8. Values-Based Management and the Burra Charter: 1979, 1999, 2013
- Richard Mackay
Values-based heritage management provides a basis for good decision making for cultural heritage places. The Australia ICOMOS Charter for Places of Cultural Significance (Citation: Australia ICOMOS. 2013a. The Burra Charter: The Australia ICOMOS Charter for Places of Cultural Significance. Burwood: Australia ICOMOS. http://australia.icomos.org/wp-content/uploads/The-Burra-Charter-2013-Adopted-31.10.2013.pdf.), offers a framework in which multiple, sometimes conflicting heritage values and other values and relevant issues can be understood and explicitly addressed. This approach makes it possible to discern relative priorities (such as an overarching objective to retain important attributes) while responding to applicable site constraints, resource limitations, or statutory requirements. One of the key factors in the success of the charter, which has been widely used in Australia and internationally, is that its core values-based premise has proven to be extremely flexible and applicable to a broad range of places and changing circumstances.
The Australian charter has its antecedents in the Charter of Athens, which was adopted at the First International Congress of Architects and Technicians of Historic Monuments in 1931 (Citation: ICOMOS. 1931. The Athens Charter for the Restoration of Historic Monuments–1931. [Paris]: ICOMOS. http://www.icomos.org/en/charters-and-texts/179-articles-en-francais/ressources/charters-and-standards/167-the-athens-charter-for-the-restoration-of-historic-monuments.). The Charter of Athens incorporated seminal concepts, including the need for expertise and critique, the appropriateness of modern materials, importance of the setting, and statutory protection, but it had a strong focus on architecture, archaeology, and the fabric of historic monuments. These principles were incorporated in the International Charter for the Conservation and Restoration of Monuments and Sites (the Venice Charter) (Citation: ICOMOS. 1965. International Charter for the Conservation and Restoration of Monuments and Sites (The Venice Charter 1964). [Paris]: ICOMOS. https://www.icomos.org/charters/venice_e.pdf.) prepared at the Second International Congress of Architects and Technicians of Historic Monuments, Venice, 1964, which was subsequently adopted by the then-fledgling International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) in 1965. Itself an artifact of its time, the Venice Charter is strongly focused on archaeological site conservation and the restoration of architectural monuments. Emanating from a Eurocentric base, it was never conceived to apply to more ephemeral “New World” places with nonstructural physical evidence or intangible values. It was for this reason that during the early years of Australia ICOMOS, energies were focused on the development of a new bespoke doctrinal document for conservation practice—one that reflected the nature, multifaceted values, and circumstances of Australian cultural heritage places. The result was the Charter for the Conservation of Places of Cultural Significance, adopted at Burra Town Hall in South Australia in 1979, which soon became known as the Burra Charter (Citation: Australia ICOMOS. 2016. Collaboration for Conservation: A Brief History of Australia ICOMOS and the Burra Charter. Burwood: Australia ICOMOS. Accessed November 16, 2017. http://australia.icomos.org/wp-content/uploads/Collaboration-for-Conservation-A-brief-history-of-Australia-ICOMOS-and-the-Burra-Charter.pdf.).
The Burra Charter is a dynamic document that has evolved to reflect changes to professional practice and emerging issues. The challenges confronted by cultural heritage conservation practitioners and decision makers also change over time and have increasingly included broader societal considerations. Amendments to the original 1979 Burra Charter in 1999 and 2013 have responded accordingly by developing methodologies that engage with emergent issues, such as growing awareness of intangible attributes and the legitimate expectations of associated communities, to become more engaged in decision making for heritage, which is recognized and valued as a public asset. The fundamental values-based principles and logical sequence of processes of the Burra Charter, and its format and presentation, have not altered (Citation: Mackay, Richard. 2004. “Associative Value and the Revised Burra Charter: A Personal Perspective.” Historic Environment 18 (1): 35–36.), but are flexible and readily accommodate evolving notions of heritage and changing economic or political circumstances, as well as vastly different types of place. The resulting conservation policies and heritage management models have moved away from traditional fabric-centered approaches, which emerged in Europe during the mid-twentieth century, toward more holistic and innovative conservation solutions. The most impactful changes to the Burra Charter occurred in 1999 and included explicit recognition of nonphysical values such as “use, association and meaning,” cultural diversity and the potential for divergent or conflicting values, and the legitimate rights and expectations of people who are associated with a place (Citation: Truscott, Marilyn C. 2004. “Contexts for Change: Paving the Way to the 1999 Burra Charter.” Historic Environment 18 (1): 30–34.). This broader, more inclusive view of both values and people is apparent from the outset, in Article 1.2 of the 1999 charter:
Cultural significance means aesthetic, historic, scientific, social or spiritual value for past, present or future generations. Cultural significance is embodied in the place itself, its fabric, setting, use, associations, meanings, records, related places and related objects. Places may have a range of values for different individuals or groups. (Citation: Australia ICOMOS. 1999. The Burra Charter: The Australia ICOMOS Charter for Places of Cultural Significance. 1979; rev. 1999. Burwood: Australia ICOMOS. http://australia.icomos.org/wp-content/uploads/BURRA-CHARTER-1999_charter-only.pdf.)
The changes made to the Burra Charter in 2013 were directed primarily at standards of practice and also include development of a range of associated Practice Notes, which provide specific guidance on the application of the Burra Charter to matters ranging from Indigenous cultural heritage to new work at a heritage place or place interpretation (Citation: Australia ICOMOS. 2013b. Burra Charter Practice Notes. Burwood: Australia ICOMOS. http://australia.icomos.org/publications/charters/.). These guidelines, some of which are now in effect, with others still being prepared by Australia ICOMOS, provide evidence of the multiple types of place and variety of projects to which the Burra Charter may apply.
The charter is not without critics; some for instance suggest that there is an overreliance on intrinsic values of places (Citation: Zancheti, Sílvio Mendes, Lúcia Tone Ferreira Hidaka, Cecilia Ribeiro, and Barbara Aguiar. 2009. “Judgement and Validation in the Burra Charter Process: Introducing Feedback in Assessing the Cultural Significance of Heritage Sites.” City and Time 4 (2): 47–53. http://www.ct.ceci-br.org/novo/revista/viewarticle.php?id=146.), while others express skepticism regarding the respective roles and relative power of experts, as opposed to associated communities, basing such conclusions on the framework provided by Laurajane Smith’s concept of authorized heritage discourse (Citation: Smith, Laurajane. 2006. Uses of Heritage. London: Routledge.; Citation: Allen, Caitlin. 2004. “The Road from Burra: Thoughts on Using the Charter in the Future.” Historic Environment 18 (1): 50–53.; Citation: Waterton, Emma, Laurajane Smith, and Gary Campbell. 2006. “The Utility of Discourse Analysis to Heritage Studies: The Burra Charter and Social Inclusion.” International Journal of Heritage Studies 12 (4): 339–55.). Others still question whether the Burra Charter’s values-based approach deals adequately with living cultures (Citation: Poulios, Ioannis. 2010. “Moving Beyond a Values-Based Approach to Heritage Conservation.” Conservation and Management of Archaeological Sites 12 (2): 170–85.). While these are relevant and valid questions, such critiques typically originate from academic perspectives and are not always grounded in real experience or the actual local cultural context of the charter at work. There are instructive examples of the charter used effectively, in different cultural and community contexts, to assess, conserve, and manage a broad range of places with both tangible and intangible attributes, including as part of the Living with Heritage, Heritage Management Framework, and Tourism Management Plan projects at Angkor, Cambodia (Citation: Mackay, Richard, and Georgina Lloyd. 2013. “Capacity Building in Heritage Management at Angkor.” World Heritage Institute of Training and Research for the Asia and the Pacific Region Newsletter 26:21–24.; Citation: Mackay, Richard, and Stuart Palmer. 2014. “Tourism, World Heritage and Local Communities: An Ethical Framework in Practice at Angkor.” In The Ethics of Cultural Heritage: Memory, Management and Museums, edited by Tracy Ireland and John Schofield, 165–83. New York: Springer.). An important consequence of the growth in understanding of the knowledge, roles, and rights of associated people is the shift in professional practice from “expert” to “facilitator” (Citation: Sullivan, Sharon, and Richard Mackay, eds. 2012. Archaeological Sites: Conservation and Management. Readings in Conservation Series. Los Angeles: Getty Conservation Institute., 636).
The values-based approach of the Burra Charter is encapsulated in a simple and logical process, which is:
- Understand significance (understand the place and assess cultural significance);
- Determine policy (identify all factors and issues, develop policy, prepare a management plan);
- Manage in accordance with policy (implement the management plan, monitor the results, and review the plan).
This process is summarized in the simple steps shown in (fig. 8.1), which has been reproduced from the current (2013) version of the charter. The adaptability of the charter’s approach to suit varied types of value and different circumstances is discussed below in relation to three very different places and projects, all in Sydney.
Luna Park: Just for Fun
Luna Park is a 1930s-era amusement park located beside the northern end of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, on the harbor shoreline. It is listed in the New South Wales State Heritage Register, and several of its buildings and structures are also listed as heritage items at the local level (Citation: NSW Office of Environment and Heritage. 2017b. “State Heritage Database: Luna Park Precinct.” Accessed May 20, 2017. http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/heritageapp/ViewHeritageItemDetails.aspx?ID=5055827.).
The location of Luna Park has a layered history that commences with pre-European occupation of the harbor foreshore by Cadigal people of the Eora Nation, although no physical evidence from their presence remains. The postcolonial history of the site is closely bound to the development of the nearby city of Sydney and its North Shore. The wharf for the first regular ferry service across the harbor was here, and in the late nineteenth century the precinct become a major transport interchange for ferries, trains, and trams. In the 1920s the site held erecting shops (engineering workshops) and staging wharves for the construction of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, where steel components were assembled before being ferried onto the harbor and lifted into place.
Once the Sydney Harbour Bridge was completed and opened in 1935, elements of the workshop buildings, relocated amusement rides from Glenelg in South Australia, and new buildings, structures, and attractions were assembled on the sites of former erecting shops and staging wharves (fig. 8.2). The resulting new attraction, Luna Park, became a popular recreation venue for generations of Sydney residents and visitors (Citation: Marshall, Sam. 2005. Luna Park: Just for Fun. 2nd ed. Sydney: Luna Park Reserve Trust.). Over the years, the rides and amusements have come and gone. Artworks and structures have been repaired, maintained, and sometimes updated, but throughout the strong visual character and iconic elements, such as a jovial laughing face flanked by two scalloped towers, fantasy architecture in a vaguely Moorish style, and many examples of pop art, have been constant. Luna Park developed strong associations with such well-known artists as Rupert Browne, Arthur Barton, Sam Lipson, Peter Kingston, and Martin Sharp (Citation: NSW Office of Environment and Heritage. 2017b. “State Heritage Database: Luna Park Precinct.” Accessed May 20, 2017. http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/heritageapp/ViewHeritageItemDetails.aspx?ID=5055827.). Day and night the place smiles in a cheeky fashion across the waters beneath the Sydney Harbour Bridge at the Sydney Opera House; its color, humor, and movement distinguish Luna Park from every other harbor landmark.
Following a fire at the Ghost Train attraction in 1979 (in which five people lost their lives), Luna Park was closed and then reopened a number of times as its owners struggled to remain commercially viable and contemplated development opportunities, until the lease on the site was resumed (compulsorily acquired) by the New South Wales State Government on the basis that the place was an important community asset for the people of Sydney (Citation: GML Heritage. 2015. “Luna Park, Sydney Conservation Management Plan.” Unpublished report prepared for Luna Park Sydney Pty. Ltd.). In 1995, following the preparation of a conservation management plan, removal of hazardous and structurally defective material, and extensive reconstruction, Luna Park reopened under the management of a state-government-appointed trust, only to close a few years later, then reopen again in 2003 under private-sector stewardship through a new lease, following further physical changes, including the introduction of additional restaurant and event facilities, plus ride replacements, reconstruction, and upgrades, all of which were guided by a values-based approach and the conservation plan. The place has continued to operate under this arrangement in the period since, although a new conservation management plan, which reflects the current circumstances of the site, was prepared in 2015 (Citation: GML Heritage. 2015. “Luna Park, Sydney Conservation Management Plan.” Unpublished report prepared for Luna Park Sydney Pty. Ltd.).
Unusually, the primary heritage values of Luna Park vest not in original historic fabric, but rather in its concept, design, and traditional use. What is most important about it is its role as part of the “collective childhood” of Sydney and the memories and meanings that the place and its iconic features have in the minds and hearts of Sydneysiders. These values are reflected in the following extract from the official State Heritage Register statement of significance:
Luna Park is important as a place of significance to generations of the Australian Public, in particular Sydneysiders who have strong memories and associations with the place. Its landmark location at the centre of Sydney Harbour together with its recognisable character has endowed it with a far wider sense of ownership, granting it an iconic status. (Citation: NSW Office of Environment and Heritage. 2017b. “State Heritage Database: Luna Park Precinct.” Accessed May 20, 2017. http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/heritageapp/ViewHeritageItemDetails.aspx?ID=5055827., n.p.)
The unusual circumstances of Luna Park and the nature of the attributes that encapsulate its heritage values require an equally unusual approach to conservation. Over the first half century of Luna Park operations, there were incremental changes and periodic upgrades of buildings, rides, and amusements. For example, during the 1930s and 1940s, the entrance Face, which was first built from ephemeral materials such as chicken wire, plaster, and papier-mâché, changed its appearance slightly with every round of maintenance (fig. 8.3). Rides came and went, but the core layout, major architectural elements, iconography, and amusement park use continued. By the 1990s the structural condition of some buildings and the imperative to remove hazardous materials, such as asbestos cement sheeting, had resulted in total reconstruction of the major buildings—the Face, Crystal Palace, and Coney Island—with each remaining faithful to a known earlier design, color scheme, and external appearance. The only original elements to be kept were some steel structures, interior murals, a few historic ride attractions, and minor decorative components (fig. 8.4).
The new interventions—which far exceed the usual scale of physical conservation for historic places—are the key to a viable and enduring future. Very little authentic original 1930s, or even pre-1990s, built fabric remains, yet, paradoxically, the authenticity and integrity of Luna Park has been retained. Intangible attributes—the traditional amusement park use, distinctive visual appearance, and ability to evoke powerful memories—are essential to the social values of the place. Consistent with the Burra Charter methodology, it is these uses and associations and memories, rather than historic fabric, that remain constant, thereby retaining Luna Park’s social values and guiding its conservation.
Continuing use as an amusement park is an essential aspect of the heritage value of Luna Park. The Burra Charter overtly recognizes that use can be an important cultural attribute and that adaptation may be necessary to retain cultural significance:
Where the use of a place is of cultural significance it should be retained. (Article 7.1)
A place should have a compatible use. (Article 7.2) (Citation: Australia ICOMOS. 2013a. The Burra Charter: The Australia ICOMOS Charter for Places of Cultural Significance. Burwood: Australia ICOMOS. http://australia.icomos.org/wp-content/uploads/The-Burra-Charter-2013-Adopted-31.10.2013.pdf.)
At Luna Park, retention of heritage value through use of the place relies on the ongoing presence of rides and amusements. However, like any other amusement park, Luna Park must regularly refresh its offerings so that its clientele may enjoy new, exciting experiences. Developments in both technology and materials mean that new rides provide greater thrills than the rides available in the mid-twentieth century. Increased safety standards may require existing traditional rides to incorporate new safety features. Changes are inevitable. Luna Park’s approach to these constraints is unusual: by maintaining the characteristic layout, and including “nostalgic” elements, which reflect the spirit of the traditional rides, the contemporary Luna Park retains its identity and values while accommodating other factors such as market context and changing statutory requirements. So, while the distinctive built form and configuration of Luna Park is maintained, different buildings, structures, rides, and amusements may come and go.
The manner in which original significant elements have been treated since the 1990s accords with the applicable principles of the Burra Charter:
Restoration and reconstruction should reveal culturally significant aspects of the place. (Article 18)
Reconstruction is appropriate only where a place is incomplete through damage or alteration, and only where there is sufficient evidence to reproduce an earlier state of the fabric. In some cases, reconstruction may also be appropriate as part of a use or practice that retains the cultural significance of the place. (Article 20.1) (Citation: Australia ICOMOS. 2013a. The Burra Charter: The Australia ICOMOS Charter for Places of Cultural Significance. Burwood: Australia ICOMOS. http://australia.icomos.org/wp-content/uploads/The-Burra-Charter-2013-Adopted-31.10.2013.pdf.)
Physical conservation work on existing structures follows these principles, recognizing that most significant elements at Luna Park are already reconstructed.
With regard to the aforementioned factors, the new conservation management plan includes the following statements in the general policy for the conservation and management of Luna Park:
Luna Park should be operated as a traditional amusement park, and should include original rides and amusements, while also allowing for change such as refurbishment and updating of existing rides and installation of new rides …
Components from all periods of the history of Luna Park contribute to its heritage significance.
Much of the essential significance of Luna Park is symbolic and derives from the concept and design of built elements and decorations. Where physical factors prevent the retention of fabric identified as significant, new fabric may be introduced to enable reconstruction of significant elements …
The history and significance of Luna Park should be made accessible to visitors, passers-by and others through both on and off site interpretation. (Citation: GML Heritage. 2015. “Luna Park, Sydney Conservation Management Plan.” Unpublished report prepared for Luna Park Sydney Pty. Ltd., 41–42)
These policies directly address the importance of the use of the place, providing a framework to manage adaptation while conserving heritage values. In this context, adaptation may involve additions to the place; the introduction of new facilities, amusements, rides, or services; or changes to safeguard the place itself and the people who visit. The policy approach is thereby founded on the values framework of the Burra Charter, rather than presuming that physical conservation is paramount.
The BIG DIG: On The Rocks
In 1994, archaeological investigations in The Rocks—a historic precinct immediately north of the modern city of Sydney—revealed an extraordinary physical record of one of Australia’s earliest colonial settlements. Today this site, which became known as the BIG DIG, is home to a bustling youth hostel and archaeology education center operated by YHA Australia. Remarkably, the adaptation and development of this site has enabled in situ conservation and interpretation of extensive foundations and other remains associated with the community that lived here for a century following the first arrival of European settlers on the Australian continent. The youth hostel project accommodated multiple, interwoven heritage values and development issues: archaeology, physical conservation, social significance, engagement with stakeholders, public-private interface, and tension between economic and heritage values (fig. 8.5).
The BIG DIG site is located between Cumberland and Gloucester Streets on a rocky ridge projecting into Sydney Harbour on the western side of Sydney Cove. It was here that Europeans stepped ashore when Australia was invaded and colonized in 1788, and for the ensuing two decades it was a place where resourceful convicts were permitted to build small dwellings. As the settlement grew, intensification saw the erection of small terraces and, later, large-scale maritime facilities, bond stores (warehouses), and merchant houses (Citation: Mackay, Richard, and Chris Johnston. 2010. “Heritage Management and Community Connections: On The Rocks.” Journal of Architectural Conservation 16 (1): 55–74.). By the end of the nineteenth century there were numerous buildings, including rows of terrace housing, three hotels, and a bakery. However, following the arrival of bubonic plague, the area was resumed by the state government, the buildings were demolished, and the physical remains from early colonial times were buried. The site was variously used for industrial purposes and as a car park over the course of the twentieth century, and the structures and other physical remains from early colonial times remained buried and largely forgotten until archaeological investigations in 1994 (Citation: Karskens, Grace. 1999. Inside The Rocks: The Archaeology of a Neighbourhood. Sydney: Hale and Iremonger.; Citation: Godden Mackay Pty. Ltd. and Grace Karskens. 1999. The Cumberland Gloucester Streets Site Archaeological Investigation. 6 vols. Redfern, Australia: Godden Mackay Logan Pty. Ltd.).
The archaeological investigations were initially directed at determining the nature and extent of any surviving features, in advance of development. However, over the course of several months of painstaking work, the archaeological team and hundreds of volunteer participants uncovered a rich chronicle of early Sydney that far exceeded all expectations: intact streets, substantial building remains, landscape features, extensive undisturbed historical deposits, and hundreds of thousands of artifacts. It was soon realized that the site provided extremely rare surviving evidence of the convict and ex-convict community established on The Rocks at the time of Australia’s first European colony and is “one of few surviving places in The Rocks where a substantial physical connection exists to the time of first settlement, including the huts and scattered houses built on and carved into the sandstone outcrops that gave The Rocks its name” (Citation: NSW Office of Environment and Heritage. 2017a. “State Heritage Database: Cumberland Street Archaeological Site.” Accessed May 20, 2017. http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/heritageapp/ViewHeritageItemDetails.aspx?ID=5056816., n.p.).
The BIG DIG site retains historic associative values arising from a combination of documentary and physical evidence of historic events, processes, and people. Other heritage values changed over the course of the archaeological investigation project, with archaeological potential (often characterized as “scientific value”) being realized and other values being generated. These include the aesthetic qualities of the evocative ruins that were exposed, newly created social values arising from the public perceptions that followed community involvement and media interest, as well as the educational value of the place, the artifacts, and the related documents and knowledge. The site provides a compelling example of the mutable quality of heritage values.
For more than a decade after the major phase of on-site investigations, and following abandonment of plans for commercial development, the BIG DIG site lay idle until YHA Australia secured the opportunity to build a youth hostel and archaeology education center. While the core business of YHA Australia is hostels, the ensuing success of the enterprise was founded on realization of the potential synergy between low-cost accommodation in the heart of a major city and the opportunity for “hands on” experience of Sydney’s history, which arose from the high interpretive and educational potential of the place. This realization, in turn, drove a values-based design approach using the Burra Charter framework.
No attempt was made to reconstruct or rebuild any former structures. Instead, the archaeological team carefully assessed and mapped every feature on-site and graded its relative heritage significance, based on judgements of historic association, aesthetic quality, research, educational potential, and physical integrity. This plan—based on heritage values, rather than the client’s operational brief—set the framework for the design of the building above, particularly its structure and foundations (Citation: Alexander Tzannes Associates and Godden Mackay Logan Pty. Ltd. 2006. “The Rocks Dig Site, Sydney Australia, Conservation Management Strategy and Archaeological and Urban Design Parameters.” Unpublished report for YHA Australia Ltd. Sydney.).
The resulting built form touches down on less than 5 percent of the remnant archaeological site; the matrix-like steel frame uses techniques such as cross bracing and transfer beams to avoid significant features. Every ground disturbance required for construction was hand excavated, using the same methods and research framework as the original excavations. An impervious platform built across the site prevented inadvertent damage from spills or unauthorized interventions during the construction phase.
The three modern structures all occupy areas where previous buildings and their external facades aligned with historic streets. In places these are interpreted using metal screens and historic images (fig. 8.6a and fig. 8.6b). Externally, the buildings present as new elements of contrasting but sympathetic design within the surrounding late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century streetscape. Voids within the hostel buildings provide views of remains, which are interpreted through signs, historic images, and artwork. Other devices, such as the naming of rooms, artifact displays, and wire sculptures contribute to the multiple levels of message and meaning conveyed to visitors.