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Report on the 15th US/ICOMOS International Symposium

Report on the 15th US/ICOMOS International Symposium

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Commentary, Review and Conclusions from the 15th US/ICOMOS International Symposium: Confluence of Cultures - World Heritage in the Americas, 31 May - 2 June, 2012, San Antonio, Texas. Edited by William A. Dupont.
Commentary, Review and Conclusions from the 15th US/ICOMOS International Symposium: Confluence of Cultures - World Heritage in the Americas, 31 May - 2 June, 2012, San Antonio, Texas. Edited by William A. Dupont.

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05/21/2014

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 C
OMMENTARY
,
 
R
EVIEW AND
C
ONCLUSIONS OF THE
 15
TH
US/ICOMOS
 
INTERNATIONAL
 
SYMPOSIUM
C
ONFLUENCE OF
C
ULTURES
 
W
ORLD
H
ERITAGE IN THE
A
MERICAS
 
S
AN
A
NTONIO
,
 
T
EXAS
 31
 
M
AY
 –
 
2
 
J
UNE
2012U
NITED
S
TATES
N
ATIONAL
C
OMMITTEE OF THE
I
NTERNATIONAL
C
OUNCIL ON
M
ONUMENTS AND
S
ITES
 C
OMITÉ
N
ATIONAL DES
E
TATS
U
NIS DU
C
ONSEIL
I
NTERNATIONAL DES
M
ONUMENTS ET DES
S
ITES
 
C
ONTENTS
 
Opening Plenary: Confluence of Cultures, World Heritage in the Americas
Moderator Comments by Frederick R. SteinerSession Assistant: Sara Ludeña.Invited Speaker: Felipe Hernández
Session One: Authenticity and Identity in the 21st century
Moderator Comments by Elizabeth Chu RichterSession Assistant: Sarah SimisterInvited Speakers/ Presenters: Olga Orive, Ayman G. Abdel Tawab, Eve Errickson, Catherine Barrier
Session Two: Cultural Sustainability
Moderator Comments by Stephen KelleySession Assistant: Rosanna VillarealInvited Speakers/ Presenters: Eusebio Leal, Olga Pizano, Angela Rojas, Lisa Prosper
Session Three: Continuity and Urban Growth in Cultural Heritage
Moderator Comments by David G. WoodcockSession Assistant: Nancy BryantInvited Speakers/ Presenters: Edward Soja, Susan Lampard, Patricia O’Donnell, Marcela Hurtado
Closing Plenary: Confluence of Cultures, World Heritage in the Americas
Moderator Comments by William A. DupontSession Assistant: Angela LombardiParticipants: Susanne Deal Booth, Frederick R. Steiner, Elizabeth Chu Richter, Stephen Kelley, David G.Woodcock
 
 C
OMMENTARY
,
 
R
EVIEW AND
C
ONCLUSIONS OF THE
 15
TH
US/ICOMOS
 
INTERNATIONAL
 
SYMPOSIUM
U
NITED
S
TATES
N
ATIONAL
C
OMMITTEE OF THE
I
NTERNATIONAL
C
OUNCIL ON
M
ONUMENTS AND
S
ITES
 C
OMITÉ
N
ATIONAL DES
E
TATS
U
NIS DU
C
ONSEIL
I
NTERNATIONAL DES
M
ONUMENTS ET DES
S
ITES
 
C
ONFLUENCE OF
C
ULTURES
,
 
W
ORLD
H
ERITAGE IN THE
A
MERICAS
 
Moderator Comments by Frederick R. SteinerThe overarching theme of this symposium was “the confluence of cultures.” As a result, we should beginby exploring what we mean by culture and confluence. Cultures evolve in part from how people interactwith each other and with the natural environment. An important lesson from ecology is that the richestand most productive habitats are where ecosystems overlap, that is, at their confluence. We call suchplaces “ecotones.” San Antonio is an ecotone both naturally and culturally.Naturally, the city sits between the Edwards Plateau and the Hill Country to the west, and the BlacklandPrairie, East Central Texas Plains, and the Gulf Coastal Plain to the east. The Edwards Aquifer is one of the most productive groundwater resources in the world and the sole source of drinking water for theCity of San Antonio.Many springs are located at this intersection between plateau and prairie. These springs feed theregion’s rich system of rivers and streams. Native Americans recognized the great value of thisconfluence of springs, rivers, and rich habitats. They established many settlements along what is nowthe I-35 corridor. The springs provided water and the diverse habitats presented many opportunities forhunting. The Spanish followed suit and established their missions along the same corridor. Around themission, the Mexican Tejas culture emerged. The Spanish were succeeded by Americans (mostly fromthe southern states), Germans, Poles, and Czechs. A rich and productive culture has, indeed, resulted atthis ecotone here in San Antonio.Stepping back and looking more broadly, we also sit on a much larger ecotone—the one between theUnited States and Mexico, a place where Latin America overlaps with cultures originating in NorthernEurope. We’re clearly at a confluence of cultures.San Antonio forms the base of the Texas Triangle Megaregion with Houston; Dallas-Ft. Worth is at theapex. This is one of the fastest growing megaregions in the United States, which poses significantchallenges and opportunities for preservation, design, and planning.Through preservation we should, as Lisa Prosper notes, renew cultures in place by way of practices of inhabitation. Through design and planning, we envision preferred futures. As a result, preservation,design, and planning are valuable tools for human adaptation. Of our design and planning disciplines,architecture is our oldest and most well-established profession.We were privileged to have a significant architectural scholar as our kick-off keynote speaker. Dr. FelipeHernández joined us from the University of Cambridge. He is a productive author and editor of works onLatin American architecture and urbanism. The topic of his talk was the architecture heritage andcontested landscapes of the 20th century city. These are certainly important topics in Texas.Felipe Hernández presented a number of questions about architectural history and architecturalheritage, with a focus on Latin America. He noted the traditional divide between what is regarded ashistorical in the Western classical sense and nonhistorical, which is essentially everything else. I wouldadd a second shortcoming of traditional architectural history; that is, its close affiliation with art history.Art historians focus on big names and objects (and they emphasize what’s new and different). This view
 
 C
OMMENTARY
,
 
R
EVIEW AND
C
ONCLUSIONS OF THE
 15
TH
US/ICOMOS
 
INTERNATIONAL
 
SYMPOSIUM
U
NITED
S
TATES
N
ATIONAL
C
OMMITTEE OF THE
I
NTERNATIONAL
C
OUNCIL ON
M
ONUMENTS AND
S
ITES
 C
OMITÉ
N
ATIONAL DES
E
TATS
U
NIS DU
C
ONSEIL
I
NTERNATIONAL DES
M
ONUMENTS ET DES
S
ITES
 
of architectural history is not necessarily compatible with how Dr. Hernández defined heritage–theconnection of things with people.In order to more adequately connect things and people, architectural history needs to move beyond itsWestern classical, heroic figure, and object-based orientation. It needs to move beyond the cult of thenew and different. To more fully account for the ordinary, the field can learn much from culturalgeography, ethnography, and landscape and urban studies. Dr. Hernández suggested, for example, theneed for architectural historians to more fully understand the suburbia from the second half of the 20thcentury and the informal settlements that dominate much of the Latin American urban landscape.Dr. Hernández noted that we should think about history and heritage in broader, more creative ways.He advocated a new architectural language to better describe and interpret ordinary landscapes. Ibelieve such a language should incorporate an understanding of ecology and regional cultural history. Inthis regard, I suggest Anne Spirn’s wonderful book,
The Landscape of Landscape
, as an appropriatestarting point. She illustrates how landscapes are a confluence of nature and culture with vocabularieswe can read for preservation, design, and planning.
Frederick R. Steiner is the dean of the School of Architecture, University of Texas at Austin. Previously, hewas director of the School of Planning and Landscape Architecture and Environmental Design, ArizonaState University and taught planning, landscape architecture, and environmental science at WashingtonState University, the University of Colorado-Denver, and the University of Pennsylvania. As a Fulbright-Hays Scholar in 1980, he conducted research and ecological planning at the Wageningen Agricultural and Environmental Science University, The Netherlands. In 1998, he was the National Endowment for the Arts Rome Prize Fellow in Historic Preservation and Conservation at the American Academy in Rome.

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