1

Jack Gillon takes on the mammoth task
of examining all the many international charters
affecting historic buildings and sites


CONSERVATION CHARTERS
AND STANDARDS
The first attempt to establish a coherent and logically defensible philosophy for building conservation was in the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings’ Manifesto of 1877. As most conservation practitioners will be aware, the Manifesto consists principally of a plea to put ‘Protection in place of Restoration’, and only the last two paragraphs commend a philosophy of care. It was, however, the relatively brief Manifesto statement which marks the starting point for the many later policy statements, in which the underlying theme of the SPAB Manifesto is adopted and developed rather than being significantly amended.
The Athens Conference of 1931, organised by the International Museums Office, established basic principles for an international code of practice for conservation. The Second International Congress of Architects and Technicians of Historic Monuments, which met in Venice in May 1964, approved the text of an International Charter for the Conservation of Monuments and Sites (the Venice Charter) superseding the Athens Charter. The Venice Charter is an important modem milestone for the conservation movement, which was adopted by the newly formed International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) in 1965 and published by it in 1966. ICOMOS is an international, non-governmental organisation which promotes the study of the theory, methodology and technology of conservation as applied to monuments, historic areas and sites. The Venice Charter stresses the importance of setting, respect for original fabric, precise documentation of intervention, the importance of contributions from all periods to the building and the maintenance of historic buildings for a socially useful purpose. The Charter outlines the basic tenets of what is now accepted to be an appropriate approach to dealing in philosophical terms with historic buildings. The full text of the Charter is included in Context 41, p. 24.
The Venice Charter was followed by a plethora of other standards,
charters, formal recommendations and conventions relating to building conservation. These are all invaluable to practitioners working in the field of building conservation and are an essential framework for good practice in the protection and enhancement of the historic environment. The most significant of these, which have the approval of ICOMOS, are:
- The Charter on Cultural Tourism (1976). Considers the positive and negative effects of cultural tourist activities, whose object is the discovery of historic monuments and sites, on the architectural heritage. It calls for integration of cultural assets into the social and economic objectives which are part of the planning process.
- The Florence Charter on Historic Gardens (1982). Provides a definition of the term historic garden and the architectural compositions which constitute the historic landscape. It emphasises the need to identify and list historic gardens, and provides philosophical guidance on maintenance, conservation, restoration and reconstruction. It refers back to the Venice Charter for many of its principles.
LI Charter on the Conservation of Historic Towns and Urban Areas. The Washington Charter (1987). A particularly useful document which considers broad principles for the planning and protection of historic urban areas.
LI Charter for the Protection and Management of the Archaeological Heritage (1990). Considers this subject of archaeology under the following headings: definitions, integrated protection policies, legislation, survey, maintenance and conservation, presentation, reconstruction, and international cooperation.
- Resolutions of the Symposium on the Introduction of Contemporary Architecture into Ancient Groups of Buildings (1972). Stresses the need for appropriate use of mass, scale, rhythm and appearance, and the avoidance of imitation. It also notes that the revitalisation of historic groups of buildings by new uses is legitimate, provided that such uses do not affect the struc
ture or character of the buildings.
LI Resolution on the Conservation of smaller Historic Towns (1975). Considers potential threats to such sites, which are detailed as: lack of economic activity, outward movement of population, disruption of structure due to insertion of new elements, and measures to adapt to modem activities. Methods to counteract these threats are then considered.
LI Tiaxcala Declaration on the Revitalisation of Small Settlements (1982). Considers initiatives for securing communities living in small settlements and the traditional environment of such places.
LI The Australia ICOMOS Charter for the Conservation of Places of Cultural Significance. The Burra Charter(1981). This Charter develops the principles detailed in the Venice Charter to suit local Australian requirements. It includes a comprehensive list of definitions of items such as place, fabric, conservation, maintenance, preservation, restoration, reconstruction, adaptation and compatible use. It also introduces the idea of cultural significance, the “aesthetic, historic, scientific or social value for past, present or future generations”, and requires this to be defined for each place, and conservation plans to be established and justified prior to any intervention. It continues with a description of conservation principles, processes and practice which are intended as a definition of good practice. The Burra Charter is well established in Australia and is frequently used by the Australian Government in a formal capacity.
- The Appleton Charter for the Protection and Enhancement of the Built Environment (ICOMOS Canada, 1983). Considers levels of intervention in the historic environment, notes that respect for original fabric is a fundamental basis to the activities of protection and enhancement, and considers good practice in terms of documentation, avoidance of conjecture, distinguishability of new work, use of traditional materials and techniques, maintenance of patina, reversibility and re
20
CONTEXT 51

1