Planetary Urbanisation and the Built Heritage from a Non-Western Perspective:
The Question of 'How' We Should Protect the Past

Giulio Verdini

Department of Planning and Transport, University of Westminster, United Kingdom

ABSTRACT  The process of planetary urbanisation, which is currently affecting a large part of the world, impacts on the existing built environment in an unprecedented way. Its dramatic rapidity often implies the sudden disappearance of traditional urban and rural structures and the rapid transformation of local cultures. Contextually, as never before, attempts to protect culture in its tangible and intangible expressions are increasingly central to international agendas on sustainable urbanisation. However, this is by no means an easy task to achieve. The main reason for the controversy is that the consensus around the need to protect heritage and its tools, as formulated primarily in the Western world in the past, has changed. It has been challenged by alternative, non-Western, primarily non-materialistic views, or it has been delegitimised by the (often) exploitative practice of heritagisation, as a result of the process of protection itself. The main aim of this paper is to reflect on the implications of contemporary planetary urbanisation on the built heritage and its protection, considering that most of this process is taking place in fast-developing countries of Asia, Africa and South America and, at the same time, there is a redistribution of economic (and therefore cultural) power from the West to the East, and from the North to the South of the planet.

KEYWORDS  planetary urbanisation, urban theory, built heritage, urban conservation, non-Western, material vs immaterial, community

Received July 6, 2017; accepted August 19, 2017