Recognizing the importance of preserving historic city centers and ensembles of cultural property within the context of urban life, architects, city planners, and conservation professionals have sought to protect such sites while respecting the economic and social realities of those who live and work in these environments.

To encourage these efforts, the Getty Conservation Institute (GCI) joined the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Regional Project for Latin America and the National Endowment for the Arts, Washington, D.C., in hosting a seminar on the conservation of cultural property in urban environments. The seminar, held in Quito, Ecuador, a UNESCO World Heritage city, brought together architects, urban planners, economists, sociologists, and engineers from Latin America, the Caribbean, the United States, Canada, and Europe. Participants exchanged information and discussed strategies for preserving historic districts while respecting social, political, and economic realities.

Case studies and experiences in the Americas and Europe were considered within the context of four themes: restored historical complexes as catalysts for the improvement of the urban environment; environmental concerns in historic preservation such as traffic, population, tourism, pollution, and waste collection; urban renewal and urban heritage in historic areas; and the process of improving historic urban areas. Seminar participants noted deterioration in the quality of life in historical centers in Latin America and the Caribbean as a result of economic crisis, urban population growth, and the relative abandonment of areas due to urban problems, environmental conditions and natural disasters. Case studies presented during the seminar offered a variety of innovative strategies and approaches for such cities as Salvador de Bahia, Brazil; Havana, Cuba; Cuzco, Peru; Ciudad Bolivar, Venezuela; Quito, Ecuador; Mexico City; Cartagena de Indias, Colombia; Spanish Town, Jamaica; Ouro Preto, Brazil; Montevideo, Uruguay; Brazilia, Brazil; Savannah, Georgia; and New York City.

The seminar assessed the complexity of local, national, and international arrangements governing the management and conservation of cultural property within the urban environment. Such arrangements require the will and political commitment of governments, beginning at the local level, with close cooperation between residents, non-governmental organizations, and municipal authorities, as well as agreements and formal and informal institutional arrangements between the public and private sectors.

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