This initiative aims to provide professionals engaged in the conservation and management of built heritage in Southeast Asia with training and capacity-building activities that target the specific preservation challenges within this region.
These activities include:
Southeast Asia is a vibrant and culturally diverse region, linked by geography, religion, politics, and history. Composed of many nations, tribes, and cultures, the area has been home to some of Asia's most significant civilizations and empires. Evidence of the region's historic accomplishments remains visible in the architecture, sites, and traditions that are still visited, venerated, and practiced. In terms of visitation and resources, some of these sites receive enormous global attention, (e.g., Angkor, Pagan, Luang Prabang, Hoi An, Ayutthaya, and Borobodur)—yet they represent only a fraction of the tens of thousands of architectural and archaeological sites for which the region's heritage professionals are daily responsible.
Many of these places face increasing risks from intensifying cultural tourism, economic development, and the implications of unanticipated changes, which pose significant challenges for conservation professionals. The spectrum of concerns for the region's conservation professionals ranges from basic introductions to conservation theory and principles; conservation science and material analysis; risk assessment; site management including planning for long-term maintenance, presentation, visitor management and development; material conservation; and policy and decision making that integrates the opinions and needs of the surrounding communities of a site.
From late 2004 to early 2006, the GCI conducted an assessment of built heritage conservation education and training needs in mainland Southeast Asia. Three areas of particular need were identified by this assessment: conservation and management of archaeological sites; integrated conservation and urban development; and conservation education in academic programs. to bring about similar ends. The GCI is partnering on a case-by-case basis with some of these organizations to meet commonly held objectives that relate to conservation education, training, and practice.
In the initial phase of the Southeast Asia Initiative, the GCI focused on the conservation and management issues that face many archaeological sites in the region: proliferating tourism, expanding settlements at sites' peripheries, pressures from large-scale infrastructure projects, limited training opportunities for conservation professionals, and the deterioration of historic fabric. Two capacity-building field workshops were developed for mid-career professionals responsible for the care and management of archaeological sites. Both workshops drew upon their respective sites to illustrate these commonly encountered problems and to present real scenarios in which to test and implement conservation theories and methodologies to address them.
In addition to these two workshops, in 2008 the GCI collaborated with several partners to organize Siem Reap: Urban Development in the Shadow of Angkor – to focus attention on the implications of urban development on the World Heritage Site of Angkor.
Many other sites in the Southeast Asian region, some within cities and others in proximity to them, have also been imperiled because of demographic changes and economic development that have intensified during the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. Given the increasingly critical needs being created by intense and growing urban development in the region, the GCI is focusing the current phase of the Built Heritage in Southeast Asia Initiative on urban conservation with the aim to provide education and training that can specifically address pressures affecting historic cities. The initial training activity in this area will be a two-week workshop for Malaysian urban planners in Penang.
This and other activities related to urban conservation in Southeast Asia intersect with the work of the GCI's Historic Cities and Urban Settlements Initiative, which stems from its collaboration with the Organization of World Heritage Cities (OWHC). The OWHC is one of several institutions that have long recognized the urgency needed worldwide to protect heritage in historic cities in the wake of urban development and related social or political changes. Both the Built Heritage in Southeast Asia and the Historic Cities and Urban Settlement Initiatives are responding to the risks for cultural heritage stemming from rampant urban development in the recent past.
Last updated: February 2012