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How to Enhance Value to Historic Context Through Contemporary Interventions

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Complimentary tea coffee and biscuits will be served


The seminar will further explore current debate around sustainable development and heritage, continuing the series of heritage-related GreenBRIDGE events from October 2009.

Our historic cities are living places, often facing pressures from urban developments, and their associated environmental and social risks. Such threats are often compounded by widespread lack of knowledge about cultural heritage. If the change is inevitable, it demands consent about the resources needed to support future developments within culturally significant places.

The seminar will present and debate the case of UK urban World Heritage sites in particular, addressing the potential for holistic approaches to heritage management and development in historic areas.

The question of public motivation for conservation will be assessed through an examination of the role of incorporating the experiential and emotive in re-establishing residents’ connections to the old city on the example of the old city of Cairo.

To debate strategic development of a culturally significant area, several questions would be explored:

  • How can heritage be approached more holistically?
  • How might decisions be made about the cultural significance of a place, and who should be involved?
  • How might contemporary architectural interventions enhance historic value?
  • Emerging actors and community engagement in planning and conservation strategies?


  • Adam Wilkinson Director, Edinburgh World Heritage Trust
  • James White Part 3 Postgraduate Certificate in Professional Practice in Architecture (candidate), University of Cambridge
  • Heba Mostafa PhD researcher, Department of Architecture, University of Cambridge
  • Tatiana Vakhitova PhD researcher, Department of Engineering, University of Cambridge

Speakers’ Abstracts:

Adam Wilkinson, “Experiences from World Heritage site in Edinburgh”

Adam Wilkinson will look at current practice in Edinburgh where, through the World Heritage Site management plan, the three main parties involved in the management of the WHS are pursuing a holistic approach to its management in their activities, from action on the ground through to the annual monitoring of the WHS , working with the breadth of the community in this complex urban WHS .

James White, “Conservation theory of UNESCO World Heritage”

James’s research dissects the fundamentals of WH theory, employing the Edinburgh WH Site as a case study in the investigation of transfers of meaning in UNESCO WH .

In the context of this research, James develops conceptual architectural responses to theoretical conservation issues, highlighting in the process that

WH Sites are not necessarily fated to become frozen in time for the purpose of conservation. In this light, heritage concerns become the creative expression of a need to learn from the past whilst progressing into the future.

Heba Mostafa, “We Are Not Baghdad!”: Heritage and the Heroic on the Streets of Cairo

A direct consequence of the withdrawal of security forces from the city of Cairo on the fourth day of uprisings was the abandonment of heritage sites throughout the country to what seemed to be an unavoidable fate of looting and ransacking.

What seemed to be a replay of the horrors of Baghdad in 2003 soon turned into an act of popular defiance, as the world witnessed in awe the formation of a human shield around the Egyptian National Museum in Cairo. After only one hour of security withdrawal a public call was sent out by the protestors through media channels for the people of Cairo to come and protect the museum. This eventually led to an army protective unit being dispatched to protect the site, resulting in an immediate halt to attempted attacks. While the neighboring headquarters of the ruling party went up in flames, a group of fifty protestors soon swelled to thousands, blocking access to the museum and calling for others to join.

Despite some looting occurring, the scale of devastation could have been much worse were it not for this preemptive and heroic act on the part of the protestors. This paper will examine the events of that night in an attempt to reconstruct how this positive reaction from the people came about based on an eyewitness account and footage of the event. In light of the recent mass destruction of Iraqi national heritage, what can we learn from the events of Friday the 28th of January in Cairo? With uprisings sweeping the region how prepared are we as an international heritage community to respond to this risk?

Tatiana Vakhitova, “Assessing Impact on Outstanding Universal Value of World Heritage site: case studies from the UK’s urban planning context”

Tatiana will talk about her research in progress, outlining theoretical concepts and empirical findings from the UK’s WH sites.

Theory suggests consideration of built cultural heritage as a complex social phenomenon with multiple values.

Examples from Bath, Edinburgh and Liverpool will illustrate what is done in practice in probably the most complex cases of comprehensive intertwined local, national, international regulations and management practices.

The presentation will encourage debate about development in a culturally significant areas, impact assessment tools available and unique characteristics of cultural heritage important for its proper impact analysis.

This talk is part of the Sustainability in the Built Environment (GreenBRIDGE) series.

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