For nearly 20 years, ICOMOS members and committees have been concerned about the protection, conservation, management and presentation of more recent forms of cultural heritage that bear witness to intellectual, social, technological or artistic evolution. In 1989, for example, ICOMOS Information published articles on conservation work of Bauhaus in Dessau. Several National Committees have addressed the issue. In 1993, ICOMOS Germany held a meeting in Berlin on iconoclasm in post-communist Eastern Europe, dealing with the fate of political statuary, and another one on the conservation of modern architecture. ICOMOS France also held a special technical symposium on the conservation of concrete, a material typically associated with recent heritage.

Last February, in Helsinki, ICOMOS Finland held an international symposium on the preservation problems of modern buildings in ancient cityscapes. In November 2001, in Adelaide, ICOMOS Australia held its annual conference on 20th century heritage. In addition to those national initiatives, ICOMOS International, within the particular context of the World Heritage Convention, organised two expert meetings - in 1995 in Helsinki and in 1996 in Mexico - to focus on the particular issues raised by this type of heritage. Organised by the Secretary General, Jean-Louis Luxen, who recently presented the theme in ICOMOS News, these meetings also gave an opportunity for ICOMOS to co-operate with organisations such as DOCOMOMO, ICCROM, Council of Europe, the Finnish and Mexican authorities, and the US and Canadian National Parks Services.

So, this question has been present for a while. Yet, in 1999, in Mexico, the General Assembly received a number of resolutions relating to the preservation of “modern” heritage, namely in Eastern Europe and Israel. In the Heritage at Risk 2000 Report, many national reports mentioned concern over the fate of various heritage types associated with 19th and 20th century, such as residential or urban architecture, industrial complexes, landscape creations or new building types such as stadiums, airports, waterworks or large city parks. ICOMOS has been cooperating closely with UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre to organise a series of scientific meetings during 2001 and 2002 to promote the nomination of 20th century properties for the World Heritage List. In addition, ICOMOS co-operates or maintains links with other organisations in the field, such as TICCIH (industrial heritage) with whom we signed a cooperation agreement, DOCOMOMO (Modern Movement heritage) who lead key reflections. In July 2001, ICOMOS also took part in the founding meeting for the Modern Asian Architecture Network (MAAN), in Macao.

To help define a consistent ICOMOS action on the more “recent” heritage, namely that created over the last 100-150 years, the Executive Committee asked for some guidance on the place of this issue within ICOMOS and the possible contribution of International Scientific and National Committees on the matter. A working session was held in Montreal, Quebec (Canada) at the end of September, organised with the support of the Quebec Ministry of Culture, and cochaired by Sherban Cantacuzino (UK) and Dinu Bumbaru (Canada). This meeting benefited from the valuable participation of colleagues from Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Finland, South Africa and USA. It developed proposals for an international action plan and a scientific and co-operative programme for ICOMOS which was presented to and adopted by the Advisory and Executive Committees at their meeting in Dubrovnik last October.

Clearly the issue of 20th century heritage and its precursors cannot be reduced to the appreciation of a few great monuments of Modern Architecture, even if such recognition is not always there. It is on that basis that the Montreal Action Plan was developed around the following elements:

  • Understand the full diversity of 20th century heritage and of the issues related to its recognition and conservation. To that effect, ICOMOS, with the support of US/ICOMOS, is carrying out a survey of illustrative cases, through all its National and International Committees. This survey should be ready in April 2002 and published later as a Scientific Journal. Its result will help ICOMOS identify needs for new international committees or further partnerships with other organisations.

  • Promote 20th century heritage by dedicating the International Monuments and Sites Day, on 18th April 2002 to 20th century heritage in all its diversity. Our Finnish ICOMOS colleagues are working on a poster that could be distributed to all committees for that purpose.

  • Put a special emphasis on 20th century heritage in the 2002 edition of the Heritage@Risk Report, and invite our partner organisations TICCIH and DOCOMOMO to contribute substantially to its content.

  • Co-operate fully with UNESCO and other partners to develop workshops and meetings on that theme.

September 2001

Member of the Executive Committee (1993-2002)


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