1 — Monday October 6, 2003
|Monday’s workshops covered virtually
the entire gamut of challenges and hurdles that stand in the way of
truly meaningful heritage preservation and its integration into cities’
ongoing development. (See full program.)
1: A Heritage Feeling in New Orleans: Preservation Associations
Versus the Business Community
who holds a PhD in Cultural Geography from Université Laval
and teaches at Université du Québec à Montréal,
examined the close but often conflictual relationship between the
heritage awareness of residents of the Vieux-Carré (French
Quarter) district of New Orleans and the enthusiasm surrounding the
emergence of mass tourism (which simultaneously confirms and compromises
the area’s heritage wealth).
A jewel of French and Spanish colonial heritage
and a cradle of Creole culture lost to poverty, the Vieux-Carré
was first revived in the 1930s by businessmen who, banking on the
nostalgic appeal of a mythic past, saw it as ripe for commercial
development. “Social cleansing” and expropriations followed;
historical properties were demolished and new hotels built (more
than 40 of them, not including clandestine operations and bed &
breakfasts, within a 1.3-hectare area), all strongly opposed by
citizens’ commissions. A plan to run a highway through the
area was narrowly averted in 1970, but growing tourism, parades,
festivals, Mardi Gras and various carnavals and voodoo celebrations
brought higher crime rates and insecurity. Access to housing and
property in the district was seriously compromised by the expropriation
of key sites and the demolition of buildings deemed unprofitable
by promoters. Caught between political responsibility and financial
profitability, the municipality must often give in to the pressures
of mercantile interests that “perpetuate the myth” while
paying precious little attention to authentic heritage concerns.
The ensuing discussions pointed to the risks of excessively
tourism-oriented development, where the danger is that historic
neighbourhoods will be stripped of their very substance, both in
the name of, and as a result of, promotion of their heritage assets.
2: Redevelopment Perspectives of Historical Places: A Case Study
of Hanoi (Vietnam)
||Dr Nam-Son Ngo-Viet,
an urban planning and historical conservation consultant, spoke about
the controversy opposing advocates of thorough preservation of the
original character of Old Hanoi (which would guarantee tourism income
and prosperity) and those who support modernizing this disadvantaged
neighbourhood (which would improve health conditions and quality of
life for its 200,000 residents, among other benefits).
The Vietnamese government supports preservation
of the neighbourhood, also known as Ba-Muoi-Sau Pho-Phuong, but
lacks the financial means to do so and is actively seeking Unesco
funding in this regard.
At the same time, researchers and experts are engaged in efforts
to raise awareness among Hanoi’s citizens of the urgent need
to protect this millennial heritage site for its historical, cultural
and identifying value (not to mention the tourism and economic benefits).
They also hope to convince the business community — which
is skeptical of a restoration project that has no immediately tangible
benefit — of the importance of investing in such preservation.
The strategy of Old Hanoi’s defenders is to promote participation
by citizens and international bodies; to identify, restore and preserve
historic sites, including their various levels of historical reference;
to preserve the character of the streets while enhancing the surrounding
areas as well as quality of life; to reduce the pressure to develop;
and to reconcile pedestrian and vehicular traffic.
As discussions near the end of the workshop emphasized, the
high demographic density of Old Hanoi and the central government’s
prioritizing of economic and social development make the task of
the champions of integral heritage preservation singularly difficult.
3: Heritage for Today: Cultural Institutions in Old Montréal
and Their Experience
Director of Exhibits and Research at Pointe-à-Callière,
the Montréal Museum of Archaeology and History, and Jean-François
Leclerc, Director of the Montréal History Centre,
noted the many efforts by an association of Old Montréal
museums and cultural bodies to find new ways of communicating information
and holding public activities, and the considerable impact they
have had on the neighbourhood’s recent emergence as a living
space into which the heritage dimension is harmoniously integrated.
In the past 10 years or so, museums, archaeological
societies and cultural groups in this historical neighbourhood have
successfully explored new approaches to dissemination of information
and knowledge in a bid to infuse Old Montréal’s past
with new life and meaning, while avoiding the dangers of “museumification”
of heritage neighbourhoods.
Exploiting to the fullest the natural connections
between the museum institutions and the surrounding heritage district,
the association views the consolidation of true neighbourhood life
— involving citizens, commercial interests, and multifunctionality
— as an indispensable component of a “sustainable urban
A representative of City of Dijon was delighted
to hear of this involvement by cultural institutions in public awareness
of historical neighbourhoods, remarking that more often than not,
a commercial, tourism-driven vision predominates.
This workshop highlighted the determination
of residents and experts, the political will of government bodies,
the openness of merchants and promoters and, especially, the commitment
of Montréal’s cultural and museum institutions to showcasing
not only Old Montréal’s tangible heritage, but also
its enduring soul.
4: Globalization and New Opportunities for Historical Cities
||Razieh H. S.
Rezazadeh, who has a PhD in Urban Planning and is an associate
professor at Iran University of Science and Technology, described
the often beneficial effects of so-called globalization, which, although
mostly associated with the spread of U.S.A.-style “modernity,”
is also nurturing international networking efforts allowing historical
cities to bring their culture- and heritage-related struggles to the
public forum par excellence that is the global village.
In Prof. Rezazadeh’s view, it is because
their cultural singularity is now under threat from globalization
that the world’s cities are becoming more conscious of their
heritage and refusing to stand by and watch it be vandalized or
trivialized. To counter the adverse effects of globalization, she
said, it is in the interest of cities to fully exploit the tools
for research and exchange that globalization itself makes available
Taking advantage of the ease of communication,
transportation and networking now made possible by globalization,
Ms. Rezazadeh came to Montréal for the express purpose of
blocking the planned construction of a modern, New York City-style
office tower in the very heart of the old neighbourhood of the city
of Esfahan. She planned to use the prestigious forum provided by
this international conference to raise world awareness of this issue
and, more important, discuss it directly with the Mayor of Esfahan,
Sayed Mortaza Saghaian Nejad Esfahani, who was
also attending the Conference. And yet their meeting — which,
according to the protagonists themselves would have been unthinkable
in Iran — was, much like the skyscraper project at issue,
a fruit of the current process of globalization.
In response to a question from the floor, Ms.
Rezazadeh expressed her regret that, for economic as well as political
reasons, Iran’s rich heritage remains inaccessible to international
tourism — for that factor alone would drive the investments
so sorely needed to preserve that heritage.
5: Protecting and Showcasing Heritage Assets: The National Capital
Commission in Ottawa
holder of a PhD in Historical Geography and manager of the Heritage
Program at the National Capital Commission in Ottawa, pointed to the
urgent need to develop new policies aimed at preserving heritage landscapes,
as centuries-old testimonials to the ongoing interaction between citizens
and their urban ecosystem.
Pointing to the development work already accomplished
on the LeBreton Flats, Canadian War Museum, and Chaudière
Islands sites, Ms. Villeneuve emphasized the importance of timely
definition of guidelines and principles for action, analytical parameters
and methods, as well as classification of so-called blue, green
and landscape heritage zones.
The LeBreton Flats, a neighbourhood that was wiped
out by a huge fire at the turn of the 20th century, has gradually
yielded an impressive number of archeological evidence going back
to the earliest human settlements there, from which more than 80,000
artefacts have so far been recovered. The War Museum site has benefited
from decontamination and soil remediation as well as infrastructure
improvements to the surrounding parkland and roads network. The
Chaudière and Victoria Islands Planning Initiative, meanwhile,
will result in a harmonious blend of Aboriginal and Victorian traditions,
bearing witness to more than 4,000 years of habitation.
6: Montréal’s “Operation Local Heritage”
Gravel, Head of the Heritage and Toponymy Division of the
City of Montréal’s Economic and Urban Development Department,
is the initiator of a wide-ranging program to raise public awareness
of Montréal’s built heritage, and the sense of shared
identity that may be derived from it.
The program, dubbed Opération patrimoine
architectural de Montréal, aims to improve the quality
of the maintenance and restoration of privately owned residential
and commercial heritage buildings, and in so doing increase their
owners’ pride in them. To this effect, every year a committee
of professionals selects exemplary building in each of the City
of Montréal’s boroughs, ensuring representation by
the different types of architecture that give Montréal its
Because the quality of the work is dependent upon
the expertise of skilled craftspersons, Opération patrimoine
architectural acknowledges the excellence of their work in
all fields, including woodworking and metalworking. By drawing public
attention to these artisans, the City encourages property owners
to be careful about choosing their suppliers, while motivating craftspersons
to constantly improve and maintain the quality of their work.
For two weeks in September each year, municipal
departments, boroughs, the media and sponsors, along with several
partners including museums, libraries and historical societies,
join forces to publicly promote this campaign to raise awareness
of Montréal’s built heritage.
7: Montréal, a North American Hub
Geographer and Université
du Québec à Montréal professor David
B. Hanna spoke about the particular geographical situation
of Montréal, which for centuries has made it a continental
and Atlantic hub. As a “crossroads city,” after the
fashion of New York, Boston, New Orleans and Baltimore, Montréal
has been, and remains, a significant locus of international trade,
a financial centre, and a nerve centre for transportation organization.
The old city centre, Old Port, and railway station
district together form an exceptional heritage ensemble that is
unique in North America, well preserved, and displays a rare cohesion
of architecture and urban planning that merits international recognition.
Such was the conclusion reached by a committee of urban planning
and historical experts formed to study Montréal’s potential
candidacy as a World Heritage City.
While acknowledging that the proposal was well
founded, delegates suggested that the designated area be extended
to include the Lachine Canal, Mount Royal and the lower part of
Saint Lawrence Boulevard — a commercial and cultural axis
that is a vital part of “Montreality.”
8: Restoring the Historical District of Old Montréal: Principles
an advisor with Québec’s Ministry of Culture and Communications,
explored the highly complex issues surrounding some 25 years of efforts
to preserve, restore and remediate the historic borough of Old Montréal.
Today, the area can be described as a superimposition of eras, in
which certain spaces stem from a specific period, while others appear
as a synthesis of multiple periods. From this fusion of historical
eras in the crucible that is Old Montréal, an overall cohesion
has emerged to form the basis of the neighbourhood’s historical
identity. That same identity has dictated the values and principles
of the governmental and municipal actions taken in the district, as
well as directed all forms of interpretation, promotion and development
in Old Montréal.
To illustrate her thesis, Ms. Provost described
the many public interventions aimed at revitalizing, preserving
and remediating the neighbourhood, including the work to restore
and bring up to standards many older buildings that have shaped
Old Montréal’s identity (e.g., the Bonsecours Market,
Château Ramezay, the Centre d’histoire de Montréal
[once a fire station], and the Old Customs House), along with development
projects undertaken in Place Jacques-Cartier as well as on Gosford
and Saint-Claude streets. In each case, new contemporary needs had
to be taken into account while respecting the existing street grid
and public spaces.
Conference-goers agreed that the current state
of the historical borough of Old Montréal and its planned
evolution are eloquent testimonials to the success of this joint
approach that has been years in the making.