Read / Sustainability and Urban Heritage

article by James Lesh

Frozen in time, we’ve become blind to ways to build sustainability into our urban heritage

by James Lesh / read the full article on The Conversation

It was hard to keep up with all the bad news coming out of the recent Australia State of the Environment report. The dire state of natural places and First Nations heritage rightly attracted attention. However, one important finding was overlooked: the poor state of Australia’s so-called historic heritage.

The report found this heritage is at risk on many fronts. It’s under pressure from land development, resource extraction, poorly managed tourism, climate change and inadequate management and protections.

In a familiar framing, the report points the finger at urban development and other changes. However, this mindset itself is actually an obstacle to protecting our urban heritage.

Change in our cities, and to our heritage, is both inevitable and necessary. Our relationships to neighbourhoods and places constantly evolve, as we learnt during COVID-19 lockdowns.

Policy ideas framed by sustainability, such as adaptive management that encourages heritage places to change and evolve, are more sensible. Flexible and creative responses to heritage places should be allowed.

An example of embracing change is the Walsh Bay Arts Precinct in Sydney. The project has reimagined maritime heritage for culture and the arts.

Adopting new perspectives won’t only preserve our historic buildings and places by enabling us to shape them for today’s needs. It will also mean urban heritage can contribute to cities becoming more socially, economically and environmentally sustainable.

read the full article on The Conversation