Enhancing Livability in World Heritage Cities
World Heritage Cities call for good practices in ensuring conservation and enhancement of their heritage. These practices must also take into account that historic cities are living places that evolve and adapt to the realities of communities who live there today. The UNESCO Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage also indicates this objective and stipulates that States Parties shall endeavor “[…] to adopt a general policy which aims to give the cultural and natural heritage function in the life of the community and to integrate the protection of that heritage into comprehensive planning programmes” (Art. 5(a)). This ability to ensure the preservation of the past while meeting the needs of the present will allow World Heritage Cities to offer a remarkable quality of life to their residents.
At several levels, these cities are already successful models of quality of life and well-being. Their urban fabric, sometimes centuries old, is an example of sustainability and the plurality of this built environment, in its forms and its functions, promotes an essential diversity to create open and inclusive communities. Built on a human scale, these cities also allow those who live there to benefit from high-quality public spaces that are favorable to interactions, exchanges, and solidarity between citizens. It is therefore not surprising that this liveability, so typical of World Heritage Cities, is being increasingly cited as an example, and that some of the greatest assets of these places have become a source of inspiration for planners and architects who are designing the cities of tomorrow.
However, with growing urbanization, World Heritage cities are also under heavy pressure. In some of them, increasingly unaffordable rents and unsustainable tourism displace local communities that have been living there for generations. In others, unviable urban development contributes to the disappearance of places or practices that carry an invaluable tangible and intangible heritage. And it is without taking into account the increasing climatic upheavals, and the consequent humanitarian crises, which are dangers that weigh more and more heavily on this heritage of humanity. All of these problems, and many others, can greatly affect the quality of life and well-being of local communities.
Inspired by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the New Urban Agenda and the Historic Urban Landscape (HUL) approach, the OWHC wishes to reflect on the solutions that will address these issues to enhance the liveability and highlight the uniqueness and identity of World Heritage Cities. By facing these challenges, these cities can become even stronger models of urbanity and conviviality.
2021 – Québec, Canada
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