8th World Conference of Historical Cities
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Day 3 — Wednesday October 8, 2003


Workshop 9: UN-HABITAT — Mission and Projects

Martin Wexler and Axumite Gebre-Egziabher


During this workshop led by Martin Wexler, Head of the Housing Division of the City of Montréal’s Economic and Urban Development Department, Axumite Gebre-Egziabher explained the necessity for convergence and international consultation among historical cities and United Nations bodies.

Created in 1978 and currently active in 54 countries on all continents, UN-HABITAT is mandated to promote sustainable human settlements and set up programs with the goal of providing adequate shelter. Under the banner “Water and Sanitation,” this year’s program seeks to improve the health situation of more than 100 million people, especially those living in urban slums, by 2020.

“Our strategy advocates raising awareness of the importance of establishing adequate, sustainable places to live, in both rural and urban settings. Disaster awaits in the short term if we do not address the issue of urban development. In Asia and in Latin America, there is a huge, sudden influx of people toward the cities,” Ms. Gebre-Egziabher explained.

UN-HABITAT advocates participation-based planning and cooperation with national and local authorities in each of the countries in which it is active. “Partnership and Participation” are in fact two key objectives of the program. Main partners include:

  • Local authorities, who play a vital role in terms of educating and mobilizing the public;
  • The World Association of Cities and Local Authorities Coordination (WACLAC), which was set up to expand the role of local authorities;
  • The United Nations Advisory Committee of Local Authorities (UNACLA);
  • NGOs, parliamentarians, private companies and foundations.

The cooperation of the League of Historical Cities is strongly encouraged, as it showcases the importance of housing with respect to built heritage, and promotes the values and principles connected to it.

“Decent housing for all is part of the notion of built heritage.
The UN-HABITAT program desires the support of the world’s historical cities
because they share in our debates and our strategy.”

Axumite Gebre-Egziabher
Director of the New York City Office of UN-HABITAT


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Workshop 10: Old Montréal and Montréal Heritage Web sites

Heritage inventories are essential tools for learning about, preserving and soundly managing urban heritage. If made accessible to one and all, they can also be tools for enlightened decision-making and for democracy. When entered into computerized databases and disseminated via the World Wide Web, they exponentially widen the possibilities for comparative research and international exchanges.

As an example, two interrelated Web-based heritage inventories were profiled in a presentation by Anne-Marie Dufour, an architect specializing in heritage and coordinator of Web publication of Montréal’s heritage inventory with the Heritage and Toponymy Division of the City of Montréal’s Economic and Urban Development Department, and historian Gilles Lauzon, head of research for the Société de développement de Montréal and heritage inventory coordinator for the official Old Montréal Web site.

Anne-Marie Dufour and Gilles Lauzon

The original aim of the Old Montréal Web site [www.old.montreal.qc.ca], designed in 1998 under the aegis of the Société de développement de Montréal and the Québec Ministry of Culture and Communications, was to disseminate information for the “general public” on the district’s history and heritage. Soon, however, the site was enriched with a more technically oriented architectural inventory destined for professionals, as well as historical information on builders and artisans, archeological remains, public art, streets and squares, as well as historical personages and societies — all extremely useful to curious visitors, experts and educators.

The Web site Inventaire architectural de Montréal: Base de données sur le patrimoine [www.ville.montreal.qc.ca/patrimoine] (Montréal’s Architecture Inventory: Heritage Database), officially launched on June 19, 2003, was created pursuant to the Agreement on the Cultural Development of Montréal between the Québec Ministry of Culture and Communications and the City of Montréal.

The site does not focus solely on major monuments; rather, it lays emphasis on buildings toward which citizens have particular obligations (ownership, historical identity, cultural appropriation) in terms of heritage protection. It facilitates citizens’ links with provincial and municipal administrations by providing them with comprehensive information on permit applications, regulations and restrictions, expert recommendations, and subsidies. Offering a selective inventory of protected buildings and areas, the site covers an area extending far beyond Old Montréal, and reflecting the diversity of Montréal’s heritage.

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Workshop 11: Interconnection of Heritage Databases on the Internet

Léon Robichaud, Victoria Angel and Daniel Lauzon Linkage of databases is now indispensable for ensuring access to exhaustive information as well as a coherent global vision of heritage inventories of the world’s cities, regions and countries.

Dedicated to the identification, promotion and celebration of national heritage, the Canadian Register of Historic Places is a central database with a definition sufficiently vast, in the words of Victoria Angel, who is in charge of its development, to include buildings, gardens, fortresses, archeological sites, grain elevators, theatres, churches, districts and any other historically important site. The Web site also includes the Standards and Guidelines for the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada, a singular reference for heritage conservation standards and practices, as well as a certification program for heritage sites eligible for financial incentives. [http://www.historicplaces.ca/accueil-home_e.asp]

Daniel Lauzon, a geographer and urban planner with the Heritage Branch of the Québec Ministry of Culture and Communications, gave a presentation on the challenging but extremely rewarding process of creating the Inventaire des lieux de mémoire de la Nouvelle-France au Québec (inventory of sites of memory of New France in Québec). The France- and Québec-based researchers working on the project faced an early hurdle: the absence of documented dating of inventoried real property. Worse, it proved impossible to establish dating of any kind. With the majority of historical buildings having undergone multiple alterations over the course of three centuries, the question arose as to what exactly was meant by “heritage of New France,” especially since “French-style” construction persisted long after the French defeat of 1759. A framing study enabled definition of the nature of the heritage, establishment of a research methodology, and entry into a database of a preliminary list of properties. The overlap of variables gave such encouraging results that it led to intense collaboration with France’s Ministry of Culture, the Centre inter-universitaire d’Études québécoises, Université Laval and the Région Poitou-Charentes. Research work is ongoing. [http://www.memoirenf.cieq.ulaval.ca/Quebec/ ]

Historian and programmer Léon Robichaud, a consultant-designer for the Old Montréal and Montréal computerized heritage inventory system, examined the interrelationship between the [www.old.montreal.qc.ca] Web site, dedicated to the historical district only, and [www.ville.montreal.qc.ca/patrimoine], a part of the main City of Montréal Web site that includes a global heritage inventory of all protected buildings and sectors within city territory (the content of this section overlaps that of the other site). The flexibility provided by today’s information systems allows for the management of two inventories, with differing purposes and completely separate user interfaces, using only one database. The structural complexity of the heritage inventory system led to the creation of specific types of links, and any modification made to the database is automatically visible via both sites. And since each item in the central database is directly associated with the inventory for which it was created and will be updated, it will be easy to add new sector-based inventories that will enrich the central database while retaining their autonomy and distinct identities.

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December 19, 2003