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Urban conservation and management of historic centres. Recommendation on the Historic Urban Landscape

In May 2005, at an International Conference in Vienna, Austria, the General Assembly of States Parties to the World Heritage Convention adopted the conclusions of the Vienna Memorandum on “World Heritage and Contemporary Architecture - Managing the Historic Urban Landscape”, a document produced following a symposium to debate a high-rise tower project for the Historic Centre of Vienna, inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2001.

This initiative resulted from an increase in conservation problems affecting urban World Heritage Sites, against which the World Heritage Committee felt powerless.

The Vienna Memorandum introduced the concept of historic urban landscape: the historic town in a “topographical” and “environmental” context, understood within a wider “territorial setting”, which expresses ever-changing “specific economic and socio-cultural values”. It set out the conditions for the integration of contemporary architecture in ancient urban fabrics. Two new elements in the document included: the broadening of spatial scale, and taking into account the inevitable changes while maintaining historical traces of our past.

As part of the World Heritage Cities Programme and by way of follow-up to the Vienna Memorandum Conference, the World Heritage Centre looked further at the concept of historic urban landscapes and organised a series of workshops for international experts in various regions of the world.

The economic, social and political changes of recent years – globalisation, a reduction in the number of key players, decentralisation and diminution in the role of central planning – have made it necessary to renew this approach. In 2011, acting under the auspices of World Heritage, UNESCO adopted the Recommendation on the Historic Urban Landscape.

Many of the projects supported under the France-UNESCO Cooperation Agreement focus on conservation and urban development and are part of this broad consideration of urban landscapes and the World Heritage Cities Programme. There are several long-established urban conservation projects, such as those to support the conservation of the Town of Luang Prabang (Lao People's Democratic Republic), Island of Saint-Louis (Senegal), etc.

More specifically, in regard to actions taken as a follow-up to the Vienna Conference, the France-UNESCO Cooperation Agreement provided technical and financial support to the World Heritage Centre for the publication of the paper n°27 - November 2010 on "Managing Historic Cities", as part of the World Heritage Series collection.

The France-UNESCO Cooperation Agreement supported the organisation of a workshop, held on 8 and 9 June 2009 in Bordeaux, France, on the French experience of historic urban landscapes. The workshop was organised by ICOMOS France and the Association Nationale des Architectes des Bâtiments de France (the French national association of state architects and urban planners), and the Association Nationale des Villes et Pays d’Art et d’Histoire et des Villes à Secteurs Sauvegardés (French national association of cities and places of art and history and towns with protected areas).

Under the France-UNESCO Cooperation Agreement, financial support was also provided for the expert meeting carried out in May 2011 for the review of the draft text of the Recommendation on the Historic Urban Landscape adopted in November 2011, by UNESCO’s General Conference.

Other activities (18)
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Strategic objectives
  • Communities
  • Conservation
  • Capacity Building