Who will buy this wonderful conservation? case study on UNESCOs designations
UNESCOs designation of Tel Aviv as a World Heritage site is something to be proud of and it has helped raise awareness of the problems of conservation. Yet the distance from this milestone to the actual establishment of a practicable conservation process is quite far. It is therefore important we take advantage of this opportunity to get the point across to decision-makers.
date, most building conservation in
This article is meant to convey two messages: First, that although the processes of conservation can be defined by universal principles, the nature of each individual conservation project is determined by the particular circumstances. As such, every conservation plan should consider the time, the place, and the unique reality of its specific situation. Second, that most people neither understand nor know how to take advantage of contact with the contents of the past. Even fewer understand the great influence of conservation on the architectural process, and this is largely thanks to the select few who decide when, why and how to preserve what.
Topics of Conservation
The right balance between the desire to perpetuate a moment in time without disturbing the natural need for progress. The notion of conservation is associated with something static, yet one of the greatest advantages of architecture is that it is a dynamic entity, which evolves and adjusts to the changes in needs, according to time and place.
need to determine what. That is, what is considered the best representation of
a period of time, style, or a socio-cultural code? There is a great difference
between a single building and an entire complex area – between buildings
that have a specific historical value (i.e. Shakespeares house) and my Aunt
Hannahs Bauhaus house at
Who decides? Since conservation is a cultural activity, there is always a danger that what is considered culture by one, may not be so for another. One of the essential questions concerning conservation is who decides what is cultural? In other words, granting an individual the power to determine such criteria would be absolutely wrong, and it is imperative that establishment of a conservation council that would include a number of conservation experts should also include representatives of the public, to ensure its scrutiny and cooperation.
Financing. All building processes are defined by their budget, and this is especially so in regard to conservation, which must be evaluated by cost/benefit considerations. Financing the increased cost of conservation must be resolved as part of the conservation process. Old buildings have many limitations, they lack the capacity of new buildings, as well as modern facilities such as elevators, escalators, and air-conditioning systems. Moreover, the planning and building processes of renewing a conserved building are always longer, tedious and therefore more costly.
TYpes of Conservation
conservation. Perhaps the best example I am aware of is the urban conservation
of the Japanese town Imai-cho that dates back to the
of an architectural code. For this definition, an architectural code is based
on three parameters: the way the space is organized, its building materials,
and the available building technology. One of the worst examples of urban
conservation I know is the "Heart" of Tel Aviv which was neglected
for years due to lack of finance. One of the best is the Nachlaot
conservation. Examples of successful urban conservation in
conservation. Conservation that uses architecture to achieve political goals
can be seen in the Jewish Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem where good
intentions produced bad results, and a place with the potential for spirit
turned out to be a "spiritual" i.e. Orthodox place. Even worse is the
like conservation. The process of restoring and reconstructing a place or a
building to recapture a period of time in history can be seen at the Acropolis
Sustainable conservation. This is the new, environmentally-aware phenomenon in architecture that uses conservation to minimize the number of new buildings in order to save natural resources. In addition to this important goal, sustainable conservation retains all the benefits of the existing urban fabric that have evolved naturally and have stood the test of time.
In 1972, 158 countries committed to the terms of the Convention Concerning the Protection of World Culture and Natural Heritage and agreed to "establish, keep up-to-date and publish" a World Heritage List of cultural and natural properties. Any country that submits a request to the committee has to prove it can be considered an outstanding universal value. The application form includes tens of clauses – such as the degree of commitment of residents to turn their homes or neighborhood into a designated historical site. These clauses can be divided into three main sections –archaeological cities, historical cities and cities that were built during the modern era. Of these, only the third, which includes cities such as Tel Aviv, are subject to the test of time. In other words, the nation must continually justify its place in the list or otherwise be removed. It is important to note that this particular clause is subject to the close scrutiny of an independent group of experts.
so…the city of
of the 1126 buildings and sites included in the list of Tel Avivs conservation
sites, only a few were of the Eclectic period that preceded the International
Style (the actual reason for UNESCOs designation). Anyone familiar with the
real historical buildings of the city appreciates the value of the Eclectic
Style. No doubt the general public also identifies their historical value and
therefore more easily can accept the idea of their conservation. Places such as
Since conservation is a cultural matter of national importance to the general public, or even, as in the case of UNESCO, of international importance, the sources of funding must be built-in to the process. In more developed countries such as the Slovak Republic, a town that has a population of at least 2,000 must have a master plan that includes all the conservation sites with all the possible ways for combining new buildings within the existing urban fabric. Here in Israel, all of the expenses of conservation rest on the shoulders of the private homeowners. If they want to conserve, they may; if not – the rest of us will carry on "enjoying" their shabby, neglected structures.
Until we reach the sophistication of Slovakia, we will have to make do with the amateur suggestions of "conservation experts," with the illogical plans of the town engineers, and with political aspirations for immediate and visible results.