The Historic Urban Landscape approach. Heritage and Urban Regeneration in the XXIst Century.


  • Enrico Fontanari Università IUAV di Venezia



This paper examines the reasons and the process that has led to the elaboration and adoption of a new tool for the preservation and adaptive reuse of the contemporary historic city. 
Urban conservation has developed mostly in the second half of the XXth century, and is now an established discipline. Urban conservators have at their disposal a system of internationally accepted principles of conservation, which is reflected in important international legal instruments such as the 1972 World Heritage Convention. Furthermore, elaborate planning frameworks are available, as well as the accumulation of an extensive body of experience over a century in different contexts. 
However, the system often proves to be weak and powerless in the face of the types of change that characterise our contemporary world and its urban scene. These are linked to urbanisation and environmental change, and to the shift of decision-making power from national to local governments, as well as from local to international actors in areas such as tourism, real estate or business. These forces are all pulling in different directions, leaving the urban preservation discipline often confused and in disarray, unable to take advantage of important opportunities. 
More than a decade of regular and systematic monitoring by UNESCO has revealed that many of the most important historic urban areas existing in Europe, Asia, Latin America and the Islamic World have lost their traditional functions and are in the process of transformation that threatens to undermine their integrity and historic, social and artistic values. 
Urban planners are increasingly aware of the gap between the ideal world of conservation principles and the practical reality, especially in emerging societies, and are calling for new approaches and tools to tackle the new challenges. 
To respond to these challenges, a new UNESCO Recommendation, a non-binding ‘soft law’, has been prepared in cooperation with a large group of international experts from all regions of the world. The Recommendation on the Historic Urban Landscape (HUL), adopted by the General Conference of UNESCO in November 2011, represents the first heritage-related Recommendation in 35 years adopted by this institution and can be considered as the culmination of this process. 
The HUL Recommendation is currently being implemented in several historic cities in the world. 


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How to Cite

Fontanari, E. (2016). The Historic Urban Landscape approach. Heritage and Urban Regeneration in the XXIst Century. International Planning History Society Proceedings, 17(4).