Conceptualising Intangible Heritage in Urban Environments:
Challenges for Implementing the HUL Recommendation

Harriet Jane Deacon

Centre for Dance Research, Coventry University, Coventry, United Kingdom

ABSTRACT  The Historic Urban Landscape (HUL) Recommendation (UNESCO 2011), suggests that heritage management should be holistic, integrated, people-centred and focused on sustainable development goals. Both tangible and intangible heritage should be taken into account, allowing for appropriate change over time. A variety of stakeholders should be involved in planning processes, including all levels of government, NGOs and communities. Intercultural dialogue and mediation, as well as tools such as documentation, inventorying and mapping should be used to identify multiple layers of heritage. Implementing the Recommendation thus offers a wonderful opportunity to develop consultative, bottom-up, integrated planning for sustainable development in urban areas. This paper suggests that one barrier to integrating management planning for tangible and intangible heritage is a persistent confusion about what ‘intangible heritage’ is and why it deserves protection. Is it the values that local communities associate with their environment (‘intangible values’), or is it cultural practices that they happen to perform in that environment (intangible cultural heritage, or ICH)? Should ‘intangible heritage’ be managed as an attribute attesting to the authenticity of tangible fabric, or as a subject of safeguarding in its own right? If it means all these things at the same time, why is the same concept being used for so many different ideas and what are the consequences? The paper will suggest that a clearer conceptual understanding of intangible heritage is necessary to effectively integrate it into urban management strategies under the HUL approach.

KEYWORDS  intangible heritage, Historic Urban Landscape, UNESCO intangible heritage convention

Received September 15, 2018; accepted December 18, 2018.