Some thoughts on heritage from Korea – UNESCO Asia Pacific Mayors’ Forum for World Heritage Cities
August 30, 2012 1 Comment
This week I had the honour of been invited by UNESCO to represent Australian mayors with world heritage sites in their cities at a United Nations forum in the historic city of Gyeongju in South Korea. (In fact all week I have been answering to the name Australia Mayor!)
My trip to South Korea got off to a rather bumpy start with a typhoon hitting South Korea just before my arrival delaying flights, cancelling the high speed trains and creating one of the roughest flight and landings I have ever experienced.
Over thirty hours after I left WA (with almost no sleep) I finally arrived in Gyeongju just hours before the forum kicked off with Mayors from places as diverse as China, Uzbekistan, Palau and Korea.
A key theme that has emerged out of the first day of the conference was the familiar Fremantle theme of heritage and urban density. It was interesting to see that the debates within UNESCO around heritage in urban areas from the Taj Mahal to Vienna to London mirror the debates Fremantle has had in recent years.
There are 962 World Heritage Sites in total and 260 of these are world heritage site within cities (including Fremantle – although only 10% are in the Asia Pacific region). These heritage cities all have the challenge of managing the interface the old with newer, higher density urban developments. In some places it is been done well (ie Vienna) but in others such a Georgetown, Malaysia and even parts of London there are real concerns about how compatible planned new, more intensive developments are with existing heritage areas.
Despite the controversy around heights and A49 in Fremantle it is pretty clear that Fremantle is doing it pretty well (up there with the best heritage cities around the world) by ensuring new developments are away from core heritage areas like the West End and the World Heritage listed Fremantle Prison and are of an appropriate density (6-10 floors) not over bearing, huge high-rise.
I was able to share Fremantle’s approach to heritage protection including the use of precincts with different characteristics, heights and buffer zones, as well as levels of heritage ratings we use for buildings in Fremantle. I think this was seen as helpful by many Mayors in the room who had did not have these kinds of governance arrangements in place in their cities yet.
I also presented a paper on Heritage and Environmental Sustainability using Fremantle as an example which was well received.
If you are interested in more on this see the recommendation by UNESCO for heritage and urban areas: http://whc.unesco.org/en/cities
The full forum schedule is here if you are interested:
We finished the day with a traditional Korean Meal and entertainment followed by a night visit to a nearby world heritage site.