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 coher-
ent and logically defensible philoso-
phy for building conservation was in
the Society for the Protection of An-
cient Buildings’ Manifesto of 1877. As
most conservation practitioners will
be aware, the Manifesto consists prin-
cipally of a plea to put ‘Protection in
place of Restoration’, and only the last
two paragraphs commend a philoso-
phy of care. It was, however, the rela-
tively brief Manifesto statement which
marks the starting point for the many
later policy statements, in which the
underlying theme of the SPAB Mani-
festo 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 nega-
tive effects of cultural tourist activities,
whose object is the discovery of his-
toric monuments and sites, on the ar-
chitectural heritage. It calls for integra-
tion 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 con-
stitute the historic landscape. It em-
phasises the need to identify and list
historic gardens, and provides philo-
sophical guidance on maintenance,
conservation, restoration and recon-
struction. It refers back to the Venice
Charter for many of its principles.
LI Charter on the Conservation of His-
toric Towns and Urban Areas. The
Washington Charter (1987). A particu-
larly useful document which considers
broad principles for the planning and
protection of historic urban areas.
LI Charter for the Protection and Man-
agement of the Archaeological Herit-
age (1990). Considers this subject of
archaeology under the following head-
ings: definitions, integrated protection
policies, legislation, survey, mainte-
nance and conservation, presentation,
reconstruction, and international co-
operation.
- Resolutions of the Symposium on
the Introduction of Contemporary Ar-
chitecture into Ancient Groups of Build-
ings (1972). Stresses the need for ap-
propriate use of mass, scale, rhythm
and appearance, and the avoidance of
imitation. It also notes that the revitali-
sation 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). Consid-
ers potential threats to such sites, which
are detailed as: lack of economic activ-
ity, outward movement of population,
disruption of structure due to insertion
of new elements, and measures to adapt
to modem activities. Methods to coun-
teract these threats are then consid-
ered.
LI Tiaxcala Declaration on the Revitali-
sation of Small Settlements (1982). Con-
siders initiatives for securing commu-
nities 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, pres-
ervation, restoration, reconstruction,
adaptation and compatible use. It also
introduces the idea of cultural signifi-
cance, the “aesthetic, historic,
scientific or social value for past, present
or future generations”, and requires this
to be defined for each place, and conser-
vation plans to be established and
justified prior to any intervention. It
continues with a description of conserva-
tion principles, processes and practice
which are intended as a defini-
tion 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 funda-
mental basis to the activities of protec-
tion and enhancement, and considers
good practice in terms of documenta-
tion, avoidance of conjecture, distin-
guishability of new work, use of tradi-
tional materials and techniques, main-
tenance of patina, reversibility and re-
20
CONTEXT 51

1