The Contemporary Re-Purposing Approach
Since the late 1960s, heritage discourse has progressively shifted its position from a ‘preservation framework’ through to a ‘conservation framework’ and on to a ‘re-purposing framework’. The preservation framework regards individual monuments as having intrinsic, universal and immutable values that need to be protected from spatial development. It tends to make the saving of the heritage object or place more important than finding a societal re-use for it.
With the conservation framework, the focus is widened from single monuments to heritage ensembles. Its goal is to conserve purposefully rather than simply to preserve. Adaptive re-use and urban regeneration constitute the central vision emerging from the conservation framework. At Heritage 21, we adopt the re-purposing approach which conceptualizes heritage as the contemporary usage of a past which is consciously shaped from history, its remnants and memories in response to current needs. In other words, meaning is ascribed to a heritage site or object in the present. This indicates that heritage is not about historical accuracy or intrinsic authenticity but about the contemporary extrinsic narrative attached to it. On this basis, all heritage is in essence intangible.
Heritage sites are selected for protection according to consumer demand and are managed to satisfy those demands. Therefore, Heritage 21 supports the need for governmental agencies to re-conceptualize heritage and recognize the role of heritage professionals as facilitators rather than as experts. Heritage 21 adopts a re-purposing framework, which allows us to participate in the planning process alongside local communities, clients, consent authorities and end users.
This manifesto is based on an article published in the International Journal of Heritage Studies, Vol 25, 2019 – Issue 4; P. Patiwael, P. Groote and F Vanclay