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Rethinking History: Democratising Architectural Heritage | ArchDaily

In the complex fields of architectural conservation, preservation and cultural heritage, democratisation should always remain a key priority.

Fiat Tagliero Service Station - Asmara, Eritrea. Image © Flickr User David Stanley under the (CC BY 2.0) license.
Fiat Tagliero Service Station – Asmara, Eritrea. Image © Flickr User David Stanley under the (CC BY 2.0) license.

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The built environment we all inhabit is part and parcel of global, interconnected processes and systems. When we appraise the historically significant architecture of our cities, the structural integrity and aesthetics of a building merits equal consideration with factors such as the labour conditions of its builders to the existing power structures of its time. Examples of Italian Modernism in Eritrea, for instance, might be worthy of aesthetic praise – but intertwined with the legacy of these buildings hailed as Modernist icons is the sobering fact that they were built to further an imperial project. In the complex fields of architectural conservation, preservation and cultural heritage, democratisation should always remain a key priority.

Cinema Impero - Asmara, Eritrea. Image © Flickr User David Stanley under the (CC BY 2.0) license.
Cinema Impero – Asmara, Eritrea. Image © Flickr User David Stanley under the (CC BY 2.0) license.

This democratisation should not only be about access to research undertaken, but also be about which buildings are seen as worthy of preserving and questioning the power disparities that can underpin architectural conservation. A look at the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites, to take an example, lays bare these inequities that can subtly influence what constitutes an architectural site of “outstanding universal value” in the eyes of the general public.

Casco Viejo - Panama City, Panama. Image © Ignacio Hernandez via Unsplash
Casco Viejo – Panama City, Panama. Image © Ignacio Hernandez via Unsplash

Less than 9% of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites are located in Africa, and the cultural legacies of former European empires seem to be disproportionally revered. Out of the 77 cultural World Heritage sites in Latin America, almost half are from the Spanish colonial era – this Eurocentric emphasis a common thread amongst the cultural heritage sites in the Global South.

Read on >>>>> Source: Rethinking History: Democratising Architectural Heritage | ArchDaily

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