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Thursday, Oct. 14, 2010

City conference calls for responsible preservation


Staff writer

NARA — About half of the world now lives in cities, and with that figure expected to climb to 70 percent by 2025 it is more important than ever that urban planners incorporate effective heritage management into their designs, participants at the World Conference of Historical Cities said Wednesday.

"In many cities around the world, slums in particular are actually historic centers. But even if you need a building permit, many cities don't require a demolition permit," said Minja Yang, president of the Raymond Lemaire Internal Center for Conservation in Belgium.

City planners, especially those in developing countries, face another problem: poor urban revitalization projects. In historic areas, the consequences of these projects have created new kinds of problems.

"For example, in some developing countries, public works projects in historic sites that were poorly executed, such as sewage and water projects, have created breeding grounds for malaria," Yang said.

Some cities in the developed world also face the issue of preserving and protecting ancient cultural sites that had already been overrun by modern roads and structures.

Ki Yul Kim, an official from Gyeongju, South Korea, said his city decided to make its historical district something of a distinct cultural buffer zone.

"In order to do this, though, we had to reroute modern roads and water canals that are running through the center," Kim said. "We turned some of them into walkways for tourists and residents. We also had to conduct a thorough search for ancient burial mounds."

Kirk Sykes, a Boston commissioner in the city's civic design commission, emphasized the importance of preserving and promoting not only a city's architectural history, but also its cultural and ethnic heritage.

"The diverse ethnic heritage of Boston's new citizens is being celebrated in order to conserve the older Boston," Sykes said.

The three-day conference of representatives of 55 cities from around the world wraps up Thursday.



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