What is sustainable development? (part 1)

Professional Associations


suspart1In the heritage urban context, sustainable development assumes the following;

  • Historical centres are always under threat. Risks to urban historical areas (towns, cities and coastal settlements) include threats to built-up urban historical areas including urban spaces and structures. They are ever-present. Poorly managed places or places that succumb to ‘development at any cost’ suffer despite being legally protected. Intensive over-use or loss of density and over servicing by the tourist industry or under-resourcing results in real threats to urban historical areas. Speculative developments, driven by short term interests are a menace the substance and identity of historical places especially those that take advantage of the historic context merely as a background or themed justification for larger, inappropriate development. It is essential for policymakers to adopt a long-term view and treat historic fabric carefully under a wide consensus so that there is maximum buy-in and usage by local entrepreneurs, local residents, local visitors and foreign tourists. Historic centres need to appeal to all four sectors simultaneously without alienating any one group i.e. owners, developers, users and visitors;

  • suspart12Cultural built heritage constitutes the long-term memory of a society. Our perception of the urban environment is determined by the built heritage in its totality. Buildings and cultural landscapes shape our sense of belonging within an array of particular social traditions and cultural identities – spanning centuries back. Buildings are material witnesses which can be repurposed over time so long as their intrinsic heritage significance is conserved into the future.
  • Cultural tradition is regional. The cultural capital of historic centres is based on exchange and international contact. However, all regional forms of culture have evolved in the built environment in the form of regional building traditions and significantly representative cultural landscapes.
  • Cultural built heritage needs to be integrated into a larger strategy of sustainable management. The historic building stock must be considered as an integrated part of the cultural heritage. It means that suspart13monument conservation must not be used in an opportunistic way to prevent new urban development. There must always be a clear urban strategy with an integrated value system for the management of the historic building stock and urban fragments. Monument conservation will continue to assert that particularly important buildings are protected, but this can take place in the context of new developments so long as there remains a carefully considered integrated approach which accounts for the long-term use of the historic fabric in consideration of its economic, ecological and social value. In practice, conservation techniques must make possible present and future constructive needs. However, there is a caveat that such needs are presided over by professional, academic and practical considerations with assessments of impact being carried out on a continual and meaningful basis.
  • Cultural objects promote societal and political consensus. The privatisation of public cultural goods suspart13and monuments are endangered by the commercialisation, commodification and depreciation through overuse in response to exploitation by the tourism industry as well as by lifestyle and event marketing which creates cultural myths and cult-objects by manipulating the historical aura of places for private commercial gain.

Paul Rappoport – Heritage 21 – 18 March 2015


Uta Hassler, Gregers Algreen-Ussing & Niklaus Kohler, 2002, Cultural heritage and sustainable development in SUIT (Position Paper 3) – University of Dortmund, Bygningsarkæologi – School of Architecture of Copenhagen & IFIB – University of Karlsruhe.

Further information:

View some of our short videos on Protective Heritage Legislation, Respecting Heritage Significance and Working in the Heritage Sector.


Related Articles

The theory of cultural built heritage

How do we define cultural built heritage? What is culture and what is heritage? Where does the idea of conservation…

Read more
Character Enshrined as Heritage Overlays in LEPs

Christine Covington of Corrs, Chambers, Westgarth Lawyers writes (7 March 2018) about proposed new changes to the EP&A Act in…

Read more
New Approaches to Heritage Planning

Heritage can basically be anything and exist anywhere. It can also be personal and collective as well as local and…

Read more
Do you have what it takes to be a Heritage Consultant?

According to the 1993 ICOMOS Education & Training Guidelines - Article 5; conservation works should only be entrusted to persons…

Read more
Need help getting started?

Check out our guides.

Heritage – are we losing the battle?

Since the robust days of the 1970s and the 1980s during which NSW governments and councils committed wholeheartedly and enthusiastically…

Read more
Five things you need to know about cultural built heritage

Having worked in the heritage space for the better part of thirty years, I have come to rely upon five…

Read more
Incentivising Ownership of Heritage Buildings

In response to the recent enquiry by the government relating to the NSW Heritage Act, I made the following recommendation.…

Read more


Complete the form below to contact us today.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
By signing in you agree with the Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy