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The Essence of Place

The Essence of Place

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 THE ESSENCE OF PLACE:ACHIEVING HARMONY FOR ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENTAND TOURISM IN A HERITAGE AND CULTURAL LANDSCAPEBy: Cheryl D. Soon, FAICPPrepared for the Unites States Chapter, International Council on Monuments and Sites(US/ICOMOS)International SymposiumSan FranciscoApril 18-21, 2007
 ABSTRACT Place theory exists at an intersection of economic growth and sustainability; of heritage and tourism. How do special places, including historic and cultural landscapesattractive to travelers, create harmony and balance? The theme of this paper is that harmony is achieved when the community and indigenous culture are both consulted and in control of outcomes. Some parts of the culture must remain sacred, or taboo. Other  parts may be made available upon invitation. Areas that have been previouslydisrespected must have their spirit, or mana and power returned before things can bemade right.This paper contributes to the literature on place, heritage, culture and landscapein a tourist-attractive setting by exploring the importance and reasons for ensuring anative voice in and control over place management decisions. This is done by presenting four case studies from the Hawaiian islands: the Northwest Hawaiian Island MarineConservation Monument, Waimea Valley (Oahu), Kahalu’u ahupua’a (Keauhou, Hawaii)and Hanalei (Kauai).The lengthiest case study is Hanalei District, an spectacular example of a historicand cultural landscape. Vernacular use and man-made structures interact with thenatural setting, and this relationship creates the essence of the place. This rich culturaland heritage area boasts eight buildings and structures and one district on the National Register. The single winding road along the coast, Kuhio Highway, was placed on the Register in 2004. With this designation came an acknowledgment that proper management was critical.Tension over how to manage the road had a long history. Community interestsand preservationists wanted to keep the existing character, including its one-lanebridges. Transportation officials wanted to bring the road up to “current standards.”Polarized interests, tired of battling, sat down to understand each other in a community-based process called “Context Sensitive Design.” Concerns over liability and safety werereconciled with values of respect for the land and place. Connection to the land becamethe basis for management. This process and plan are a powerful case study useful toothers trying to reconcile differences and seek balance..
The Hawaiian Islands are deservedly well known for their beauty, exotic featuresand their cultural diversity. Due to their relative isolation, for centuries the islandsretained their health and beauty. But these features are attractive to visitors, who canoverwhelm and compromise a place. In the last half century, Hawaii moved throughseveral eras in its approach to tourism, which unfortunately included many practices thatthreatened and in places destroyed the ecology, the history and more. This has led tocalls for re-examination of the host-visitor-place dynamic. These calls are led by nativecultural practitioners who decry the mass marketing approach with a fake version of Hawaii (Apo, 2002; Kanahele, 1986; Takamine, 2004, and others).The knowledge that visitors actually change the place, and too often to thedetriment of that place, is not new information, nor is it unique to Hawaii (Bosselman,1978; Honey, 1999; Alsayyad, 2001; Chafe, 2004; Craik, 1997; Graham, 2001; Hall,1994; McCannell, 2001). Section One of this paper contains a discussion of the elementsof the host-visitor-place dynamic both globally and in Hawaii.Preservation and management issues in the Pacific, be they for tourism, economicdevelopment, or survival of species and indeed the planet, cover an almost inconceivablerange of diversity, challenge and opportunity. Section Two of this paper highlights foursuch settings and places, each with different management challenges. The paper explainsopportunities for addressing those challenges through approaches rooted in nativeHawaiian culture. Where necessary, key Hawaiian concepts are explained and their3

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