WHY was the Historic Urban Landscape approach developed?
Over half a century of urban conservation practice has yielded important successes in saving historic cities from urban decay and blight in many parts of the world. However, a critical look at these conservation projects reveals that, in reaction to an imminent threat of demolition for urban renewal and development, historic inner cities have often been preserved in isolation without integrating them into the broader context of their urban surroundings. As a result, these well-preserved areas have often been abandoned by their traditional population and have lost their identity. Therefore, the general situation that emerges is very much a black-and-white picture, with historic cities either well-preserved but devoid of everyday life and traditional values, or suffering from neglect and a lack of proper facilities and services.

Additionally, around the world, national and local governments, as well as United Nations agencies, the World Bank and regional development banks, are searching for a more sustainable process of urban development that integrates environmental, social and cultural concerns into the planning, design and implementation of urban management programmes. The adoption of the new policy instrument by UNESCO on 10 November 2011, the Recommendation on the Historic Urban Landscape, is providing a set of general principles in support of sustainable urban heritage management.

The integration of cultural heritage conservation in the process of urban development seeks to safeguard in particular the character and identity of the historic city as expressed by local culture and heritage. Identity and local character are part of a city’s competitive edge, but are increasingly under threat and destroyed by globalizing processes of urban development. Heritage and local culture are determinants of the quality of life and the well-being of local communities. They also offer opportunities to increase their sustainable development potential and to reap the benefits of the cultural heritage conservation process.

The HUL approach interprets the city as a continuum in time and space, where countless population groups have left their mark and continue to do so today.