The ICOMOS Recovery and Reconstruction Project – Its Aims and a Way Forward

Article Index

Visuel volume1 UF rezized Introduction and Background

Discussion on the subject of reconstruction has been difficult, because reconstruction has often been considered as a taboo for heritage conservation. The Operational Guidelines of the World Heritage Convention also states that reconstruction would be justifiable only under “exceptional circumstances” (para.86 of the OG [2017]). Hence debates on reconstruction have taken place within a particular conception of authenticity. The main focus of the debates has been what aspects of heritage should be taken into consideration to assess the aspects and conditions of authenticity. Focus has traditionally been placed on the material aspects of heritage, while other aspects could be considered only if the information on such aspects was proven to have sufficient credibility. This broader approach has been accepted to analyze the authenticity on doctrinal and practical levels. However, when the social dimensions of heritage have been changed through immigration, conflict, and other social phenomena, more elaborate analysis seems necessary. 

Unfortunately, what the international community currently faces is far more complex due to large-scale destruction of heritage sites by natural disasters or armed conflicts. The scale of destruction of heritage sites that has occurred during the last few years all over the world is surely the biggest since the WWII. There is no proper doctrinal analysis on such a large-scale destruction of heritage. How to handle such situations is one of the most urgent tasks facing heritage communities today.









Responses from ICOMOS: ICOMOS Guidance and the ICOMOS Matrix

ICOMOS recognized a need to urgently introduce guidance to deal with recovery and reconstruction, so ICOMOS launched a series of projects. On March 4, 2016, ICOMOS organized the Colloquium on Post Trauma Reconstruction (its proceeding is available on this website). Then ICOMOS Guidance on Post Trauma Recovery and Reconstruction for World Heritage Cultural Properties Document (available on this website) was drafted as a result of a workshop held on September 19-21, 2016. In this process, strong wishes for case studies were expressed. In fact, recovery and reconstruction is so contextual, “one-size-fits-all” type guidelines would not work well. Instead, learning from previous good and bad practices would be more useful. But a remaining problem with such case studies is the fact that the more detailed a case study is, the more difficult to apply its outcomes to other cases. Much literature exists on cases of cultural heritage reconstruction, however, the difference in how they might have been approached, in the level of information provided, makes it difficult to use for the purpose of comparison. For this reason, ICOMOS has prepared a Matrix as a plat form of case studies in order to ensure an overall common approach to the cases, and at the same time to balance the need for information with the need to draw some ‘lessons.’
In other words, this Matrix is prepared as an infrastructure for the knowledge transfer on recovery and reconstruction. The above-mentioned ICOMOS Guidance Document is intended to contextualize the factors in post trauma recovery and guide decisions that may involve recovery and reconstruction, while the ICOMOS Matrix is solely designed for fact-finding.
The currently available Guides for Risk Preparedness, i.e. Risk Preparedness: A Management Manual for World Cultural Heritage (1998) and Managing Disaster Risks for World Heritage (2010) cover certain aspects after traumatic events. But these are designed from an ex-ante perspective. Since the world we live in is far from perfect and highly unpredictable, it is likely that an ex-ante preparation for risks is insufficient. This is the reason why we also need a tool from an ex-post perspective.

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Drafting Process of the ICOMOS Matrix

This Matrix is an outcome of three workshops from June 2017 through January 2018. At the first workshop (June 2017), the task force produced the first Draft Matrix and identified certain types of traumatic events (earthquake, fire, conflicts) and experts who know these cases well. Geographical diversity was taken into consideration to select cases (Chile, Italy, Israel, Japan, Uganda).
Experts were invited to the second workshop for test-case analysis to give their feedback as the users of the First Draft Matrix. After the second workshop, the first Draft Matrix was substantially revised by the task force and redrafted as the Second Draft Matrix. The task force tried to reduce redundancies, to simplify the prompts by making more accessible the language, to clarify that the matrix is not a template or a form to be filled in.
This version was sent to the same experts and one additional expert (the cases mentioned above and Bosnia-Herzegovina). These experts were requested to revise their reports, using the Second Draft Matrix.
At the third workshop, focal points of ICOMOS National Committees and International Scientific Committees were invited to comment on the Second Draft Matrix. The Second Draft Matrix was revised again, reflecting their comments, and finalized as the ICOMOS Matrix.

A Way Forward

ICOMOS created a special section in its website dedicated to reconstruction, where the ICOMOS Guidance on Recovery and Reconstruction, the ICOMOS Matrix and case study reports are uploaded.
Additional case study reports have been commissioned by ICOMOS and ICCROM in the scope of the joint project “Analysis of Case Studies in Recovery and Reconstruction”. These case studies have been chosen to represent a comprehensive set of factors, including geographical, cultural and causational. The authors will use the ICOMOS Matrix.
In the near future, more cases studies will be added, and the Matrix will be further revised. A possible step forward for the near future would be, taking the case study reports into consideration, to revise and develop the ICOMOS Guidance beyond its initial application to post trauma WH sites, to widen its applicability to diverse situations of damaged cultural inheritance.


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