The theme of the 12th International Seminar of Forum UNESCO – University and Heritage (FUUH) is both ambitious and crucial to the future of heritage conservation as well as to the development of communities, cities and civil society at large.
The Historic Urban Landscape (HUL) Concept includes the broader territorial and landscape context and therefore goes far beyond historic centres or ensembles. It both reflects and has helped to shape modern society and consequently proves to be of great value for the understanding of our current way of life. Composed of character-defining elements including land uses and patterns, spatial organization, visual relationships, topography and soils, vegetation, and all elements of the technical infrastructure, including small scale objects and details of construction (curbs, paving, drain gutters, lights, etc.) it is crucial to understand the historic urban landscape before undertaking any contemporary architectural project. The drive for modernization is legitimate but it is critical to reflect first on its impact(s) on the city’s identity and on the communities’ ways of life.
Currently, some 50 % of world citizens live in cities or urban contexts. This figure will continue to rise in coming years. Thus cities are witnessing a unique period of growth that leads to a number of questions: Where will the urban centre be in the future? Where are the historic city’s borders or limits? What is a historic centre? Which history does it refer to?
Similarly, the World Heritage Committee has witnessed over recent years a growing number of problematic situations such as high-rise buildings in or around historic centres inscribed on the World Heritage List or ruptures in the urban fabric due to the construction of ambitious contemporary architecture.
Thus, this issue raises other questions, such as:
- What is a Historic Urban Landscape (HUL)?
- How can contemporary architecture be integrated harmoniously in a Historic Urban Landscape?
- What is the history of a Historic Urban Landscape?
- Are there limits to contemporary architecture in a Historic Urban Landscape?
- If so, what are they?
- Where are the limits of a Historic Urban Centre?
- What is a meaningful or significant contemporary architecture in a Historic Urban Landscape?
- What is meaningless or not significant/insignificant?
- How does old and new architecture relate to the cultural identity of a city, a people, a nation?
- What is the cultural sustainability of historic centres?
- How is conservation related to sustainable development?
- What is the impact of contemporary architecture to historic urban landscapes’ authenticity?
Papers dealing with these issues are invited for this 12th international Forum UNESCO seminar. In addition, historic centres and their relations with new urban centres at the periphery need to be investigated. In particular, new centres which local communities recognize as significant in terms of identity should be studied, as well as the rural fringes of urban centres, where the urban meets the agricultural territory and rural cultures. Studies on the impacts of these changes on vernacular architecture are welcome.