The Historic Urban Landscape by Francesco Bandarin & Ron Van Oers - Book review

Monday, May 28, 2012

The Historic Urban Landscape

Managing Heritage in an Urban Century

By: Francesco Bandarin, Ron van Oers

Published: March 27, 2012
Format: Hardcover, 262 pages
ISBN-10: 0470655747
ISBN-13: 978-0470655740
Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell

"Among the utopias generated by modernity, there is also urban conservation. Strictly speaking, urban conservation is not a utopia, but rather a policy and planning practice that is present in many countries of the world", write architect, urban planner, and Assistant Director-General for Culture of UNESCO, Francesco Bandarin; and urban planner and Programme Specialist for Culture at the UNESCO World Heritage Centre, Ron Van Oers, in their visionary and conservation oriented urban development book The Historic Urban Landscape: Managing Heritage in an Urban Century. The authors describe contemporary concepts and initiatives in urban heritage conservation to better understand the conflicts, areas of consensus,a and development of urban policies and practices.

Francesco Bandarin (photo left) and Ron Van Oers recognize the many often conflicting intellectual forces that form the contemporary urban conservation landscape. The authors address the various shifting architectural and urban planning paradigms that have evolved over the past fifty years. Over time, a an institutional and professional assessment approach has formed to support the conservation of the urban heritage. Part of this conservation movement has preserved the historic city as a heritage type.

This systemic approach has created an internationalism in the very core concept of urban conservation. The authors point out that this still emerging and evolving process is providing at least some protection for the historical integrity and character of cities around the world. The authors provide evidence that this process has peaked with the high status accorded to the historic cities.

Ron Van Oers (photo left) and Francesco Bandarin understand that despite these advances and developments in the process, urban conservation faces new and daunting challenges in the coming decades. New pressures, processes, and forces are being brought to bear on the existing conservation efforts, creating a necessity for fresh policy and planning thought and action. One area of difficulty, according to the authors, is the ever increasing specialization of both the theory and operations involved with urban conservation.

The authors challenge urban planners, policy makers, and conservationists to take a more integrated and holistic view of preservation. To that end, the authors propose considering the more encompassing concept of urban conservation to that of historic urban conservation. Faced with the pressures of tourism, real estate developers, and business, conservation efforts are pulled and pushed in different directions, causing an overall weakening of the preservation efforts. As a result, the authors recommend the Historic Urban Landscape approach that considers all of the forces as part of an integrated whole.

For me, the power of the book is how Francesco Bandarin and Ron Van Oers provide a much needed wake up call to the danger faced by historic urban landscapes. Despite serious conservation efforts, cities all over the world are pressured by population growth, tourism, and real estate development forces. The authors address these challenges openly, and offer their integrated and holistic Historic Urban Landscape approach as a viable and innovative alternative to current planning theory and practice.

The authors present the concepts and ideas from the UNESCO's World Heritage Centre, where they are involved in global preservation efforts, and offer insights into the effectiveness of organization's initiatives. The book is profusely illustrated throughout, with color photographs of urban landscapes from cities all over the world. These photographs enrich the concepts offered and discussed in the various chapters of the book.

I highly recommend the comprehensive and landmark book The Historic Urban Landscape: Managing Heritage in an Urban Century by Francesco Bandarin and Ron Van Oers, to any architects, urban planners, surveyors, engineers, policy makers, business leaders, and urban conservation societies who are seeking a complete overview of the intellectual developments in urban conservation. This book provides a thoughtful and practical approach that will benefit the urban conservation efforts around the world in the twenty-first century.

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