To develop the roadmap, this article revisits the pillars of OUV and elucidates the relation between key concepts by means of document analysis, which is a qualitative method of inquiry. The research process is inductive, which means that the author constructs meaning from the collected data as it emerges from the analysis [41
]. The consulted documents are credible primary sources in WH, heritage studies, and conservation policy (see References). Special attention is given to (1)
criteria and (2)
authenticity and integrity rather than (3)
protection and management, which, as argued at the outset, relate more to sustaining OUV post-inscription than to justifying it pre-inscription. The key concepts, which were selected due to their importance in the field of cultural heritage conservation, are: criteria, values, cultural significance, authenticity, continuity, change, heritage impact assessment, integrity, distinction and compatibility. The relation between these concepts within the framework of WH is gradually established in the following subsections. The Old Bridge Area of the Old City of Mostar is consistently used as an example to make it easier for the reader to follow the argumentation.
3.1. Criteria, Values and Cultural Significance
Criteria were devised to aid in the “assessment” of OUV [42
] (p. 237). In an attempt “‘to define more precisely the criteria’ for the choosing of properties to be included on the World Heritage List”, it has been pointed out that the choice of cultural properties should be made “by reference, at once, to Art, History, and Science” in keeping with the WH Convention [43
] (p. 62). The latter “sets the requirement of outstanding universal value […] Firstly, there is the value ‘from the point of view of history’
(=historical value, ‘old age value’, commemorative value); secondly, there is the value ‘from the point of view of art’
(=artistic value, aesthetic value); thirdly, one finds the value ‘from the point of view of science’
(=scientific value), and finally […] values ‘from the ethnological and anthropological point of view’
] (p. 7). The first three points of view are explicit for the first two categories of cultural heritage in the Convention (i.e., monuments and groups of buildings); for the third category (i.e., sites), “the effect is similar if we consider that the ‘ethnological and anthropological’ points of view belong to the scientific field (in this case ‘human sciences’), alongside the ‘historical and artistic’ (History and Art)” [43
] (p. 62).
The values of monuments, groups of buildings and sites were initially understood to be intrinsic/inherent. Scholarly literature later explained that values are rather extrinsic, “contingent, not objectively given”, “not simply ‘found’ and fixed and unchanging” because they are “produced out of the interaction of an artifact and its contexts; they don’t emanate from the artifact itself” [45
] (p. 8). This understanding of values had implications on the understanding of OUV in the WH system. At the Special Expert Meeting held in Kazan, in 2005, it was acknowledged that OUV “like all values is attributed by people and through human appreciation” [8
] (p. 69).
Since values can change over time, for example from one generation to the next, OUV (which is a value) can also change. It must be understood, however, that once a property is inscribed on the WH List, its OUV becomes “a snapshot taken at a given moment” [46
] (p. 58) and “the wording of the justification would reflect the format proposed in the criterion at the time of inscription” [8
] (p. 38). The OG clarify that if a State Party wishes to have its “property inscribed under additional, fewer or different criteria other than those used for the original inscription”, the State Party must “submit this request as if it were a new nomination” [3
] (paragraph 166).
While the WH Convention is explicit in its “articulation of the level and types of value”, the criteria in the OG are not explicit [42
] (p. 237), which is why it can be frustrating to assess OUV. Furthermore, the WH Committee “regularly” revises the criteria “to reflect the evolution of the World Heritage concept itself” [1
] (p. 18). For instance, “between 1977 and 2008, there were 12 different versions of the criteria of OUV” [47
] (p. 64), which is why, one may argue, the criteria are rather in flux than fixed. It is likely difficult to build consensus among the different actors in the WH system when the criteria are being revised and re-worded. One may also argue that it is difficult, and perhaps impossible, to capture and squeeze the diversity and complexity of evolving meanings, understandings and values of heritage in few words.
The application of the criteria, moreover, is rather inconsistent. Those proposed by the States Parties are not always the ones recommended by ICOMOS or the ones adopted by the WH Committee for the inscription of properties on the WH List. For example, in the case of the Old Bridge Area of the Old City of Mostar, “the State Party had proposed criteria (iv), (v) and (vi); ICOMOS recommended criteria (iv) and (vi). After a long debate, the Committee considered that criterion (iv) was not applicable, because it should be referred to the original Old Bridge and the surrounding buildings, now reconstructed. […] finally the Committee decided to apply the sole criterion (vi)” [8
] (p. 40), which was deemed “the most relevant” [30
] (p. 113).
Criterion (vi) has been discussed and revised many times by the WH Committee, resulting in 7 versions of its wording and associations [8
] (p. 32). The change has sometimes been “only one word, but this has changed the meaning” and has “become increasingly critical for the general policy” [8
] (p. 32). Few properties are inscribed on the WH List on the basis of this criterion alone. At the time of writing, there are only 12 such sites, including Valongo Wharf Archaeological Site (Brazil) inscribed in 2017 (which is a site of memory and conscience) among a total of 845 cultural WH properties, and an overall total of 1092 WH properties [6
]. Inscription on the basis of this criterion means that the property is recognized for its associations [8
] (pp. 32–35). The cultural significance that underpins its OUV, therefore, necessarily encapsulates values associated primarily with intangible attributes.
Cultural significance is a key concept that captures “the multiple values ascribed to objects, buildings, or landscapes” or properties [48
] (pp. 7–8). In simple words, it is the “synthesis” of values [49
] (p. 200). In accordance with the “Eurocentric” “curatorial” materials-based approach to heritage endorsed by the Venice Charter, the OG initially “dictated that authenticity and significance of cultural properties resided exclusively on the four physical attributes of design, materials, workmanship, and setting” [50
] (p. 151). These were the acceptable attributes in the OG until the 2005 version in which intangible attributes, such as use and function, were added in keeping with the spirit of the Nara Document on Authenticity [51
It must be observed that although cultural significance is a key concept, literally embedded in the definition of OUV in the OG [3
] (paragraph 49), the provision of an official written statement of cultural significance is not a requirement in the current nomination process.
Because cultural significance is the synthesis of values, which “are in our minds and not inherent to objects” and properties [52
] (p. 15), it is fundamentally extrinsic and changeable. Its assessment, therefore, “must be recognized as time—and context—specific” and the resulting statement must be recognized as “one interpretation made at a specific time” [53
] (pp. 470, 475). The determination of cultural significance should ideally be documented, notably in terms of time, location, people involved, and methods for collecting and analyzing data to identify values and attributes [49
] (pp. 177–179). There is indeed growing recognition in scholarly literature that values, cultural significance and heritage are not “things” that are fixed and frozen in time. They are rather processes of engagement, communication, remembrance, commemoration, negotiation, and meaning-making “in and for the present”, not the past [54
] (pp. 1–3). Within this anthropological perspective, heritage, whether tangible or intangible, cultural or natural, is understood as “a continuously evolving process, not a legacy that was in any way complete”—it is a process that is “about people, not about monuments” or things [55
] (pp. 3–6). Criterion (vi) is the closest to this anthropological understanding of heritage among the selection criteria. This understanding, however, is not exactly in line with the WH Convention, which is a property-based Convention. Similar to the Venice Charter, it was written on the “assumption that heritage is a special class of object” or thing or property “that is defined and studied by ‘experts’” [56
] (p. 63). This explains why the Convention is shy in recognizing the role and needs of people. The fact that the WH Committee prefers applying criterion (vi) “in conjunction with other criteria” [3
] (paragraph 77) also shows that the anthropological approach to heritage, unlike the materials-based approach to heritage, is not fully embraced.
On the other hand, the Burra Charter, which is an Australian adaptation of the Venice Charter, embraces this approach. It provides greater insight into cultural significance, which is defined as “aesthetic, historic, scientific, social or spiritual value for past, present or future generations” [57
] (article 1.2). The Burra Charter, therefore, extends the values recognized in the Venice Charter and the WH Convention, which refer to art, history and science. One of its practice notes clarifies, “A place can be culturally significant regardless of its age […] A place does not have to be ‘old’ to be […] significant” [58
] (p. 7). Accordingly, a new/contemporary place, such as a reconstructed property, can be significant. In fact, unlike the Venice Charter, the Burra Charter does not rule out reconstruction, although it urges a cautious approach [57
] (article 20.1). The practice note adds that assessments of significance “often require a comparison with other places of a similar type, values, history or associations. Care is needed in selecting the comparable places” [58
] (pp. 5–6).
In the WH system, a nomination dossier must include a comparative analysis section. The OG explain that it “should outline similarities with other properties on the World Heritage List or not, and the reasons that make the property stand out” [3
] (annex 2A). More specifically, its purpose is “to verify if the new nomination is adding some new aspects that are not yet represented on the List” [8
] (p. 46). This section, however, is problematic. Scholarly research shows that “States Parties have, in their majority, misappropriated the need to undertake a comparison […]. They have used this request to claim that their property is unique and superior” [52
] (p. 73). Furthermore, it is difficult to “identify the cultural region that is relevant for comparison” and to find “reliable scientific literature” or “a sufficiently broad research base to allow a thorough comparative analysis” [8
] (pp. 15, 46). It can be particularly difficult and unsettling to carry out a comparative analysis among sites of memory or conscience that have negative (painful) rather than positive (celebrated) associations to verify OUV, which is why, one may argue, the requirement for comparison in future nominations should be reconsidered.
3.2. Authenticity and Continuity
The notion of authenticity appears in the preamble of the Venice Charter [4
], which was “birthed by states that traditionally built in stone or brick” [59
] (p. 7). This charter endorses a materials-based approach to heritage, which explains why the versions of the OG from 1977 to 2002 “dictated that authenticity and significance of cultural properties resided exclusively on the four physical attributes of design, materials, workmanship, and setting” [50
] (p. 151). The Nara Document on Authenticity “encouraged a shift” in the OG towards “other aspects of cultural continuity” [50
] (p. 144), which were embedded in the 2005 version [10
]. The Nara Document was birthed in view of a cultural practice in Ise, Japan, where shrines are dismantled and replicated every 20 years in conformity with Shinto beliefs. Although replaced with new timber, the replicated shrines “still adhered to proportions, techniques, and craftsmanship […]. Authenticity inhered in continuity of form and process, not in the survival of original material”, which is “mutable and evanescent” [59
] (pp. 7, 12).
The OG explain that authenticity should be examined within the relevant cultural context [3
] (paragraph 81); however, authenticity is not only “culture-bound”, but also “time-bound” [59
] (p. 9). Indeed, there is growing recognition among scholars that authenticity is “contingent upon” both “context and time” [32
] (p. 67) because “the criteria of authenticity we choose reflect current views”, which may not “be valid for all times” [59
] (pp. 7, 9). On the other hand, continuity is valid for all times because it implies “a sense of timelessness” [60
] (p. 114). It is noteworthy that the Venice Charter acknowledges the concept of continuity in the very first sentence of its preamble, which links a living past to the present day [4
Recent studies argue that what makes reconstructed properties “authentic” is less what they are (materially) and more what they continue to do (functionally) and what they signify (culturally) to users [61
]. To better understand this argument, we can revisit the case of the Old Bridge Area of the Old City of Mostar. ICOMOS noted, in its evaluation of authenticity, that “reconstruction
of fabric should be seen as being in the background compared with restoration
of the intangible dimensions of this property, which are certainly the main issue concerning the Outstanding Universal Value” [63
] (p. 181). The distinction between “reconstruction” and “restoration” is unclear because ICOMOS does not define these keywords in its evaluation, but what is clear is that “the importance of the living connection with the property is stressed as central” [52
] (p. 122). Therefore, it can be said that the authenticity of this property is an “authenticity of connection” [32
] (p. 77). The property was inscribed on the WH List on the basis of criterion (vi) alone. This criterion addresses associations. The definition in the Burra Charter is noteworthy in this regard: “Associations
mean the connections that exist between people and a place
] (article 1.15). Also, this charter tolerates reconstruction if it continues “a use
or practice that retains the cultural significance
of the place” [57
] (article 20.1). It must be observed, moreover, that the notion of authenticity does not appear at all in this charter. Thus, if what is meaningful and culturally significant is in the intangible dimensions and the continuity of the living connections between people and a place than in the physical place itself, “then the question for authenticity—however defined—is not of any relevance”, which is why it seems “redundant” [64
] (online essay). In other words, the concept of continuity would have better supported the justification for inscription of the Old Bridge Area of the Old City of Mostar than the concept of authenticity.
Admittedly, “the vocabulary of authenticity in cultural policies dies hard”, especially since it is a founding concept in cultural heritage conservation programs [65
] (pp. 43–44) and a “buzzword” in the heritage field [59
] (p. 6). However, this “Ruskinian emphasis on authenticity” should be reduced [66
] (p. 2); [67
]. The heritage field and the WH system should make room for more relevant concepts, notably continuity, which is in keeping with the growing understanding of heritage as dynamic process, not simply static fabric [48
]. Because heritage is a dynamic process, it has a capacity not only for continuity, but also for change.
3.3. Change and Heritage Impact Assessment
A proposal to “reconstruct” a destroyed cultural property is a proposal for change. It proposes changing the state of destruction by re-creating the property. A proposal to “restore” a destroyed cultural property is also a proposal for change. Both reconstruction and restoration are new work—even if the work adheres to traditional techniques and materials. The distinction between the two, however, is not clear-cut. They are neither defined in the OG [3
] nor in the resource manual [1
Some definitions can be found elsewhere. The Burra Charter, for example, explains, “Restoration
means returning a place
to a known earlier state by removing accretions or by reassembling existing elements without the introduction of new material” whereas “Reconstruction
means returning a place
to a known earlier state and is distinguished from restoration
by the introduction of new material” [57
] (articles 1.7, 1.8). The distinction, therefore, is drawn at the introduction or not of new material. The Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties
propose other definitions, which, one may argue, are more clear and technically sound. This national policy document defines restoration as “the act or process of accurately depicting the form, features, and character of a property as it appeared at a particular period of time by means of the removal of features from other periods in its history and reconstruction of missing features from the restoration period” whereas reconstruction is “the act or process of depicting, by means of new construction, the form, features, and detailing of a non-surviving site, landscape, building, structure, or object for the purpose of replicating its appearance at a specific period of time and in its historic location”, which is why it is essentially “a contemporary re-creation” [69
] (pp. 163, 225, 226). The distinction, therefore, is drawn at the physical and visible existence or not of a property.
The fact that reconstruction and restoration are “new” or “contemporary” does not inhibit the nomination of reconstructed and restored properties for inscription on the WH List because the definition of OUV in the OG is not limited to ancient or old heritage [3
] (paragraph 49). This explains why “recent heritage” can be included in the WH List [33
] (p. 49), whether it is original, such as the Sydney Opera House (Australia), or not. In other words, properties can be deemed authentic and culturally significant at an international level whether they are ancient or recent, original or recreated/restored.
A heritage impact assessment (HIA) study can guide reconstruction and restoration work. Its aim is to reconcile change with cultural significance. HIA developed from Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), which is a study that helps determine whether proposals for change should proceed with or without modifications, or should be abandoned altogether. Its main objectives are to identify, predict, evaluate and mitigate impacts while following a series of chronological steps [70
] (pp. 68–142). Simply put, it enables informed decision-making with regard to design and construction. EIA is both objective (proven cause effect relationship) and subjective (based on professional judgment). Unlike EIA, however, HIA is a study that “focuses specifically on proposals for change to a particular asset or area of cultural significance” [71
] (p. 105) and it should, ideally, “show a balance between the need to conserve and the need to allow development that benefits” communities and users [72
] (p. x). In some cases, “the harm to or loss of the heritage asset is outweighed by the benefits of bringing the site back into use” [72
] (p. 20). Following this logic, the loss of the physical evidence of destruction, which is a concern in international heritage doctrine [62
], can be outweighed by the “benefits” of bringing a cultural property back into use, which are “positive” impacts. The property, which was culturally significant before its destruction, may, as a result of its reconstruction, acquire an “updated cultural significance” [32
] (p. 71).
Guidance is available to help conduct HIA studies in the WH context, namely ICOMOS’ Guidance on Heritage Impact Assessments for Cultural World Heritage Properties
]. This document, however, specifically addresses the assessment of the impacts of proposals for change on attributes that convey OUV (post-inscription), which is why it goes hand in hand with the third pillar of OUV—i.e., (3)
protection and management [3
] (paragraphs 110, 172). This document was finalized in 2011, but it seems that it will be further developed in light of recent decisions of the WH Committee [12
] (point 22); [73
3.4. Integrity, Distinction and Compatibility
Integrity became a requirement for the nomination of cultural properties in the 2005 version of the OG. It is still defined as a measure of “wholeness and intactness” in the current version [3
] (paragraph 88). Although the OG address reconstruction exclusively “in relation to authenticity” [3
] (paragraph 86), reconstructed cultural properties must meet the requirement of integrity as well to be considered for inscription on the WH List. A concern is that “reconstruction achieves an appearance of integrity while replacing the integrity of an original that is neither whole nor intact” [68
] (p. 269). In the case of the Old Bridge Area of the Old City of Mostar, for example, ICOMOS did not specifically comment on the property’s wholeness and intactness in its evaluation; rather, it simply noted “the major point is not to introduce more alteration to the landscape/townscape in the form of new, or inappropriately renewed constructions” [63
] (p. 181). It is unclear what would be considered “inappropriate”. The relation between this note and the “symbolic power and meaning of the City of Mostar”, which is the justification for inscription on the basis of criterion (vi), is also unclear [31
]. These observations suggest that integrity is a mutable requirement.
Because a reconstructed cultural property is essentially “a re-creation”, as explained earlier, it “must be clearly identified” as such “so that it is not confused as historic or original” [69
] (pp. 79, 227). This explains why integrity, in relation to reconstruction, should refer to honesty, which is a more intangible interpretation than wholeness and intactness. It would have better supported the justification for inscription of the Old Bridge Area of the Old City of Mostar—i.e., why and how reconstruction honestly conveys its symbolic power and meaning.
It is the distinction between the re-creation and the original creation that can prevent deception to maintain honesty. For example, the Burra Charter explains that distinction can be detected “on close inspection” [57
] (article 20.2). However, not only must the re-creation be distinguishable from the original, but it also must be compatible (harmoniously integrated). Distinction and compatibility are key concepts in conservation policy and practice that can be traced back to the Venice Charter [4
] (articles 9, 12). Together with sufficient documentation, they can ensure that reconstruction is “acceptable change
—i.e., sympathetic yet identifiable change” as opposed to unacceptable (conjectural) change [61
] (p. 9). They are more scientific concepts than wholeness and intactness. They can help provide an adequate scientific basis for the nomination and evaluation of reconstructed cultural properties in line with the WH Convention, which must be implemented in accordance with “modern scientific methods” [2
] (preamble). Not only are they applicable to reconstruction work, but also to restoration work, which should be “physically and visually compatible, identifiable upon close inspection”, thus distinguishable [69
] (p. 164).