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The Importance of Heritage Conservation

3599 words (14 pages) Essay in Environmental Sciences

18/05/17 Environmental Sciences Reference this

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Heritage conservation is important for identifying, recording, analysing and protecting heritage and cultural resources. Conservation of heritage buildings is an important tool in city development which can be seen in some cities in the world. It plays an important role to define the landmark within the heritage area as well as to generate economic return and to support the tourism industry. Conservation of heritage buildings is very important because it provides a sense of identity and continuity in a fast changing world for future generations.

Heritage buildings basically represent the past history and culture of a nation. They constitute together the architectural heritage of an area. Heritage buildings possess historical values resulting from their beautiful architecture and their correlation with important events that occurred in the heritage area such as religious, social and political events. Heritage buildings are subjected to processes of degradation with time, which leads to a situation in which they became not able to fulfil the purpose for which they were built. For example, in Canada about 20 percent of pre-1920 heritage buildings to demolition over the last 30 years has been lost (Heritage Canada Foundation website, 20 December 2012).

Therefore, heritage buildings need an important tool to protect them. Conservation guidelines of heritage buildings are one of the proposed resolutions for protecting heritage buildings. The absence of these guidelines leads inevitably to deterioration of heritage buildings. They must be created and developed to ensure that any important changes in conservation work are undertaken in the most ways possible to preserve the heritage structure’s, historic character and features. They prevent the random works that have spread in the conservation projects of heritage buildings. On this basis, conservation guidelines for developing and utilizing these properties must be established.

Libya is a treasure chest of historic and ancient cultures. Great civilizations flourished in the country, including Phoenician, Greek, Roman, Byzantine, and Islamic. They all left lasting imprints of their cultures. Libya has five official UNESCO cultural heritage sites. The five sites added to the World Heritage List between 1982 and 1986 provide a clear illustration that Libya has a heritage whose incalculable value belongs to all humanity. The old city of Ghadames (OCG) is one of the official UNESCO cultural heritage sites that Libya has. The OCG is a major desert city and played an important role as a cultural and trade centre between the Mediterranean and Africa for over 1400 years. It was declared a world heritage site by UNESCO in 1986 in recognition of its rich cultural heritage.

Tourism plays an important role in the old city of Ghadames with many visitors from all over the world coming to attend the Annual Festival of Dates which is held in October. The conservation of heritage buildings of the old city of Ghadames will preserve and restore a valuable piece of Libya’s heritage and also contribute to the development of the city as an important tourist destination. This research attempts to assess the overall structural integrity of the heritage buildings of the old city of Ghadames as well as provide and develop conservation procedures and guidelines for repairing and conserving heritage buildings of the old city of Ghadames, world heritage site.

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Problem Statements

Defects of heritage buildings can result from the degradation of the construction materials or from the damage of the heritage building elements due to mechanical actions. Heritage buildings are subject to process of degradation with time. In other words, the degradation of the construction materials is a process that develops naturally with time, and can be accelerated by chemical, physical or biological actions. For this reason, several researches were conducted all over the world to assess the existing conditions of heritage buildings. For instance, A Ghafar Ahmad et al. (2008) assessed the existing conditions of heritage buildings in Malaysia with the main focus on the conditions of building defects and conservation approach used for these buildings. The research found that most of the defects that occur in heritage buildings in Malaysia were at external walls followed by internal walls and etc.

Other research by Hashimah & Shuhana (2005) where the two researchers assessed the strength of the old shophouses and the impending factors that threaten the continuous presence of these heritage buildings Malaysian town. The findings indicated that the practice of conserving the old shophouses is still not effective. A more effective measure in preserving the old shophouses needs to be undertaken. In addition, Itma M. A., (2007) assessed the situations of conservation projects in Palestine especially in the old city of Nablus. He found that heritage buildings of the old city of Nablus, Palestine, suffer from many random preservation.

Although defects of heritage buildings can result from the degradation of the construction materials or from the damage of the heritage building elements due to mechanical actions. However, there is another risk which threatens the sustainability of the heritage buildings. Move of inhabitants of heritage buildings to modern concrete buildings with modern amenities is also a great risk that leads to heritage building’s deterioration. When inhabitants live in the heritage buildings, their houses are well maintained; some continue to be in excellent conditions and are properly cared for. If inhabitants stay in their heritage houses, they surely perform maintenance works periodically. In contrast, if they abandon their heritage houses, it will lose its vitality. This occurred in many heritage cities in the world. For example, many people moved away from the neighbourhood of Le Village in Cornwall, Ontario in Canada and sold their homes to investors who rented them out, when the textile mills in the area shut their doors. The layoff of many residents of Le Village marked the beginning of the deterioration of the community’s physical conditions. To resolve this problem, Friedman et al. (2002) developed urban and architectural guidelines for conservation of the neighbourhood of Le Village in Cornwall, Ontario.

Another example occurred in China, when many younger and richer residents have moved from the old city of Yangzhou to the new city areas due to the deteriorating physical conditions of the heritage buildings. To make people return back to the old city of Yangzhou, Longbin (2007) developed a detailed design guideline for the whole old city Yangzhou in China. Like these events occurred also in the old city of Ghadames, Libya when the inhabitants moved out of their heritage houses of the old city to modern city in the early 1980s. Since then, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has carried out a project on the old city of Ghadames its objective was to encourage and motivate the inhabitants to come back to the old city. The project was completed in 2004 as part of the Tourism Master Plan (United Nations Development Programme and UNDP Office for Project Services Report, 2007). Even though the project maintained source of water (Ain Al-Faras), restored some heritage buildings and repaired streets. However, right now the inhabitants have not come back to the old city yet. This is also confirmed by UNESCO Report (2010) where the report mentioned that the old city of Ghadames has not yet seen the return of its inhabitants.

Based on the above, assessment of the overall structural integrity of the heritage buildings of the old city of Ghadames, world heritage site, Libya is very important before developing the conservation guidelines for heritage buildings in the old city. Furthermore, there is a significant lack of researches conducted on the heritage buildings of the old city of Ghadames in spite of its heritage importance. Even though few studies were done on the old city and the modern city of Ghadames. However, none of them assessed the overall structural integrity of the heritage buildings of the old city of Ghadames. Additionally, none of them attempted to develop conservation guidelines to protect the heritage buildings of the old city. Some of research studies were carried out by Chojnacki, (2003); Elwefati, (2007); and Nura S. et al. (2006).

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Besides that there is a lack of expertise and specific conservation guidelines for heritage buildings in the old city of Ghadames resulted of dilemma in the management of the municipality to preserve the heritage buildings. The level of understanding of the heritage buildings in Libya still remains low. Without any documentation the beauty of the heritage buildings will be lost due to age factor and climate change. Lack of expertise in the maintenance of heritage buildings is also a source of beautiful heritage buildings are damaged or destroyed. There is a lack of technical knowledge to repair and maintain heritage buildings in the old city of Ghadames.

Since late 1980s, several studies on the conservation of heritage building of the old city of Ghadames have been undertaken with the assistance of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and specialized (UN) agencies and other private or government entities. However, none of these studies have led to any concrete steps or conservation of heritage buildings of the old city in translating the plans into specific actions (UNDP Report, 2001). So far, no guideline on conservation guidelines for preserving heritage buildings of the old city of Ghadames has been developed in spite of its importance to protect heritage buildings (Arrabti, 2011; Al-Hasi, 2011). This was confirmed by Azzuz (2000) where the researcher has confirmed non-existence of any guidelines to maintain and enhance the character and integrity of the heritage buildings of the old city of Ghadames.

Based on the discussion above, the main problem of this research results from the lack of: (1) Studies conducted on conservation of heritage buildings in Libya, (2) expertise and specific guidelines for heritage buildings in the old city of Ghadames, and (3) a suitable system in force for discovering and recording the heritage buildings in Libya. Therefore, the current research aims at identifying problems encountered in the heritage buildings in the old city of Ghadames, and suggests some conservation guidelines and references for the conservation of heritage buildings in the old city and which are all gazetted as national heritage buildings. Policies and guidelines to be provided are generally and specifically on an analysis of the heritage buildings.

Research Questions

Based on the research problem statements, the research questions mainly focus on the following areas:

Is there any structural damage in the heritage buildings of the old city of Ghadames, world heritage site, Libya?

How to repair and maintain the structural damages of the heritage buildings of the old city of Ghadames, world heritage site, Libya?

Is there any conservation guidelines on heritage buildings of the old city of Ghadames, world heritage site, Libya?

Objectives of the Research

The main thesis objective is to assess the overall structural integrity of the heritage buildings of the old city of Ghadames as well as provide and develop conservation procedures and guidelines for repairing and conserving heritage buildings of the old city of Ghadames, world heritage site. The objectives of this research are:

To assess the overall structural integrity of the heritage buildings of the old city of Ghadames, world heritage site, Libya.

To provide conservation procedures for repairing and maintaining the structural damages of the heritage buildings of the old city of Ghadames, world heritage site, Libya.

To develop the conservation guidelines and policy for the improvement and conservation of the heritage buildings of the old city of Ghadames, world heritage site, Libya.

Scope of the Research

Conservation of heritage sites includes generally, buildings, artefacts, structures, areas and precincts of historic, aesthetic, architectural, cultural or environmentally significant nature (heritage buildings and heritage precincts), natural feature areas of environmental significance or the sites of scenic beauty. The research does not discuss heritage in general, but mainly focuses on the built environment. The economic and social aspects are mentioned, but are not the main emphasis in this research. For instance, when discussing about the impact of conservation on the economy, the built environment is regarded as the main emphasis.

The defined scope of the research is then conservation of heritage buildings in Libya. Heritage buildings of the old city of Ghadames were chosen as a representative city for conservation of heritage buildings in Libya. This was done so that to address its past, present and its future possibilities. The old city of Ghadames is one of the most typical tourism cities in Libya. This research does not cover all heritage cities in Libya, but the case of the old city of Ghadames has some characteristics and features with other heritage cities. Namely, the present research covers heritage buildings of the old city of Ghadames including houses, mosques, and shops. Public buildings and the surrounding environment of the heritage area of the old city of Ghadames are not addressed by this research. Therefore, the study focuses on heritage houses, mosques, and shops of the old city of Ghadames as one of the famous places of the Ghadames heritage area.

1.6 Significance of the Research

The significance of the research results from the historical importance of the heritage buildings of the old city of Ghadames. Heritage buildings of the old city of Ghadames are an interesting case for investigation because the old city is considered one of the most prominent tourist destinations, and one of the most beautiful heritage cities in the desert. It has been recognized by several important international organizations such as the UNESCO and the Organization of World Heritage Cities. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has classified the old city of Ghadames like a heritage city and protected by the organisation in 1986, and classified it the third oldest city in the world (United Nations Development Programme and the UNDP Office for Project Services Report, 2007).

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The significance of this research also highlights from the architectural design of the heritage buildings of the old city which makes the old city of Ghadames important for studying its heritage buildings. The architecture of the heritage buildings of the old city is focused on resolving the climate problem and privacy. According to Nura S. et al., (2006), most of the people leave their houses in the new town of Ghadames and migrate to the old town and other cities during the summer, because the material of building construction and the air-conditioning in modern houses is unable to cope with the torrid heat of the desert and only the clay houses of the old town maintaining a degree of coolness, in summer-time the old town is still comfortable for living because of the good shelter against the extreme desert heat.

In addition, the old city of Ghadames is located in desert regions. Therefore, it can be seen that its buildings are designed with flat roofs, small openings, and heavy weight materials such as dried mud. The thick exterior roof and walls help to absorb temperature fluctuations and, therefore, keep internal temperatures from rising above the outside surface temperature. An important function of the roof is its colour. A white or light coloured roof will stay approximately the same temperature as the outdoor air during the day, and 6-10 Celsius cooler than the outside air at night. This is an important feature because the cooler night time’s air will be channelled down by the slope of the roof and into the rooms in the building. One function of the small openings is to prevent dust from entering buildings. Windows are arranged so that equal areas are open on the windward and leeward sides of the building. The reason for this is very simple; the air stream can be directed into rooms that need constant ventilation such as the bedroom. When one window is positioned higher than another, thermal force will direct the airflow from the high window to the lower window creating good ventilation.

Courtyards, patios, and verandas are other common features of heritage buildings in the old city of Ghadames. With high walls, these outside areas provide shade and a relaxing environment for their inhabitants for social gatherings, evening entertainment, food preparation, and domestic work such as laundry. Another way to provide shade in a more aesthetically pleasing way is through greenery. For example, trees, shrubs, and bushes provide natural shade from the sun while giving the courtyard area a pleasing look. Why are these outside areas so important? They are important because essential functions happen outside like cooking and entertaining. The outside environment in hot regions is just as important as the inside because it is a daytime relief from the intense climate. This beautiful architecture is worthy to investigate by study.

This research is important because it focuses on heritage conservation which generates significant benefits to the economy. Based on the literature, benefits of the conservation of the heritage buildings are many. Economical benefits are considered one of them. Several studies confirmed that historic conservation yields significant benefits to the economy. In other words, these studies revealed that historic conservation is considered as an economic development tool. Namely, it yields significant benefits to the economy. For example Rypkema (1991) compared the relative costs of building conservation versus new construction, and found that building conservation makes more economic sense than new construction. Another study by Wolf et al (1999) where the researchers reached the same conclusion by Rypkema (1991). They found that in many cases; it is more efficient and profitable to preserve historic buildings than construct a new building. In addition, A Colorado Historical Society report (based on an economic study conducted by Clarion Associates, et al, (2002) began, “Studies across the country have shown that historic preservation acts as a powerful economic engine, creating tens of thousands of jobs and generating significant household income. On this basis, this research is deemed very important because it helps to develop tourism resources and exploitation of the architectural patrimony through re-using them and creating jobs.

The significance of the research appears also from its main objective. As mentioned previously, this research attempts to develop conservation guidelines for the heritage buildings of the old city of Ghadames. According to the literature, conservation guidelines should be developed to control changes done by conservation works on heritage buildings and to prevent random conservation works that lead to deterioration of the heritage building. A research by Itma, (2007) confirmed that issuance of instructions for maintaining heritage buildings such as obtaining the official demobilization to change or demolition or addition of a supplement of the heritage building is very important. Therefore, conservation guidelines ensure a better way to preserve heritage buildings. It is a good tool for protecting heritage areas. Accordingly, this research is considered very important.

Research Contributions

The following contributions can be highlighted from this research:

This research is expected to give a contribution in providing policy and guidelines that will become the future reference for other heritage buildings located in the desert region. In addition, the appropriate conservation guidelines provided by this research can be used by the conservator and building contractors to guide them through conservation works.

The investigation into this area increases the understanding of the role of conservation guidelines to protect heritage buildings and contribute to the literature by extending the current body of knowledge on this issue.

The study can be benefited by policy maker, professional urban planners, architects, and historians. This study attempts to adopt historic conservation policies for heritage buildings in Libya. Therefore, policy maker may utilize findings of this study in determining their policies and practices.

1.8 Organisation of the Research

The research is organised as follows:

Chapter One, Introduction, provides background to the research and delineates the structure of the thesis. It presents research issues including the research problem and outlines research questions. The Chapter exhibits the research objectives which establish the purpose of the study, considers potential limitations, discusses significance of the research and outlines the contributions of the research findings.

Chapter Two, Literature Review, reviews the relevant literature regarding conservation of heritage buildings. It discusses international organisations that have an interest with heritage buildings, approach of architectural conservation and heritage buildings. In addition, the Chapter outlines conservation theory related to this research.

Chapter Three, Research Methodology, explains the way, which is selected for this independent study to show the applied research method in this part. It gives an understanding of how the practical work and data collection has been conducted, as well as how the results have been analysed. It describes the research methodology base on the literature review in Chapter Two.

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Chapter Four, The Overview of the Old City of Ghadames, outlines the case study of the old city of Ghadames. It provides background information on the heritage buildings of the old city of Ghadames. The Chapter discusses also the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the World Heritage Site of Ghadames and shows the heritage sites added to the World Heritage List in Libya.

Chapter Five, Case Studies, is dedicated to case studies. Some international experiences are addressed in this Chapter to benefit from them to achieve objectives of the research in chapter one.

Chapter Six, Analysis and Findings, offers an in-depth discussion on the development of the conservation guidelines for the heritage buildings of the old city of Ghadames.

Chapter Seven, Conclusions, discusses the outcome of the research (i.e. Design guidelines). It also provides a discussion for the testing of research objectives.

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