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UPA-BUA Union Professionnelle d'Architectes
Beroepsunie Van Architecten

ICOMOS Charter from Washington 1987


Adopted by ICOMOS General Assembly in Washington, DC, October 1987



All  urban  communities,  whether  they  have  developed  gradually  over  time  or  have  been  created deliberately, are an expression of the diversity of societies throughout history.

This  charter  concerns  historic  urban  areas,  large  and  small,  including  cities,  towns  and  historic  centres  or  quarters,  together  with  their  natural  and  man-made  environments.  Beyond  their  role  as  historical  documents,  these  areas  embody  the  values  of  traditional  urban  cultures.  Today  many  such  areas  are  being  threatened,  physically  degraded,  damaged  or  even  destroyed,  by  the  impact  of  the  urban  development  that  follows  industrialisation in societies everywhere.

Faced with this dramatic situation, which often leads to irreversible cultural, social and even economic  losses,  the  International  Council  on  Monuments  and  Sites  (ICOMOS)  deems  it  necessary  to  draw  up  an  international  charter  for  historic  towns  and  urban  areas  that  will  complement the "International Charter for the Conservation and Restoration of Monuments and Sites," usually referred to as "The Venice Charter." This new text defines the principles, objectives, and methods necessary for the conservation of historic towns and urban areas. It also seeks to promote the harmony of both private and community life in these areas and to  encourage  the  preservation  of  those  cultural  properties,  however  modest  in  scale,  that  constitute the memory of mankind.

As   set   out   in   the   UNESCO   "Recommendation   Concerning   the   Safeguarding   and   Contemporary  Role  of  Historic  Areas"  (Warsaw  -  Nairobi,  1976),  and  also  in  various  other  international   instruments,   "the   conservation   of   historic   towns   and   urban   areas"   is   understood to mean those steps necessary for the protection, conservation and restoration of  such  towns  and  areas  as  well  as  their  development  and  harmonious  adaptation  to  contemporary life.



1. In order to be most effective, the conservation of historic towns and other historic urban  areas  should  be  an  integral  part  of  coherent  policies  of  economic  and  social  development and of urban and regional planning at every level.

2. Qualities  to  be  preserved  include  the  historic  character  of  the  town  or  urban  area  and all those material and spiritual elements that express this character, especially:

a) Urban patterns as defined by lots and streets;

b) Relationships between buildings and green and open spaces;

c) The  formal  appearance,  interior  and  exterior,  of  buildings  as  defined  by  scale,  size, style, construction, materials, colour and decoration;

d) The  relationship  between  the  town  or  urban  area  and  its  surrounding  setting,  both natural and man-made; and

e) The various functions that the town or urban area has acquired over time. Any  threat  to  these  qualities  would  compromise  the  authenticity  of  the  historic  town  or  urban area.

3. The participation and the involvement of the residents are essential for the success of  the  conservation  programme  and  should  be  encouraged.  The  conservation  of  historic  towns and urban areas concerns their residents first of all.

4. Conservation  in  a  historic  town  or  urban  area  demands  prudence,  a  systematic  approach  and  discipline.  Rigidity  should  be  avoided  since  individual  cases  may  present  specific problems.



5. Planning for the conservation of historic towns and urban areas should be preceded by multidisciplinary studies.

Conservation  plans  must  address  all  relevant  factors  including  archaeology,  history,  architecture, techniques, sociology and economics.

The  principal  objectives  of  the  conservation  plan  should  be  clearly  stated  as  should  the  legal, administrative and financial measures necessary to attain them.

The  conservation  plan  should  aim  at  ensuring  a  harmonious  relationship  between  the  historic urban areas and the town as a whole.

The  conservation  plan  should  determine  which  buildings  must  be  preserved,  which  should  be   preserved   under   certain   circumstances   and   which,   under   quite   exceptional   circumstances, might be expendable.

Before any intervention, existing conditions in the area should be thoroughly documented. The conservation plan should be supported by the residents of the historic area.

6. Until  a  conservation  plan  has  been  adopted,  any  necessary  conservation  activity  should be carried out in accordance with the principles and the aims of this Charter and the Venice Charter.

7. Continuing maintenance is crucial to the effective conservation of a historic town or urban area.

8. New functions and activities should be compatible with the character of the historic town or urban area. Adaptation   of   these   areas   to   contemporary   life   requires   the   careful   installation   or   improvement of public service facilities.

9. The improvement of housing should be one of the basic objectives of conservation.

10. When it is necessary to construct new buildings or adapt existing ones, the existing spatial layout should be respected, especially in terms of scale and lot size.

The introduction of contemporary elements in harmony with the surroundings should not be discouraged since such features can contribute to the enrichment of an area.

11. Knowledge  of  the  history  of  a  historic  town  or  urban  area  should  be  expanded
through archaeological investigation and appropriate preservation of archaeological findings.

12. Traffic  inside  a  historic  town  or  urban  area  must  be  controlled  and  parking  areas  must be planned so that they do not damage the historic fabric or its environment.

13. When urban or regional planning provides for the construction of major motorways, they must not penetrate a historic town or urban area, but they should improve access to them.

14. Historic towns should be protected against natural disasters and nuisances such as pollution  and  vibrations  in  order  to  safeguard  the  heritage  and  for  the  security  and  well-being of the residents.

Whatever the nature of a disaster affecting a historic town or urban area, preventative and repair measures must be adapted to the specific character of the properties concerned.

15. In  order  to  encourage  their  participation  and  involvement,  a  general information  programme should be set up for all residents, beginning with children of school age.

16. Specialised  training  should  be  provided  for  all  those  professions  concerned  with  conservation.