serving a narrow range of heritage sites: ‘great monuments
of stone like the temples, cathedrals and palaces of Europe’ (Lewis, 2011). The Canadian delegation
was in general agreement with Australia that regional contexts beyond Europe were inadequately
addressed within international conservation guidelines (ICOMOS, 1978). After a four-hour debate,
however, the delegates carried a motion that the Venice Charter was itself a ‘monument’ and would
not be revised (cf. Erder, 1977). The concerns of the heritage periphery had seemingly fallen by the
wayside in Europe.
The events in Moscow symbolised a broader concern among Australian conservationists that
European practices inadequately addressed their local contexts (Walker, 2014). Australian
conservationists believed their recognised historic environments effectively dating from 1788
onwards following British colonisation required a distinctive approach. Similarly, the Australian
landscape was already understood as just as ancient as Europe (Maynard, 1979), with Indigenous
people having lived and constructed settlements on the land for millennia. The Australian
reworking of the Venice Charter was completed in 1979 and called The Australia ICOMOS
Guidelines for the Conservation of Places of Cultural Significance, or the Burra Charter for short,
after the pastoral town in South Australia where it was ratified. Unlike the Venice Charter ‘[which]
takes it for granted that we know what our historic monuments are, what makes them historic, and
how we want to preserve them’ (Lewis, 1990) the Burra Charter proposed a systematic and
rationalised approach to heritage management. It provided the flexibility to identify, assess and
safeguard a broad range of sites, which would now be called ‘places’. For these reasons, the Burra
Charter has been described as a ‘relativist’ or ‘postmodern’ heritage charter (Glendinning, 2013;
Shua, 2018). The Burra Charter also suggested that conservation should be undertaken sequentially:
a place needed to be understood before any decisions about its future could be made. To
understand a place required that its significance be assessed against specific cultural heritage
values: aesthetic, historical, social, scientific and, subsequently, spiritual (Avrami et al., 2000). More
so than its adoption of the moniker ‘place’ as the unit of conservation, the scholarship on the Burra
Charter has interrogated its value-based approach.
As part of the symbolic breaking away from traditional European heritage philosophy, the Burra
Charter, indeed, substituted ‘monument’ for ‘place’. The moniker ‘place’ had been used by the
Australian Government to define the ‘national estate’ since 19731975 (Lesh, 2019a), however the
1979 Burra Charter was the crucial evolutionary moment leading to the term’s wider Australian and
then international adoption. Place assumed increased importance in conservation against the
backdrop of the humanistic turn in geography. By employing ‘place’, the Burra Charter sought to
expand the remit of heritage conservation to embrace urban areas, regional towns, industrial and
vernacular buildings, Indigenous heritage, colonial-era construction technologies, and even objects
such as shipwrecks and statues. By doing so, conservation could address more kinds of places to
which people related. Many of the Australian principles particularly around the systematic
assessment and protection of cultural heritage significance have been adopted worldwide because
they provide a rationalised means for conserving a diverse range of places (Jokilehto, 1999; Sonkoly,
2017). Furthermore, the Burra Charter itself would not be a ‘monument’: it has been revised four
times to date.
The Burra Charter has not been without its critics. Heritage scholars suggest it is constitutive of the
‘Authorised Heritage Discourse’ (Waterton et al., 2006). The Burra Charter, after all, is largely
consistent with traditional Western conceptions of heritage it was only ever intended as an
Australian reworking of the Venice Charter. It has also provoked strong reactions in Europe.
German architectural historian Michael Petzet (2009:10) commented that Australians ‘avoid the
term monument just like the devil shuns the holy water’. For traditionalists such as Petzet, the
Australian conception for the heritage place provided an ill-defined remit for the practice of
conservation. Having done away with architectural and historical connoisseurship as conservation
benchmark, the range, scope and scale of heritage places had become seemingly unlimited, making
the determination of precisely where, when and to what extent practitioners should intervene more
variable than in the past. Moreover, the European conception of the ‘monument’ not only expanded
in the 1970s for instance, through Lemaire’s interventions (for urban ensembles) but the
Europeans would never have agreed the term was as narrow as the Australians imagined when
they rejected it for ‘place’.
Understanding place
Conservation practice engaged with ideas of place long before the Burra Charter, and it has
continued to do so both within and separate from the terms of the Burra Charter. Importantly,
conservation takes different forms depending on the kind of place being addressed, as well as the
national and local context. Some efforts have been made within the academic field of heritage
studies to examine the meanings of ‘place’ in order to introduce more critically engaged approaches
into practice. Relationships between heritage, place and people appears within the longer history of
conservation, dating back to Western Antiquity. Silberman (2015: 30) has traced ‘the evolving social
role of heritage places, from their initial roles as sites for pilgrimage and ritual to their formalization
as national institutions [in] the early nineteenth century, to their multicultural context in the early
twenty-first century’. Silberman surmises that societies’ changing conceptions of themselves, and
what they value for the future, becomes constitutive of the heritage place. Historically and
theoretically informed approaches to place encourage us to re-think the idea of what a heritage
place might be in the future as community priorities and aspirations for conservation continue to
After the Burra Charter, the changing priorities of and approaches to conservation have been
reflected in more recent international heritage charters. Overlapping interactions between tangible
and intangible heritage were made explicit in, for instance, the Nara Document on Authenticity
(ICOMOS, 1994), the Declaration of San Antonio (ICOMOS, 1996), the Convention for the
Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage (UNESCO, 2003) and the Québec City Declaration
on the Preservation of the Spirit of Place (ICOMOS, 2008). Using the example of shrines and temples
in Asia, Byrne (2014: 97) has written that adopting the ‘Venice Charter principle that authenticity
resides in original fabric rather than in the traditional [Asian] practice of building and rebuilding’
means erasing heritage significance. Across the world, the relationship between people and place as
mediated through conservation becomes ruptured through a singular devotion to historic fabric. As
with the Burra Charter in the Australian context, the Nara Document was intended to pluralise
heritage authenticity for Asia, albeit not specifically for place.
In his examination of heritage charters, Wells (2010: 468) has suggested three main ways that ‘place’
has been conceived within the field: ‘spirit of place’, ‘sense of place’ and ‘place attachment’. Each of
these conceptions for place has its own associated academic literature and methodology for inquiry.
Each also has its own historical and theoretical lineage. The ‘spirit of place’genius loci has its
origins in Roman beliefs and rituals, overlapping with Silberman’s timeline of the heritage place.
Place attachment has its basis in 1970s’ quantitative social sciences. It still resonates within urban
studies because it involves the definition and measured study of the interaction between people and
place (Lewicka, 2011). The most influential conception for place within conservation has related to
‘sense of place’ (Schofield and Szymanski, 2011), which can be demonstrated in how the Burra
Charter has been applied, for instance.
Place was originally defined in Article 1 of the 1979 Burra Charter as any ‘site, area, building or
other work’. This definition has been reworked to address the expanding remit of location-based
heritage conservation. Article 1.1 of the 2013 Burra Charter states: ‘Place means a geographically
defined area. It may include elements, objects, spaces and views. Place may have tangible and
intangible dimensions’. An explanatory note for Article 1.1 continues:
Place has a broad scope and includes natural and cultural features. Place can be large
or small: for example, a memorial, a tree, an individual building or group of
buildings, the location of an historical event, an urban area or town, a cultural
landscape, a garden, an industrial plant, a shipwreck, a site with in-situ remains, a
stone arrangement, a road or travel route, a community meeting place, a site with
spiritual or religious connections.
Under the terms of the Burra Charter, place engages with a variety of contexts and environments.
Nonetheless, place appears to be defined in the Burra Charter only by precedent. Prior instances of
conservation serve as a template for defining future heritage. The use of precedent makes heritage
processes more predictable, but also has the potential to stifle innovative thinking, making heritage
less responsive to community expectations. Moreover, the suggestion that a place may but does not
necessarily have ‘tangible and intangible dimensions’ reflects the Burra Charter’s historical ties to
the Venice Charter and its fabric-focussed conception for heritage. As we know, place cannot be
convincingly demarcated in this way.
To examine the extent to which conservation, and specifically the Burra Charter, tends towards the
‘sense of place’ definition, therefore, requires reference to the grey literature. Discussions in heritage
have engaged with a variety of writers on place including Kevin Lynch, Jane Jacobs, Yi-Fu Tuan,
Edward Relph and David Lowenthal. Focussing on the social-scientific dimensions of place, this
generation of writers suggested the possibility of wholly knowing a place through detailed
quantitative and qualitative study. Their ideas were circulating in conservation circles in the 1970s
1980s when the UNESCO World Heritage Convention and the Burra Charter were developed. The
ways their ideas were introduced into practice did not necessarily lead to a sustained engagement
with communities, however, and the emphasis during this period remained fabric as part of
conscious efforts to produce systematic, predictable and expert-driven heritage processes (Davison
and McConville, 1991).
More recent attempts have been made to introduce refreshed ideas of place into conservation. The
1990s–2000s writings of, for instance, John Agnew, John Tunbridge, Gregory Ashworth, Dolores
Hayden, Setha Low and Doreen Massey have had some influence in practice. Practitioners again
looked to this cutting-edge literature on place. In the Australian context, this happened as part of
explorations of the role of social value and community perspectives in conservation (Lesh, 2019b;
Garduno-Freeman, 2018). Drawing on similar ideas, the 2008 Québec City Declaration is the current
exemplar for understandings of place within heritage because it states:
the spirit of place is made up of tangible (sites, buildings, landscapes, routes, objects)
as well as intangible elements (memories, narratives, written documents, festivals,
commemorations, rituals, traditional knowledge, values, textures, colors, odors, etc.),
which all significantly contribute to making place and to giving it spirit. (ICOMOS,
The Québec City Declaration seeks to overcome the tangible and intangible heritage divide. As with
many of these charters, the longer-term impacts for understandings of conservation remain to be
seen. After all, the ‘spirit’ of a place may well be perceived as not necessarily fundamental to
conserving a place. Furthermore, to again demarcate place into its intangible and tangible aspects
arguably re-produces this artificial division rather than overcoming it. Nonetheless, the Québec City
Declaration (along with the recent scholarship highlighted in this chapter) opens the possibility for
conservation to embrace richer conceptions of place.
Place prospects
Current heritage scholarship takes the interactions between heritage, place and people to be less
fixed, measurable and predictable than in the past. Today, innovative practitioners strive to employ
ideas that emphasise the dynamism, contingency and experience of places. While communities and
civil society have played an important role in conservation since at least the 1960s1970s, their
relationship to place is again being examined. The socially constructed meanings of place have
increasing importance in conservation (Wells, 2010). The scholarship also suggests that heritage
places might be conceived of as a social assemblage of people, things and meanings (Harrison, 2018;
Pendlebury, 2013). This results in the heritage place being understood as always in a process of
becoming, continuously re-imagined and re-created through interactions between at once material
and immaterial actors and elements. The affective, emotional and experiential aspects of historic
places are also being brought to the fore in safeguarding heritage places and the urban studies
place-making agenda is making inroads into conservation (Madgin and Lesh, forthcoming).
At the same time, conservation always operates as part of broader urban, social and economic
processes. Architectural and urban planning paradigms exert a strong influence on practice.
Conservation also happens at places that are both publicly and privately owned, sites impacted by
the property market and the development industry, and so outcomes are always swayed by many
stakeholders and interests. The inability of conservation to satisfactorily embrace the concept of
place, to date, has not been caused by a lack of sophisticated articulations for the concept within
academic and practitioner circles. Rather, the vagaries of place are difficult to reconcile within
property boundaries, particularly when irreconcilable demands for the future of a place are
circulating. Conservation is often contested and different groups whether practitioners,
policymakers, developers, civil society and so forth have conflicting perspectives on how heritage
and conservation should be done. An achievement of the Burra Charter was to empower
practitioners to reflect on the spatial context of their activities, and to empower them to engage with
a wider scope and scale of sites.
To integrate current social priorities and critical concerns within dominant rationalised
conservation practice will prove challenging, especially while heritage is still dogged by the
tangible and intangible tautology. As this chapter has demonstrated, conservation is historically
contingent and takes considerable time to evolve. There will always be a lag between heritage
thought and practice. The role of heritage studies becomes to, at once, question and strengthen the
pragmatic practice of conservation. The global circulation of ideas around place and heritage, and
attempts to integrate these ideas into practice, is evident. The conservation of place is also clearly
locally specific as different societies and cultures wrestle with the most appropriate modes for
meaningfully protecting places for people. The concept of place reminds us that heritage value can
never truly be contained within the physical boundaries of a site. Place indeed proves itself to be an
essential building block of heritage. Its provocations have the potential to enhance the relationship
between conservation and people.
The author thanks Cameron Logan and Rebecca Madgin for their helpful comments on this chapter.
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... In the literature, social value has been perceived as part of narrowing, or even eliminating, the divide between community and place in conservation practice (Schofield 2014;Smith 2006). After all, theoretical distinctions such as significance, values and thresholds are of much more interest to practitioners than the community at large, whose relationship to place might be characterised as ineffable, variable and expansive, embracing aspects that are at once material (or physical), i.e. fabric and intactness, and immaterial (or intangible), i.e. narratives and experiences (Lesh 2020). ...
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Across the world, researchers and practitioners are recognising the potential of social value to bolster the conservation of heritage places. Operating alongside aesthetic and historic significance, the integration of social value into conservation practice seeks to enhance the assessment and management of cultural heritage by dissolving divides between practitioners and communities.
Full-text available
Across the world, researchers and practitioners are recognising the potential of social value to bolster the conservation of heritage places. Operating alongside aesthetic and historic significance, the integration of social value into conservation practice seeks to enhance the assessment and management of cultural heritage by dissolving divides between practitioners and communities.
Full-text available
This article argues that the Australian Whitlam Labor Government between 1969 and 1975 produced a distinguishably Australian conception for heritage through its notion of the national estate. A watershed for the recognition and preservation of heritage in Australia, it was expansive, democratic and interventionist in its philosophical underpinning and approach. Focusing on the domain of urban heritage and drawing on a diverse range of archival sources, this article examines the national estate’s international origins, along with its reworking by Whitlam, his inner circle and the Inquiry into the National Estate (1973–4). The national estate reshaped public, management and regulatory understandings of heritage in Australia, and informed the Australian Heritage Commission (1975 Australian Heritage Commission. 1975. The Heritage of Australia: The Illustrated Register of the National Estate. Melbourne: Macmillan. [Google Scholar]–2004) and the Burra Charter (1979), leaving lasting local and global impacts.
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In 2013 the Southbank Centre proposed the redevelopment of a complex of buildings including a famous skate spot known as the Undercroft. The 2013–14 campaign to protect the Undercroft drew strongly on heritage arguments, encapsulated in the tagline, ‘You Can’t Move History: You Can Secure the Future’. The campaign, which was ultimately successful as the Undercroft remains open and skateable, provides a lens through which three key areas of heritage theory and practice can be examined. Firstly, the campaign uses the term ‘found space’ to reconceptualise authenticity and places a greater emphasis on embodied experiences of, and emotional attachments to, historic urban spaces. Secondly, the concept of found space opens up a discussion surrounding the role of citizen expertise in understanding the experiential and emotional values of historic urban spaces. Finally, the paper concludes by considering the place for found space and citizen expertise within current heritage discourse and practice. The paper is accompanied by the award-winning film ‘You Can’t Move History’ which was produced by the research team in collaboration with Paul Richards from BrazenBunch and directed by skater, turned filmmaker, Winstan Whitter.
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Affect and emotion, like memory before them, have recently become a focus of discussion in the social sciences. This chapter reviews the way emotion has been addressed in heritage studies: we argue that any engagement with affect and emotion needs to be based on a pragmatic approach, which starts from an understanding that emotions are not only culturally, historically, and socially mediated, but also have moral and political consequences and impacts. If we accept that heritage is a political resource used in claims for recognition and struggles against misrecognition, then understanding how the interplay between emotions and remembering are informed by people's culturally and socially diverse affective responses must become central in a politically informed critical heritage studies.
Washington, D.C. has long been known as a frustrating and sometimes confusing city for its residents to call home. The monumental core of federal office buildings, museums, and the National Mall dominates the city’s surrounding neighborhoods and urban fabric. For much of the postwar era, Washingtonians battled to make the city their own, fighting the federal government over the basic question of home rule, the right of the city’s residents to govern their local affairs. In Historic Capital, urban historian Cameron Logan examines how the historic preservation movement played an integral role in Washingtonians’ claiming the city as their own. Going back to the earliest days of the local historic preservation movement in the 1920s, Logan shows how Washington, D.C.‘s historic buildings and neighborhoods have been a site of contestation between local interests and the expansion of the federal government’s footprint. He carefully analyzes the long history of fights over the right to name and define historic districts in Georgetown, Dupont Circle, and Capitol Hill and documents a series of high-profile conflicts surrounding the fate of Lafayette Square, Rhodes Tavern, and Capitol Park, SW before discussing D.C. today. Diving deep into the racial fault lines of D.C., Historic Capital also explores how the historic preservation movement affected poor and African American residents in Anacostia and the U Street and Shaw neighborhoods and changed the social and cultural fabric of the nation’s capital. Broadening his inquiry to the United States as a whole, Logan ultimately makes the provocative and compelling case that historic preservation has had as great an impact on the physical fabric of U.S. cities as any other private or public sector initiative in the twentieth century.
This chapter explores heritage discourses with reference to the built environment. Historically, castles, palaces, and cathedrals were monuments designed to impress as well as control the common people. More recent iconic buildings have signaled an approach to power that communicates with people, rather than merely communicating to them. This chapter examines changing discourses of power and an expanding concept of heritage, emphasizing the confluence and interdependence of tangible and intangible elements in creating meaning. From a comparative perspective on the interpretation of heritage and changes in the way people think about architecture, the authors assess the impact of various ICOMOS and UNESCO documents to explore an approach to ?organic architecture.?
Considering himself the ‘‘main author’’ of the Venice Charter, Raymond M. Lemaire was then one of the first (along with Piero Gazzola) to advocate for a revision of the document. As early as 1971, the two men—the first secretary general and president of ICOMOS, respectively—launched a debate, advocating for a better consideration of the social value of heritage. They also called for the development of specific principles for the preservation of historic cities, to be included in the Venice Charter. Lemaire’s experience in that field had convinced him that, contrary to the assertion of Article 14, ‘‘a literal application of principles valid for monuments, considered as such, is not always possible, nor desirable, for the ensembles.’’ The adoption of the Amsterdam Declaration did not put an end to his efforts. Despite his unsuccessful attempt to get a revised version approved by the ICOMOS General Assembly in Moscow in 1978, Lemaire always remained critical towards the charter and the application of its principles in the field. In the 1980s, he emphasized its shortcomings in terms of cultural diversity, and in 1996 one of his last texts articulated the negative effect of Article 9, leading to the idea that ‘‘the mere essence of a conservation operation is a modernist intervention on the edifice or neighborhood.’’ Beyond its interest for preservation history, an understanding of Lemaire’s early critical position toward the Venice Charter should inspire current debates and help us overcome our reluctance to challenge the sacred principles of what we consider a doctrinal monument.
The ontological status of historic buildings has until recently been little explored, partic-ularly in relation to their conservation. This is curious, for the assumed status and existence of buildings have critical impacts upon our attempts to conserve them. Conventional conservation thought has conceived buildings as solid objects constructed under the gaze of a single architect and retaining exemplar properties worth preserving. This paper offers an alternative and novel conceptualisation of buildings in time and space, drawing on the naturalistic ontology of Jubien and combining this with actor-network theory to explore how buildings might be conceived as multiple things with variant but persisting properties (some of which may be worthy of conservation). Using the moment of post-1945 reconstruction, we explore conservation of the architecture and spaces of Exeter (UK) to consider three objects, their nature, persistence, properties, and formation. Doing so reveals the multiplicity of material and social objects that may become entwined in attempts to conserve these buildings. Things such as 'views' become reconsidered as multiply constructed, with variant nonessential parts. The paper concludes that conservation practice requires a more heteroge-neous understanding of these objects, how they are formed, and the potential for their social and material hybridity.