The Declaration of Amsterdam - 1975

21 - 25 October 1975

The Congress of Amsterdam, the crowning event of European architectural heritage Year 1975, and composed of delegates from all parts of Europe, wholeheartedly welcomes the Charter promulgated by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, which recognizes that Europe's unique architecture is the common heritage of all her peoples and which declared the intention of the Member States to work with one another and with other European governments for its protection.

The Congress likewise affirms that Europe's architectural heritage is an integral part of the cultural heritage of the whole world and has noted with great satisfaction the mutual undertaking to promote co-operation and exchanges in the field of culture contained in the Final Act of the Congress on Security and Co-operation in Europe adopted at Helsinki in July of this year.

In so doing, the Congress emphasized the following basic considerations:

  1. Apart from its priceless cultural value, Europe's architectural heritage gives to her peoples the consciousness of their common history and common future. Its preservation is, therefore, a matter of vital importance.
  2. The architectural heritage includes not only individual. buildings of exceptional quality and their surroundings, but also all areas of towns or villages of historic or cultural interest.
  3. Since these treasures are the joint possession of all the peoples of Europe, they have a joint responsibility to protect them against the growing dangers with which they are threatened - neglect and decay, deliberate demolition, incongruous new construction and excessive traffic.
  4. Architectural conservation must be considered, not as a marginal issue, but as a major objective of town and country planning.
  5. Local authorities, which whom most of the important planning decisions rest, have a special responsibility for the protection of the architectural heritage and should assist one another by the exchange of ideas and information.
  6. The rehabilitation of old areas should be conceived and carried out in such a way as to ensure that, where possible, this does not necessitate a major change in the social composition of the residents, all sections of society should share in the benefits of restoration financed by public funds.
  7. The legislative and administrative measures required should be strengthened and made more effective in all countries,
  8. To help meet the cost of restoration, adaptation and maintenance of buildings and areas of architectural or historic interest, adequate financial assistance should be made available to local authorities and financial support and fiscal relief should likewise be made available to private owners.
  9. The architectural heritage will survive only if it is appreciated by the public and in particular by the younger generation. Educational programmes for all ages should, therefore, give increased attention to this subject.
  10. Encouragement should be given to independent organizations - international, national and local - which help to awake public interest.
  11. Since the new buildings of today will be the heritage of tomorrow, every effort must be made to ensure that contemporary architecture is of a high quality.

In view of the recognition by the Committee of Ministers in the European Charter of the architectural heritage that it is the duty of the Council of Europe to ensure that the Member States pursue coherent policies in a spirit of solidarity, it is essential that periodic reports should be made on the progress of architectural conservation in all European countries in a way which will promote an exchange of experience.

The Congress calls upon governments, parliaments,spiritual and cultural institutions, professional institutes, commerce, industry, independent associations and all individual citizens to give their full support to the objectives of this Declaration and to do all in their power to secure their implementation.

Only in this way can Europe's irreplaceable architectural heritage be preserved, for the enrichment of the lives of all her peoples now and in the future.

Arising from its deliberations, the Congress submits its conclusions and recommendations, as set out below.

Unless a new policy of protection and integrated conservation is urgently implemented, our society will shortly find itself obliged to give up the heritage of buildings and sites which form its traditional environment. Protection is needed today for historic towns, the old quarters of cities, and towns and villages with a traditional character as well as historic parks and gardens, The conservation of these architectural complexes can only be conceived in a wide perspective, embracing all buildings of cultural value, from the greatest to the humblest - not forgetting those of our own day together with their surroundings. This overall protection will complement the piecemeal protection of individual and isolated monuments and sites.

The significance of the architectural heritage and justification for conserving it are now more clearly perceived. It is known that historical continuity must be preserved in the environment if we are to maintain or create surroundings which enable individuals to find their identity and feel secure despite abrupt social changes. A new type of town-planning is seeking to recover the enclosed spaces, the human dimensions, the inter- penetration of functions and the social and cultural diversity that characterized the urban fabric of old towns. But it is also being realized that the conservation of ancient buildings helps to economise resources and combat waste, one of the major preoccupations of present-day society. It has been proved that historic buildings can be given new functions which correspond to the needs of contemporary life. Furthermore, conservation calls for artists and highly-qualified craftsmen whose talents and know-how have to be kept alive and passed on. Lastly, the rehabilitation of existing housing helps to check encroachments on agricultural land and to obviate, or appreciably diminish, movements of population - a very important advantage of conservation policy.

Although, for all these reasons, there seems a stronger justification than ever today for the conservation of the architectural heritage, it must be placed on firm and lasting foundations. It must accordingly be made the subject of basis research and a feature of all educational courses and cultural development programmes.

The conservation of the architectural heritage : one of the major objectives of urban and regional planning

The conservation of the architectural heritage should become an integral part of urban and regional planning, instead of being treated as a secondary consideration or one requiring action here and there as has so often been the case in the recent past. A permanent dialogue between conservationists and those responsible for planning is thus indispensable.

Planners should recognize that not all areas are the same and that they should therefore be dealt with according to their individual characteristics. The recognition of the claims of the aesthetic and cultural values of the architectural heritage should lead to the adoption of specific aims and planning rules for old architectural complexes.

It is not enough to simply superimpose, although co-ordinating them, ordinary planning regulations and specific rules for protecting historic buildings.

To make the necessary integration possible, an inventory of buildings, architectural complexes and sites demarcating protected zones around them is required. It should be widely circulated, particularly among regional and local authorities and officials in charge of town and country planning, in order to draw their attention to the buildings and areas worthy of protection. Such an inventory will furnish a realistic basis for conservation as a fundamental qualitative factor in the management of space.

Regional planning policy must take account of the conservation of the architectural heritage and contribute to it. In particular it can induce new activities to establish themselves in economically declining areas in order to check depopulation and thereby prevent the deterioration of old buildings. In addition, decisions on the development of peripheral urban areas can be orientated in such a way as to reduce pressure on the older neighbourhoods; here transport and employment policies and a better distribution of the focal points of urban activity may have an important impact on the conservation of the architectural heritage.

The full development of a continuous policy of conservation requires a large measure of decentralization as well as a regard for local cultures. This means that there must be people responsible for conservation at all levels (central, regional and local) at which planning decisions are taken. The conservation of the architectural heritage, however, should not merely be a matter for experts. The support of public opinion is essential. The population, on the basis of full and objective information, should take a real part in every stage of the work, from the drawing up of inventories to the preparation of decisions,

Lastly, the conservation of the architectural heritage should become a feature of a new long-term approach which pays due attention to criteria of quality and just proportions and which should make it possible henceforth to reject options and aims which are too often governed by short-term considerations, narrow view of technology and, in short, an obsolete outlook.

Integrated conservation involves the responsibility of local authorities and calls for citizens' participation.

Local authorities should have specific and extensive responsibilities in the protection of the architectural heritage. In applying the principles of integrated conservation, they should take account of the continuity of existing social and physical realities in urban and rural communities. The future cannot and should not be built at the expense of the past.

To implement such a policy, which respects the man-made environment intelligently, sensitively and with economy, local authorities should :

  • use as a basis the study of the texture of urban and rural areas, notably their structure, their complex functions, and the architectural and volumetric characteristics of their built-up and open spaces;
  • afford functions to buildings which, whilst corresponding to the needs of contemporary life, respect their character and ensure their survival;
  • be aware that long-term studies on the development of public services (educational, administrative, medical) indicate that excessive size impairs their quality and effectiveness;
  • devote an appropriate part of their budget to such a policy. In this context, they should seek from governments the creation of funds specifically earmarked for such purposes. Local authority grants and loans made to private individuals and various associations should be aimed at stimulating their involvement and financial commitment:
  • appoint representatives to deal with all matters concerning the architectural heritage and sites;
  • set up special agencies to provide direct links between potential users of buildings and their owners;
  • facilitate the formation and efficient functioning of voluntary associations for restoration and rehabilitation.

Local authorities should improve their techniques of consultation for ascertaining the opinions of interested parties on conservation plans and should take these opinions into account from the earliest stages of planning. As part of their efforts to inform the public the decisions of local authorities should be taken in the public eye, using a clear and universally understood language, so that the local inhabitants may learn, discuss and assess the grounds for them. Meeting places should be provided, in order to enable members of the public to consult together.

In this respect, methods such as public meetings, exhibitions, opinion polls, the use of the mass media and all other appropriate methods should become common practice.

The education of young people in environmental issues and their involvement with conservation tasks is one of the most important communal requirements.

Proposals or alternatives put forward by groups or individuals should be considered as an important contribution to planning.

Local authorities can benefit greatly from each other's experience. They should therefore establish a continuing exchange of information and ideas through all available channels.

The success of any policy of integrated conservation depends on taking social factors into consideration.

A policy of conservation also means the integration of the architectural heritage into social life.

The conservation effort to be made must be measured not only against the cultural value of the buildings but also against their use-value. The social problems of integrated conservation can be properly posed only by simultaneous reference to both those scales of values.

The rehabilitation of an architectural complex forming part of the heritage is not necessarily more costly than new building on an existing infrastructure or even than building a new complex on a previously undeveloped site. When therefore comparing the cost of these three solutions, whose social consequences are quite different, it is important not to overlook the social costs. These concern not only owners and tenants but also the craftsmen, tradespeople and building contractors on the spot who keep the district alive.

To avoid the laws of the market having free play in restored and rehabilitated districts, resulting in inhabitants who are unable to pay the increased rents being forced out, public authorities should intervene to reduce the effect of economic factors as they always do when it is a case of low-cost housing. Financial interventions should aim to strike a balance between restoration grants to owners, combined with the fixing of maximum rent, and housing allowances to tenants to cover, in part or in whole, the difference between the old and new rents.

In order to enable the population to participate in the drawing up of programmes they must be given the facts necessary to understand the situation, on the one hand through explaining the historic and architectural value of the buildings to be conserved and on the other hand by being given full details about permanent and temporary rehousing.

This participation is all the more important because it is a matter not only of restoring a few privileged buildings but of rehabilitating whole areas.

This practical way of interesting people in culture would be of considerable social benefit.

Integrated conservation necessitates the adaptation of legislative and administrative measures.

Because the concept of the architectural heritage has been gradually extended from the individual historic building to urban and rural architectural complexes, and to the built testimonies of recent periods, far-reaching legislative reform, in conjunction with an increase in administrative resources, is a pre-requisite to effective action.

This reform must be guided by the need to co-ordinate regional planning legislation with legislation on the protection of the architectural heritage.

This latter must give a new definition of the architectural heritage and the aims of integrated conservation.

In addition it must make special provision for special procedures with regard to :

  • the designation and delineation of architectural complexes;
  • the mapping out of protective peripheral zones and the limitations on use to be imposed therein in the public interest;
  • the preparation of integrated conservation schemes and the inclusion of their provisions in regional planning policies;
  • the approval of projects and authorization to carry out work.

In addition the necessary legislation should be enacted in order to :

  • ensure a balanced allocation of budgetary resources between rehabilitation and redevelopment respectively;
  • grant citizens who decide to rehabilitate an old building at least the same financial advantages as those which they enjoy for new construction;
  • revise the system of state financial aid in the light of the new policy of integrated conservation.

As far as possible, the application of building codes, regulations and requirements should be relaxed to meet the needs of integrated conservation.

In order to increase the operational capacity of the authorities, it is necessary to review the structure of the administration to ensure that the departments responsible for the cultural heritage are organized at the appropriate levels and that sufficient qualified personnel and essential scientific, technical and financial resources are put at their disposal.

These departments should assist local authorities, co-operate with regional planning offices and keep in constant touch with public and private bodies.

Integrated conservation necessitates appropriate financial means.

It is difficult to define a financial policy applicable to all countries or to evaluate the consequences of the different measures involved in the planning process, because of their mutual repercussions.

Moreover, this process is itself governed by external factors resulting from the present structure of society.

It is accordingly for every state to devise its own financing methods and instruments.

It can be established with certainty however, that there is scarcely any country in Europe where the financial means allocated to conservation are sufficient.

It is further apparent that no European country has yet devised the ideal administrative machinery to meet the economic requirements of an integrated conservation policy. In order to solve the economic problems of integrated conservation, it is important - and this is a decisive factor - to draw up legislation subjecting new building to certain restrictions with regard to their volume and dimensions (height, coefficient of utilization etc.) that will make for harmony with its surroundings.

Planning regulations should discourage increased density and promote rehabilitation rather than redevelopment.

Methods must be devised to assess the extra cost occasioned by the constraints of conservation programmes. Where possible, sufficient funds should be available to help owners who are obliged to carry out this restoration work to meet the extra cost - no more and no less.

If the criteria of extra cost were accepted, care would need to be taken of course, to see that the benefit was not diminished by taxation.

The same principle should be applied to the rehabilitation of dilapidated complexes of historic or architectural interest. This would tend to restore the social balance.

The financial advantages and tax concessions available for new building should be accorded in the same proportion for the upkeep and conservation of old buildings, less, of course, any compensation for extra cost that may have been paid.

Authorities should set up Revolving Funds, or encourage them to be established, by providing local authorities or non-profit making associations with the necessary capital. This if particularly applicable to areas where such programmes can become self-financing in the short or the long term because of the rise in value accruing from the high demand for such attractive property.

It is vital, however, to encourage all private sources of finance, particularly coming from industry. Numerous private initiatives have shown the viable part that they can play in association with the authorities at either national or local level.

Integrated conservation requires the promotion of methods, techniques and skills for restoration and rehabilitation.

Methods and techniques of the restoration and rehabilitation of historic complexes should be better exploited and their range developed.

Specialized techniques which have been developed for the restoration of important historic complexes should be henceforth applied to the wide range of buildings and complexes of less outstanding artistic merit.

Steps should be taken to ensure that traditional building materials remain available and that traditional crafts and techniques continue to be used.

Permanent maintenance of the architectural heritage, will, in the long run, obviate costly rehabilitation operations.

Every rehabilitation scheme should be studied thoroughly before it is carried out. Comprehensive documentation should be assembled about materials and techniques and an analysis of costs should be made. This documentation should be collected and housed in appropriate centres.

New materials and techniques should be used only after approval by independent scientific institutions.

Research should be undertaken to compile a catalogue of methods and techniques used for conservation and for this purpose scientific institutions should be created and should co-operate closely with each other. This catalogue should be made readily available and distributed to everyone concerned, thus stimulating the reform of restoration and rehabilitation practices.

There is a fundamental need for better training programme to produce qualified personnel. These programmes should be flexible, multi-disciplinary and should include courses where on-site practical experience can be gained.

International exchange of knowledge, experience and trainees an essential element in the training of all personnel concerned.

This should help to create the required pool of qualified planners, architects, technicians and craftsmen to prepare conservation programmes and help to ensure that particular crafts for restoration work, that are in danger of dying out, will be fostered.

The opportunity for qualifications, conditions of work, salary, employment security and social status should be sufficiently attractive to induce young people to take up and stay in disciplines connected with restoration and rehabilitation work.

Furthermore, the authorities responsible for educational programmes at all levels should endeavour to promote the interest of young people in conservation disciplines.

The Norms of Quito - 1967

Final Report of the Meeting on the Preservation and Utilization of Monuments and Sites of Artistic and historical Value held in Quito, Ecuador, from November 29 to December 2, 1967


I. Introduction

The fact that the essential preservation and utilization of the monumental heritage has been included in the multi-national effort that the American governments pledge to carry out is encouraging from a twofold standpoint: first, because thereby the chiefs of state have expressly recognized the existence of an urgent situation, demanding inter-American cooperation; and second, because since the fundamental reason for the meeting at Punta del Este [Uruguay] was the common aim of giving new impetus to the development of the hemisphere, there is implicit recognition that those cultural heritage resources are an economic asset and can be made into instruments of progress.

The rapid rate of impoverishment of most of the American countries as a result of the neglect and lack of protection of their monumental and artistic wealth requires both national and international emergency measures. But in the last analysis, the practical efficacy of these measures will depend upon the value of the cultural heritage in the cause of economic and social development.

The recommendations of this report are made with that aim in mind and are directed specifically to the adequate preservation and utilization of monuments and sites of archaeological, historic, and artistic value, in accordance with the provisions of Chapter V, paragraph d, Multinational Efforts, of the Declaration of the Presidents of America.

Notwithstanding, in view of the close relationship between architectural and artistic wealth, it is essential to recognize that other valuable resources and objects of the cultural heritage must be properly protected to prevent their continuing deterioration and unrestricted demolition. It is also essential that these resources be suitably exhibited, in accordance with modern museographic techniques, so that the aims sought through them may be achieved.


1. Since the idea of space is inseparable from the concept of monument, the stewardship of the state can and should be extended to the surrounding urban context or natural environment. However, a monumental zone, structure, or site may exist, even though none of the elements composing it deserve such a designation when individually considered.

2. Scenic areas and other natural wonders receiving state protection are not in themselves national monuments. The historic and artistic imprint of man is essential in order for a specific place or site to be eligible for that specific category.

3. Regardless of the intrinsic value of a property or the circumstances determining its historic or artistic importance and significance, it will not constitute a monument until it has been expressly declared as such by the state. Declaration of a national monument entails its official identification and registration. From that time on, the property in question will be subject to the special protection stipulated by law.

4. Every national monument is implicitly designed to fulfill a social function. It is the responsibility of the state to ensure this social function and to determine in each case the extent to which it is compatible with private property and private interests.


1. It is readily apparent that the Americas, and particularly Latin America, are abundantly endowed with monumental resources. In addition to magnificent vestiges of pre-Columbian cultures, this hemisphere offers a varied profusion of architectural and artistic expressions representative of its long cultural history. A native accent, derived from the phenomenon of acculturation, stamps the imported styles with the authentically American flavor of many characteristic and distinctive local expression. Archaeological ruins of outstanding importance, not always accessible or fully explored, together with amazing survivors from the past, urban complexes, and entire towns, can become centers of vivid historic interest and tourist attractions.

2. It is equally apparent that much of this heritage has been wantonly destroyed during the past few decades or is currently in imminent danger of ruin. Many factor have contributed and still contribute to depletion of the inventory of archaeological, historic and artistic properties in most of the Latin American countries, but it must be acknowledged that the basic reason for the increasingly rapid destruction of this potential wealth is the lack of an official policy to enforce current measures for protection effectively and practically, and promote enrichment of the monumental heritage in terms of public interest and the economic benefit of the nation.

3. At this critical juncture when the Americas are engaged in a great progressive endeavor that calls for the exhaustive exploitation of natural resources and the gradual transformation of socio-economic structures, the problems relating to the protection, preservation, and utilization of monumental buildings, sites and areas are particularly important and timely.

4. The entire process of accelerated development entails the expansion of infrastructure and the occupation of extensive areas by industrial installations and construction that tend to alter and even totally disfigure the landscape, erasing the stylistic traits and expressions of the past, evidence of a historic tradition of inestimable value.

5. A great many Latin American cities that until recently contained a rich monumental heritage as evidence of their past grandeur - churches, plazas, fountains and narrow streets that combined to accentuate their personality and attraction - have suffered such mutilation and degradation of their architectural contours that they are unrecognizable. All of this has been done in the name of a misconceived and even more mismanaged urban progress.

6. It is no exaggeration to state that the potential wealth destroyed by these irresponsible acts of urban vandalism in many cities of the hemisphere far exceeds the benefits to the national economy derived from the installations and infrastructural improvements claimed as justification for such acts.


1. The need to reconcile the demands of urban growth with the protection of environmental values is today an inflexible standard in the formulation of regulatory plans at both the local and the national levels. In this respect, every regulatory plan must be carried out in such a way as to permit integration into the urban fabric of historic districts and ensembles of environmental interest.

2. The protection and enhancement of the monumental and artistic heritage does not conflict in either theory or practice with a scientifically developed policy of urban planning. On the contrary, it should serve to complement such a policy. In confirmation of this view, we quote the following text from the Weiss report, submitted to the Cultural and Scientific Commission of the Council of Europe (1963): "It is possible to develop a country without disfiguring it, to prepare for and serve the future without destroying the past. The improvement of living standards should be confined to achievement of a progressive material well- being, it should be associated with the creation of a way of life worthy of mankind."

3. Continuity of the latin American history and cultural horizon, seriously compromised by overwhelming acceptance of a chaotic process of modernization, requires the adoption of measures for the protection, recovery and enhancement of the regional monumental heritage and the preparation of both immediate and long-range national and multi-national plans.

4. It must be acknowledged that international specialized agencies have recognized the scope of the problem and have made every effort in recent years to find satisfactory solutions. The Americas can draw on their store of experience.

5. Since the 1932 Charter of Athens, many international congresses have helped shape the current dominant view. Among those most deeply concerned with the problem and that have made specific recommendations are the International Union of Architects (Moscow, 1958); the Congress of the International Federation of Housing and Urbanism (Santiago de Compostela, 1961), which dealt with the problem of historic compounds, the Congress of Venice (1964), and the most recent ICOMOS meeting (Cáceres, 1867), which offered an eminently practical approach to this question of vital interest to the Americas.


1. Let us assume that archaeological, historic and artistic monuments are economic resources in the same sense as the natural wealth of the country. Consequently, measures conducive to their preservation and proper utilization not only relate to development plans, but constitute or should constitute a component of such plans.

2. In the broader sphere of inter-American relations, repeated recommendations and resolutions of various agencies of the system gradually raised the problem to the highest level of consideration: the Meeting of the Heads of State (Punta del Este, 1967).

3. It is obvious that consideration at this meeting of the problem of adequate protection and use of archaeological, historic and artistic heritage stemmed from the same basic reasons that led the heads of state to convoke the meeting: the need to give the Alliance for Peace new and more vigorous impetus and to offer, though hemispheric cooperation, the additional assistance required for economic development of the OAS member countries.

4. This explains the use of the word "use" appearing in Chapter V, A., item 2, of the Declaration of Presidents:

Multinational efforts:

. . .
2. Instructing the appropriate agencies of the OAS to:
. . .

d. Extend inter-American cooperation to the preservation and use of the archaeological, historic and artistic monuments."

5. More specifically, Resolution 2 of the Second Special Meeting of the Inter-American Cultural Council, [which] called for the sole purpose of implementing the provisions of the Declaration of the Presidents within the sphere of competence of the Council, reads:

. . . the extension of technical assistance and financial aid to the cultural patrimony of the member states will be carried out as part of their economic and tourist travel development.

6. In short, it is a question of mobilizing national efforts with a view to securing optimum utilization of available monumental resources as an indirect means of promoting national economic development. This implies preliminary planning at the national level, that is, the evaluation of available resources and the preparation of specific projects within a general regulatory plan [master plan].

7. The extension of inter-American cooperation to this aspect of development implicitly recognized the fact that the national effort is not in itself equal to an endeavor which, in most cases, exceeds its real possibilities. Only through multinational action can many developing member states procure the essential technical services and financial resources.


1. The term "enhancement," which is becoming increasingly common among specialists in the field. is particularly apt as applied to the Americas today. If anything characterizes America's present, it is precisely the urgent need for making maximum use of all its resources, which unquestionably include the cultural heritage of the nations.

2. To enhance the usability and value of a historic or artistic property is to provide it with the objective and environmental conditions that, without detracting from its nature, emphasize its characteristics and permit its optimum use. The enhancement should be construed to operate on the basis of a transcendent purpose. In the case of Latin America, this purpose would undoubtedly be to contribute to the economic development of the region.

3. In other word, it is a question of incorporating an economic potential. a current value, of making an unexploited resource productive by a process of revaluation that, far from lessening its strictly historic or artistic significance, enhances and raises it from the exclusive domain of erudite minorities to the awareness and enjoyment of the masses.

4. To sum up, enhancing the usability and value of the monumental and artistic patrimony implies a systematic, eminently technical action, aimed at utilizing each and every one of those properties in accordance with its nature, stressing and enriching their characteristics and merits to a point where they can fully perform the new function assigned to them.

5. It must be noted that to some extent, the site of a structure of major interest is compromised by a neighborhood surrounding it, which means that it will in a way become a part of the local setting once it has been enhanced. Therefore, standards for protection and enrichment must be extended to the entire environment of the monument.

6. Moreover, enhancement of the usability and value of a monument reflect favorably upon its urban surrounding and even beyond this immediate area to more distant ones. This increase in the real value of a property by reflective impact is a type of increment that must be taken into account.

7. Obviously, insofar as a monument attracts visitors, so will there be more merchants interested in installing appropriate establishments under its protective shadow. This is another predictable result of enhancement and implies the adoption of regulatory measures that which, while facilitating and encouraging private initiative, prevent commercialization of the site and loss of its original purpose.

8. The foregoing indicates the diversity of monuments and buildings of marked historic and artistic interest located within the center of environmental wealth are mutually related and exert a multiplier effect on the rest of the area that would be enriched as a whole as a result of a plan for enhancing and repairing its principal structures.


1. Intrinsic cultural values are neither weakened nor compromised by association with tourist interests; on the contrary, the increased attraction of the cultural properties and the growing number of outside admirers confirm awareness of their importance and national significance. A properly restored monument, an urban complex that has regained its original values, are not only living lessons of history, but legitimate reasons for national pride. In the broader framework of international relations, these testimonials from the past stimulate understanding, harmony and spiritual communion even between countries that are political rivals. Anything that help enhance spiritual values, however far removed from the intention to promote culture, will necessarily benefit that culture. Europe owes to tourism, directly or indirectly, the salvation of much of its cultural heritage condemned to complete and irreparable destruction, and modern man, more visually than literarily sensitive, finds increasing opportunities for self-enrichment through viewing examples of western civilization, scientifically rescued because of the powerful incentive of tourism.

2. If cultural properties play such an important role in tourist travel, it is only logical that the investment required for their proper restoration and equipment, within a specialized technical framework, should be made simultaneously with those demanded by the travel industry and, more properly, that both should be included within a single economic regional development plan.

3. The United Nations Conference on International Travel and Tourism (Rome, 1953) not only recommends that high priority be assigned to tourist investments under national plans, but emphasized that "from the tourist standpoint, the cultural, historic and natural heritage of nations os quite an important factor;" therefore, it urged "the adoption of adequate measures designed to ensure the preservation and protection of that heritage" (Final Report, Doc.4). The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (1964), in turn, recommended that both government and private financing agencies and organizations "offer assistance, in the most appropriate form, to work aimed at the conservation, restoration and desirable use of archaeological, historic and scenic sites" (Resolution Annex A, IV.24). Recently, the Economic and Social Council of that world agency, after recommending that the General Assembly designate 1967 as International Tourist Year, resolved to invite the United Nations organizations and the specialized agencies to give "favorable consideration to the request for technical and financial assistance to the developing countries, in order to accelerate improvement of their tourist resources (Resolution 1109-XL).

4. In connection with this topic, which has received special attention form the UNESCO General Secretariat, an exhaustive study has been conducted in collaboration with a nongovernmental agency of great prestige, the International Union of Official Tourist Travel Agencies. This study confirms the criteria outlined, and after analyzing the cultural, educational and social reasons for the use of monumental resources as part of tourist promotion, stresses the economic benefits deriving form that policy for the corresponding areas. Two extremes of particular interest should be noted: a) the tourist traffic deriving form the suitable restoration of the value of the monument ensures rapid recovery of the capital invested for that purpose; b) tourist activity resulting from adequate presentation from a monument that would disappear without such activity entails profound economic transformation of the region in which the monument is set.

5. Within the inter-American system, in addition to the many recommendations and agreements highlighting the importance that should be assigned at both the national and regional levels to the problem of the present neglect of much of the cultural heritage of the countries in the hemisphere, recent specialized meetings have approached the specific topic of the roles played by monuments of artistic and historic interest in the development of the tourist industry. The Technical Committee on Tourist Travel Promotion, at its fourth meeting (July-August 1967), resolved to support the conclusions adopted by the corresponding Committee on Travel Industry, which include the following:

The monuments and other assets of an archaeological, historical, and artistic nature can and should be properly preserved and utilized for development purposes as prime attractions for the influx of tourists.

In countries with a rich heritage of archaeological, historic and artistic interest, that heritage should constitute a decisive factor in their tourist plan, and should therefore, be taken into account in the final form of the pertinent plans.

Activities of a strictly cultural nature and those relating to tourism have a common interest in the proper preservation and utilization of the monumental and artistic heritage of the American nations, which makes it advisable for the agencies and technical units in both fields of inter-American activity to work along these lines in a coordinated manner.

6. From the tourist standpoint exclusively, monuments are a fundamental part of the "plant" available for operating that industry in a given regions, but the extent to which this monument can serve the use to which it is put will depend not only on its intrinsic value, that is, its archaeological, historic or artistic significance, but on the attendant circumstances facilitating its proper utilization. Therefore, restoration in itself may not always be sufficient to ensure that a monument be exploited and become part of the travel plant of a region. It may be just as necessary to undertake such other infrastructure works as access roads and visitors lodges - all in keeping with the environmental nature of the region.

7. The economic and social advantages of tourist travel vis-a-vis monuments are evident in most modern statistics, particularly in those European countries that owe their present prosperity to international tourism and include among their major sources of wealth the inventory of their cultural properties.


1. Presumably, initial efforts aimed at enhancing the monumental heritage meet a broad area of resistance within the sphere of private interests. Years of official negligence and the impulsive zeal for renewal that characterizes the developing nations increase contempt for all traces of the past that fail to conform to the ideal pattern of a modern way of life. Lacking sufficient civic training to look upon social interest as an exaggerated form of individual self-interest and unable to appreciate what is best for the community from the objective standpoint of the public good, the inhabitants of a community, infected by the "fever of progress," are unable to gauge the consequences of the acts of urban vandalism recklessly carried on through the indifference or complicity of the local authorities.

2. An alarm can and should be sounded and vigilant preventive action taken by each community. Regardless of what they are called and how they are composed, the encouragement of civic groups dedicated to protecting the cultural heritage, has had excellent results, especially in localities that do not yet have urban regulations and where protective action at the national level is weak or not always effective.

3. Nothing can contribute more to the awakening of awareness than seeing the example itself. Once the results of certain world of restoration and renewal of buildings, plazas and sites are apparent, the public usually reacts favorably, calling for a halt to destructive action and supporting the attainment of more ambitious objective.

4 In any case, the spontaneous and extensive collaboration of individuals in plans for enhancing the use and value of the historic and artistic heritage is absolutely essential in small communities. Consequently, the preparation of such plans should take into account the advisability of a related program of civic education developed systematically and simultaneously with the execution of the plan.


1. Proper utilization of monuments of major historic and artistic interest requires, first of all, the coordination of cultural and economic initiatives with efforts on behalf of tourism. The more fully these convergent interests harmonize and relate, the more satisfactory the ultimate result will be.

2. This necessary coordination cannot take place unless that country concerned has the legal conditions and technical instrument required to do so.

3. Within the cultural framework, the following are prerequisites to any official objective to enrich the monumental heritage: effective legislation, technical organization and national planning.

4. Cultural and economic projects should be integrated at the national level as a preliminary step to any negotiation for external assistance or cooperation. Such cooperation, whether technical or financial, is a supplement to the national effort. It is up to the governments of the member states to take the initiative; the countries have the responsibility of formulating their projects and integrating them into their general development plans. The following measures and procedures are directed towards these ends:


1. Projects for enhancing the value of the monumental heritage are part of national development plans and, consequently, should be integrated into them. Investments required for putting these project into effect should be made simultaneously with those needed by the travel infrastructure of the area or region whose value is to be restored.

2. It is up to the government to endow the country with the conditions that will enable it to formulate and carry out specific projects for value enhancement.

3. To achieve the foregoing results, the following is required:

  1. the granting of high priority within the national development plan to projects enhancing the value of monumental wealth;
  2. Suitable legislation, or in its absence, other governmental regulations to facilitate enhancement projects, maintaining the public interest throughout.
  3. Coordinated management of the project through a qualified institution, capable of centralizing its implementation in all stages;
  4. Designation of a technical team that may count on external assistance while specific project are being formulated or implemented.

4. Enhancing the value of monumental wealth can only be achieved through planned action, that is, in accordance with a regulatory plan of national or regional scope. Consequently, it is essential that the projects promoted be integrated with regulatory plans existing in the city or region concerned. If such plans do not exist, they should be established in a consistent way.

5. Cultural interests relative to the monuments or environmental complexes concerned must be coordinated with tourist travel interests, and this should be accomplished by the coordinating entity of the project referred to in paragraph c.3. as a preliminary step to any external technical or financial assistance.

6. The cooperation of private interests and the support of public opinion are essential to carry out any enhancement project. In that respect during the formulation of the project, a civic campaign should be conducted to arouse favorable public awareness.


1. It is advisable to reiterate that the countries of the Americas should adhere to the Venice Charter as a universal principle in matters of preservation of historic and artistic monuments and sites, without prejudice to adopting any other agreements or commitments within the Inter- American System.

2. To extend the generalized concept of monument to cultural expressions of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries.

3. To link the much-needed revalorization of the historic and artistic heritage of the American Nations to other countries outside the hemisphere, especially to Spain and Portugal, given the historic role that both have played in building this heritage and the common cultural values that unite them to the countries of this hemisphere.

4. That the Organization of American States extend the cooperation it has agreed to provide towards the enhancement of monuments of archaeological, historic and artistic interest to other heritage resources represented in museum and archival collections and in the sociological wealth inherent in national folklore.

5. Because restoration ends where speculation begins, it is absolutely necessary that any work of this kind be preceded by preliminary historical research. Since archives in Spain contain an abundance of charts and maps of the cities of the Americas, documentation on fortifications and numerous buildings, plus other copious official documentation, and since the cataloguing of those documents was halted with those pertaining to most of the colonial buildings, making their use extremely difficult, it is highly recommended that the Organization of American States cooperate with Spain in updating and facilitating research in Spanish archives, especially that of the Indies in Seville.

6. That a new inter-American document be drafted to replace the Treaty on the Protection of Moveable Property of Historic Value of 1935, that will be capable of a more effective and extensive protection of this important sector of the cultural heritage of the hemisphere from the many risks that threaten it.

7. Pending completion of the foregoing, that at its next meeting, the Inter American Cultural Council ask all member states to adopt emergency measures to stop the illegal traffic of cultural property and to achieve the repatriation of such objects to their country of origin, once it is proven that they have been smuggled out or illegally acquired.

8. Bearing in mind that the shortage that the scarcity of human resources is a serious handicap to the implementation of plans to enhance cultural value, that resources be made available for the establishment of an Inter American center or institution specializing in restoration training. Furthermore, the existing ann new institutions be strengthened to meet current needs in the restoration of moveable property.

9. Without prejudice to the foregoing and to meet urgent needs immediately, that the General Secretariat of the OAS make use of its Fellowship and Special Training Programs; also that cooperative agreements be established with the Instituto de Cultura Hispánica in Madrid under the Technical Cooperative Agreement OAS-Spain, and with the Centro Regional para la Restauración y Conservación de Bienes Culturales in Mexico.

10. Because it is necessary to exchange experience on problem inherent to the Americas in order to maintain unity of professional criteria, that the Association of Architects Specialized in the Restoration of Monuments temporarily headquartered at the Instituto de Cultural Hispánica in Madrid be recognized, and that its permanent installation in one of the member states be fostered.


1. Protective legislation in effect in member states must be updated to ensure its effective application for the aims sought.

2. Local ordinances governing commercial signage must be revised in order to control the types of advertising that alter the environmental characteristics of urban areas of historic interest.

3. Regarding protective legislation, the urban space occupied by monumental districts or centers of environmental value should be given boundaries as follows:

  1. a rigorously protected zone, corresponding to the greatest monumental density or interest
  2. a zone of protection or respect, with a higher degree of tolerance, and
  3. zone of protection of the urban landscape, in an effort to integrate it with the surrounding natural areas.

4. In bringing legislation up to date, all countries must take into account the increased value of properties included within the enhanced zone, and also to some extent, its environs.

5. Likewise, it must be taken into account the possibility to encourage private enterprise through the establishment of tax exemptions for buildings restored with private capital within the regulations established by responsible agencies. Tax exemptions may also be established as compensation for the restriction imposed on private properties as a result of their public interest.


1. The enhancement of a monument or urban area of environmental interest is the result of an eminently technical process; consequently, its official management should be entrusted to a specialized agency that centralizes all work.

2. Each enhancement project is a unique problem that also demands a unique solution.

3. The technical collaboration of the experts in the various fields that be carrying out the project is absolutely essential. The final outcome will depend largely on the proper coordination of these specialists.

4. The priority given to a project should depend upon the estimated economic benefits that will result for a specific region. But insofar as possible, attention should also be given to the intrinsic significance of the property to be restored or its emergency condition.

5. Generally, every project to enhance cultural value involves economic, historic, technical and administrative problems. Technical problems of conservation, restoration and reconstruction vary according to the type of property. Archaeological monuments, for example, demand the help of specialists in that field.

6. The nature and scope of work to be undertaken on a monument require preliminary decisions that are the result of an exhaustive study of the conditions and circumstances that surround it. Once the intervention and treatments are decided, subsequent work will proceed with absolute respect for the fabric of the monument or the information that will undoubtedly be available in the authentic documents on which the restoration is based.

7. In works of enhancement of environmental areas, the limits and values of those areas must be defined.

8. Once defined and evaluated, the enhancement of an environmental historic area requires:

  1. Study and determination of its eventual use and of the activities to be conducted in the area
  2. Study of the magnitude of the investment and of the stages necessary to complete the restoration and conservation work, including works of infrastructure and adaptations required by the travel industry for the enhancement of the area.
  3. Analytical study of the regulatory ordinance to which the area will be subjected so that existing buildings and new construction may be effectively controlled
  4. A regulation for the areas adjacent to the historic center must be established, as well as regulations for land use, density and volume relationship as determinant factors in the urban and natural landscape.
  5. Study of the investment necessary to make the area hygienic
  6. Study of preventive mechanisms to ensure the continuing maintenance of the area to be enhanced.

9. The limited funding available and the need for training of the technical teams required for enhancement plans make it advisable to formulate preliminary pilot projects in places where economic interests and technical facilities happen to coincide.

10. The enhancement of an urban center of historic or environmental significance the extent of which exceeds immediate financial resources, may and should be planned in multiple stages, which should be carried out progressively in accordance with the needs of the tourist industry, but understanding that the project must be conceived as a whole and that there will be no interruption or postponement in the work of cataloguing, research and inventory.

Guillermo de Zéndegui, Technical Secretary of the Meeting; Renato Soeiro (Brazil); Carlos M. Larrea; José María Vargas; Agustín Moreno; Oswaldo de la Torre; Earle W. Newton; José Manuel González Valcárcel (Spain); Carlos Flores Marini (Mexico); Manuel E. del Monte (Dominican Republic); Manuel del Castillo Negrete (Mexico); Benjamín Carrión; Hernán Crespo Toral (Ecuador); Filoteo Samaniego; Miguel A. Vasco; Carlos Zevallos; Christopher Tunnard; Jorge Luján M.; Fernando Silva Santiesteban; Graziano Gasparini (Venezuela); Pan American Institute of Geography and History, represented by Lidia C. de Camacho.

The Athens Charter for the Restoration of Historic Monuments - 1931

Adopted at the First International Congress of Architects and Technicians of Historic Monuments, Athens 1931

At the Congress in Athens the following seven main resolutions were made and called "Carta del Restauro":

1. International organizations for Restoration on operational and advisory levels are to be established.

2. Proposed Restoration projects are to be subjected to knowledgeable criticism to prevent mistakes which will cause loss of character and historical values to the structures.

3. Problems of preservation of historic sites are to be solved by legislation at national level for all countries.

4. Excavated sites which are not subject to immediate restoration should be reburied for protection.

5. Modern techniques and materials may be used in restoration work.

6. Historical sites are to be given strict custodial protection.

7. Attention should be given to the protection of areas surrounding historic sites.

General Conclusions of the Athens Conference


The Conference heard the statement of the general principles and doctrines relating to the protection of monuments.

Whatever may be the variety of concrete cases, each of which are open to a different solution, the Conference noted that there predominates in the different countries represented a general tendency to abandon restorations in toto and to avoid the attendant dangers by initiating a system of regular and permanent maintenance calculated to ensure the preservation of the buildings.

When, as the result of decay or destruction, restoration appears to be indispensable, it recommends that the historic and artistic work of the past should be respected, without excluding the style of any given period.

The Conference recommends that the occupation of buildings, which ensures the continuity of their life, should be maintained but that they should be used for a purpose which respects their historic or artistic character.


The Conference heard the statement of legislative measures devised to protect monuments of artistic, historic or scientific interest and belonging to the different countries.

It unanimously approved the general tendency which, in this connection, recognises a certain right of the community in regard to private ownership.

It noted that the differences existing between these legislative measures were due to the difficulty of reconciling public law with the rights of individuals.

Consequently, while approving the general tendency of these measures, the Conference is of opinion that they should be in keeping with local circumstances and with the trend of public opinion, so that the least possible opposition may be encountered, due allowance being made for the sacrifices which the owners of property may be called upon to make in the general interest.

It recommends that the public authorities in each country be empowered to take conservatory measures in cases of emergency.

It earnestly hopes that the International Museums Office will publish a repertory and a comparative table of the legislative measures in force in the different countries and that this information will be kept up to date.


The Conference recommends that, in the construction of buildings, the character and external aspect of the cities in which they are to be erected should be respected, especially in the neighbourhood of ancient monuments, where the surroundings should be given special consideration. Even certain groupings and certain particularly picturesque perspective treatment should be preserved.

A study should also be made of the ornamental vegetation most suited to certain monuments or groups of monuments from the point of view of preserving their ancient character. It specially recommends the suppression of all forms of publicity, of the erection of unsightly telegraph poles and the exclusion of all noisy factories and even of tall shafts in the neighbourhood of artistic and historic monuments.


The experts heard various communications concerning the use of modern materials for the consolidation of ancient monuments. They approved the judicious use of all the resources at the disposal of modern technique and more especially of reinforced concrete.

They specified that this work of consolidation should whenever possible be concealed in order that the aspect and character of the restored monument may be preserved.

They recommended their adoption more particularly in cases where their use makes it possible to avoid the dangers of dismantling and reinstating the portions to be preserved.


The Conference noted that, in the conditions of present day life, monuments throughout the world were being threatened to an ever-increasing degree by atmospheric agents.

Apart from the customary precautions and the methods successfully applied in the preservation of monumental statuary in current practice, it was impossible, in view of the complexity of cases and with the knowledge at present available, to formulate any general rules.

The Conference recommends:

1. That, in each country, the architects and curators of monuments should collaborate with specialists in the physical, chemical, and natural sciences with a view to determining the methods to be adopted in specific cases;

2. That the International Museums Office should keep itself informed of the work being done in each country in this field and that mention should be made thereof in the publications of the Office.

With regard to the preservation of monumental sculpture, the Conference is of opinion that the removal of works of art from the surroundings for which they were designed is, in principle, to be discouraged. It recommends, by way of precaution, the preservation of original models whenever these still exist or if this proves impossible, the taking of casts.


The Conference is gratified to note that the principles and technical considerations set forth in the different detailed communications are inspired by the same idea, namely:

In the case of ruins, scrupulous conservation is necessary, and steps should be taken to reinstate any original fragments that may be recovered (anastylosis), whenever this is possible; the new materials used for this purpose should in all cases be recognisable. When the preservation of ruins brought to light in the course of excavations is found to be impossible, the Conference recommends that they be buried, accurate records being of course taken before filling-in operations are undertaken.

It should be unnecessary to mention that the technical work undertaken in connection with the excavation and preservation of ancient monuments calls for close collaboration between the archaeologist and the architect.

With regard to other monuments, the experts unanimously agreed that, before any consolidation or partial restoration is undertaken, a thorough analysis should be made of the defects and the nature of the decay of these monuments. They recognised that each case needed to be treated individually.


a) Technical and moral co-operation.

The Conference, convinced that the question of the conservation of the artistic and archaeological property of mankind is one that interests the community of the States, which are wardens of civilisation,

Hopes that the States, acting in the spirit of the Covenant of the League of Nations, will collaborate with each other on an ever-increasing scale and in a more concrete manner with a view to furthering the preservation of artistic and historic monuments;

Considers it highly desirable that qualified institutions and associations should, without in any manner whatsoever prejudicing international public law, be given an opportunity of manifesting their interest in the protection of works of art in which civilisation has been expressed to the highest degree and which would seem to be threatened with destruction;

Expresses the wish that requests to attain this end, submitted to the Intellectual Co-operation Organisation of the League of Nations, be recommended to the earnest attention of the States.

It will be for the International Committee on Intellectual Co-operation, after an enquiry conducted by the International Museums Office and after having collected all relevant information, more particularly from the National Committee on Intellectual Co-operation concerned, to express an opinion on the expediency of the steps to be taken and on the procedure to be followed in each individual case.

The members of the Conference, after having visited in the course of their deliberations and during the study cruise which they were able to make on this occasion, a number of excavation sites and ancient Greek monuments, unanimously paid a tribute to the Greek Government, which, for many years past, has been itself responsible for extensive works and, at the same time, has accepted the collaboration of archaeologists and experts from every country.

The members of the Conference there saw an example of activity which can but contribute to the realisation of the aims of intellectual co-operation, the need for which manifested itself during their work.

b) The role of education in the respect of monuments.

The Conference, firmly convinced that the best guarantee in the matter of the preservation of monuments and works of art derives from the respect and attachment of the peoples themselves;

Considering that these feelings can very largely be promoted by appropriate action on the part of public authorities;

Recommends that educators should urge children and young people to abstain from disfiguring monuments of every description and that they should teach them to take a greater and more general interest in the protection of these concrete testimonies of all ages of civilisation.

c) Value of international documentation.

The Conference expresses the wish that:

1. Each country, or the institutions created or recognised competent for this purpose, publish an inventory of ancient monuments, with photographs and explanatory notes;

2. Each country constitute official records which shall contain all documents relating to its historic monuments;

3. Each country deposit copies of its publications on artistic and historic monuments with the International Museums Office;

4. The Office devote a portion of its publications to articles on the general processes and methods employed in the preservation of historic monuments;

5. The Office study the best means of utilising the information so centralised.

ICOMOS Principles for the Preservation and Conservation/Restoration of Wall Paintings


[PDF-151 Kb]


Ratified by the ICOMOS 14th General Assembly, in Vicoria Falls, Zimbabwe, October 2003

Introduction and Definition 

Wall paintings have been cultural expressions of human creation throughout history, from the earliest beginnings, such as rock art, extending up to present day murals. Their deterioration, accidental or intentional destruction constitutes a loss affecting a significant part of the world?s cultural heritage. 


The Venice Charter (1964) has provided general principles for the conservation-restoration of cultural heritage. The Amsterdam Declaration (1975) introducing the concept of integrated conservation, and the Nara Document on Authenticity (1994) dealing with cultural diversity, have expanded these principles. Taking into account these and additional relevant contributions, such as the ICOM-CC Code of Ethics (1984), Document of Pavia (1997), and E.C.C.O. Professional Guidelines (1997), the aim of this document is to provide more specific principles for the protection, preservation and the conservation-restoration of wall paintings. This document, therefore, reflects basic and universally applicable principles and practices, and does not take into account particular problems of regions or countries, which can be supplemented at regional and national level by providing further recommendations where necessary. 

The richness of wall paintings is founded on the variety of cultural expressions, aesthetic achievements, and the diversity of materials and techniques used from ancient until present times. The following articles refer to paintings created on inorganic supports, such as plaster, brick, clay and stone, and do not include paintings executed on organic supports, such as wood, paper and canvas. Composite materials in many historic buildings need special consideration outside the scope of this document. Architectural surfaces and their finishing layers, with their historical, aesthetic and technical values have to be considered as equally important components of historic monuments. 

Wall paintings are an integral part of monuments and sites and should be preserved in situ. Many of the problems affecting wall paintings are linked to the poor condition of the building or structure, its improper use, lack of maintenance, frequent repairs and alterations. Also frequent restorations, unnecessary uncovering, and use of inappropriate methods and materials can result in irreparable damage. Substandard and inadequate practices and professional qualifications have led to unfortunate results. It is for this reason that an appropriate document covering the principles of proper conservation-restoration of wall paintings is necessary. 

Article 1: Protection Policy 

A necessary approach to the protection of wall paintings of every culture and religion is to list and make inventories of monuments and sites including wall paintings, even in cases when they are not presently visible. Laws and regulations for the protection of cultural heritage must prohibit the destruction, the degradation or alteration of wall paintings, including their surroundings. Legislation should not only provide for the protection of wall paintings, but also make available resources for research, professional treatment and monitoring, and provide for the appreciation of their tangible and intangible values by society. 

If interventions are required, these should be carried out with the full knowledge and the consent of the authorities responsible. Legal sanctions should be provided for any violation of such regulations. Legal provisions should also consider new discoveries and their preservation pending formal protection. Regional, urban or architectural development projects, such as the construction of roads, dams, conversion of buildings, etc. affecting wall paintings should not be carried out without an initial impact assessment study and without providing appropriate remedies for their safeguard. 

Special efforts must be made through the co-operation of various authorities to accommodate and respect the cult function of religious paintings without compromising their authenticity.
Article 2: Investigation 

All conservation projects should begin with substantial scholarly investigations. The aim of such investigations is to find out as much as possible about the fabric of the structure and its superimposed layers with their historical, aesthetic and technical dimensions. This should encompass all material and incorporeal values of the painting, including historic alterations, additions and restorations. This calls for an interdisciplinary approach. 

The methods of investigation should be as far as possible non-destructive. Special consideration should be given to wall paintings that may be hidden under whitewash, paint layers, plaster, etc. Prerequisites for any conservation program are the scientific investigation of decay mechanisms on macro and micro scale, the material analysis and the diagnosis of the condition. 

Article 3: Documentation 

In agreement with the Venice Charter, the conservation-restoration of wall paintings must be accompanied by a precise program of documentation in the form of an analytical and critical report, illustrated with drawings, copies, photographs, mapping, etc. The condition of the paintings, the technical and formal features pertaining to the process of the creation and the history of the object must be recorded. Furthermore, every stage of the conservation-restoration, materials and methodology used should be documented. This report should be placed in the archives of a public institution and made available to the interested public. Copies of such documentation should also be kept in situ, or in the possession of those responsible for the monument. It is also recommended that the results of the work should be published. This documentation should consider definable units of area in terms of such investigations, diagnosis and treatment. Traditional methods of written and graphic documentation can be supplemented by digital methods. However, regardless of the technique, the permanence of the records and the future availability of the documentation is of utmost importance. 

Article 4: Preventive Conservation, Maintenance and Site Management 

The aim of preventive conservation is to create favourable conditions minimising decay, and to avoid unnecessary remedial treatments, thus prolonging the life span of wall paintings. Appropriate monitoring and the control of the environment are both essential components of preventive conservation. Inappropriate climatic conditions and moisture problems can cause deterioration and biological attacks. Monitoring can detect initial processes of decay of the painting or the supporting structure, thus preventing further damage. Deformation and structural failure leading even to possible collapse of the supporting structure, can be recognised at an early stage. Regular maintenance of the building or the structure is the best guarantee for the safeguard of the wall paintings. 

Inappropriate or uncontrolled public uses of monuments and sites with wall paintings can lead to their damage. This may necessitate the limitation of visitors and, in certain cases, involve temporary closure to public access. However, it is preferable that the public should have the opportunity to experience and appreciate wall paintings as being part of the common cultural heritage. It is, therefore, important to incorporate into the site management careful planning of access and use, preserving, as far as possible, the authentic tangible and intangible values of the monuments and sites. 
Due to various sociological, ideological and economical reasons many wall paintings, often situated in isolated locations, become the victims of vandalism and theft. In these cases, the responsible authorities should take special preventive measures. 

Article 5: Conservation-Restoration Treatments 

Wall paintings are an integral part of the building or structure. Therefore, their conservation should be considered together with the fabric of the architectural entity and surroundings. Any intervention in the monument must take into account the specific characteristics of wall paintings and the terms of their preservation. All interventions, such as consolidation, cleaning and reintegration, should be kept at a necessary minimal level to avoid any reduction of material and pictorial authenticity. Whenever possible, samples of stratigraphic layers testifying to the history of the paintings should be preserved, preferably in situ. 


Natural ageing is a testimony to the trace of time and should be respected. Irreversible chemical and physical transformations are to be preserved if their removal is harmful. Previous restorations, additions and over-painting are part of the history of the wall painting. These should be regarded as witnesses of past interpretations and evaluated critically. 

All methods and materials used in conservation and restoration of wall paintings should take into account the possibility of future treatments. The use of new materials and methods must be based on comprehensive scientific data and positive results of testing in laboratories as well as on sites. However, it must be kept in mind that the long term effects of new materials and methods on wall paintings are unknown and could be harmful. Therefore, the use of traditional materials, if compatible with the components of the painting and the surrounding structure, should be encouraged. 

The aim of restoration is to improve the legibility of form and content of the wall painting, while respecting the original creation and its history. Aesthetic reintegration contributes to minimising the visibility of damage and should primarily be carried out on non-original material. Retouching and reconstructions should be carried out in a way that is discernible from the original. All additions should be easily removable. Over-painting must be avoided. 

Uncovering of wall paintings requires the respect of the historic situation and the evaluation of what might be lost. This operation should be executed only after preliminary investigations of their condition, extent and value, and when this is possible without incurring damage. The newly uncovered paintings should not be exposed to unfavourable conditions. 

In some cases, reconstruction of decorative wall paintings or coloured architectural surfaces can be a part of a conservation-restoration program. This entails the conservation of the authentic fragments, and may necessitate their complete or partial covering with protective layers. A well-documented and professionally executed reconstruction using traditional materials and techniques can bear witness to the historic appearances of facades and interiors. 

Competent direction of conservation-restoration projects should be maintained at all stages and have the approval of the relevant authorities. It would be desirable that independent supervision of the project were insured by competent authorities or institutions without commercial interest in the outcome. Those responsible for management decisions must be named, and the work must be implemented by professionals with appropriate knowledge and skills. 

Article 6: Emergency Measures 

In urgent cases, immediate emergency treatment is necessary for the safeguard of wall paintings. Materials and techniques employed must permit later treatment. Appropriate conservation measures must follow as soon as possible with the permission of the relevant authorities. 

Detachment and transfer are dangerous, drastic and irreversible operations that severely affect the physical composition, material structure and aesthetic characteristics of wall paintings. These operations are, therefore, only justifiable in extreme cases when all options of in situ treatment are not viable. Should such situations occur, decisions involving detachment and transfer should always be taken by a team of professionals, rather than by the individual who is carrying out the conservation work. Detached paintings should be replaced in their original location whenever possible. 

Special measures should be taken for the protection and maintenance of detached paintings, and for the prevention of their theft and dispersion. 

The application of a covering layer concealing an existing decoration, carried out with the intention of preventing damage or destruction by exposure to an inhospitable environment, should be executed with materials compatible with the wall painting, and in a way that will permit future uncovering. 

Article 7: Research and Public Information 

The establishment of research projects in the field of conservation-restoration of wall paintings is an essential requisite of sustainable preservation policy. Investigations based on research questions, which have potential to add to the knowledge of degradation processes should be encouraged. Research that will expand our knowledge of the original painting techniques, as well as materials and methods of past restoration practices are essential in the implementation of appropriate conservation projects. This research is also relevant to related disciplines of the arts and sciences. The disturbance of significant fabric for study, or to obtain samples, should be minimised. 

Dissemination of knowledge is an important feature of research, and should be done on both the professional and popular levels. Public information can substantially advance awareness of the need for preservation of wall paintings, even if conservation-restoration work may cause temporary inconveniences. 

Article 8: Professional Qualifications and Training 

Conservation-restoration of wall paintings is a specialised discipline in the field of heritage preservation. As this work requires specific knowledge, skills, experience and responsibility, conservators-restorers of this kind of cultural property should be professionally educated and trained, as recommended by the Code of Ethics of the ICOM-Committee of Conservation (1984) and by associations such as E.C.C.O. (European Confederation of Conservator-Restorers? Organisations) and ENCoRE (European Network for Conservation-Restoration Education). 

Article 9: Traditions of Renewal 

In many regions of the world, the authentic painting practices of artists and craftsmen are continued by repeating historic decorative and iconographic programs using traditional materials and techniques. These traditions, satisfying religio-cultural needs and keeping to the Nara principles, should be sustained. However, as important as it is to preserve this special knowledge, this does not imply that the conservation-restoration treatments of wall paintings are to be carried out by craftsmen or artists. 

Article 10: International Co-operation 

Sharing the care for common heritage is nationally and internationally an accepted concept. It is therefore necessary to encourage the exchange of knowledge and to disseminate information at every level. In the spirit of interdisciplinary collaboration, conservators-restorers of wall paintings need to liaise with their colleagues in other countries and with relevant institutions and specialists around the world. 

This document, in its present form, was drafted in Copenhagen from 28th October 28 to 1 November 2002. It was edited and completed in Thessaloniki from 8 to 9 May 2003. Rapporteur: Isabelle Brajer. 

R.C. Agrawal (India)
Valia Anapliotou (Greece)
Stefan Belishki (Bulgaria)
Giorgio Bonsanti (Italy)
Isabelle Brajer (Denmark)
Marjan Buyle (Belgium)
Jaime Cama Villafranca (Mexico)
Nikolas Charkiolakis (Greece)
Rob Crèvecoeur (The Netherlands)
Luigi Dei (Italy)
Alberto Felici (Italy)
Vaios Ganitis (Greece)
George Kavakas (Greece)
Haris Lionis (Greece)
Penelope Mavroudi (Greece)
Vassilis Petropoulos (Greece)
Michael Petzet (Germany)
Ursula Schädler-Saub (Germany)
Walter Schudel (Belgium)
Nimal de Silva (Sri Lanka)
Roland Silva (Sri Lanka)
Kirsten Trampedach (Denmark)
Ioannis Zervos (Greece)

ICOMOS charter Principles for the analysis, conservation and Structural Restoration of Architectural Heritage


[PDF-102 Kb]


Ratified by the ICOMOS 14th General Assembly, in Vicoria Falls, Zimbabwe, October 2003



Structures of architectural heritage, by their very nature and history (material and assembly), present a number of challenges in diagnosis and restoration that limit the application of modern legal codes and building standards. Recommendations are desirable and necessary to both ensure rational methods of analysis and repair methods appropriate to the cultural context. 
These Recommendations are intended to be useful to all those involved in conservation and restoration problems, but cannot in anyway replace specific knowledge acquired from cultural and scientific texts. 
The Recommendations presented in the complete document are in two sections: Principles, where the basic concepts of conservation are presented; Guidelines, where the rules and methodology that a designer should follow are discussed. Only the Principles have the status of an approved/ratified ICOMOS document. 

The guidelines are available in English in a separate document. [Word - 164 Kb] 


1 General criteria

1.1 Conservation, reinforcement and restoration of architectural heritage requires a multi-disciplinary approach. 

1.2 Value and authenticity of architectural heritage cannot be based on fixed criteria because the respect due to all cultures also requires that its physical heritage be considered within the cultural context to which it belongs. 

1.3 The value of architectural heritage is not only in its appearance, but also in the integrity of all its components as a unique product of the specific building technology of its time. In particular the removal of the inner structures maintaining only the fa?ades does not fit the conservation criteria. 

1.4 When any change of use or function is proposed, all the conservation requirements and safety conditions have to be carefully taken into account. 

1.5 Restoration of the structure in Architecture Heritage is not an end in itself but a means to an end, which is the building as a whole. 

1.6 The peculiarity of heritage structures, with their complex history, requires the organisation of studies and proposals in precise steps that are similar to those used in medicine. Anamnesis, diagnosis, therapy and controls, corresponding respectively to the searches for significant data and information, individuation of the causes of damage and decay, choice of the remedial measures and control of the efficiency of the interventions. In order to achieve cost effectiveness and minimal impact on architectural heritage using funds available in a rational way; it is usually necessary that the study repeats these steps in an iterative process. 

1.7 No action should be undertaken without having ascertained the achievable benefit and harm to the architectural heritage, except in cases where urgent safeguard measures are necessary to avoid the imminent collapse of the structures (e.g. after seismic damages); those urgent measures, however, should when possible avoid modifying the fabric in an irreversible way. 

2 Researches and diagnosis

2.1 Usually a multidisciplinary team, to be determined in relation to the type and the scale of the problem, should work together from the first steps of a study - as in the initial survey of the site and the preparation of the investigation programme. 

2.2 Data and information should first be processed approximately, to establish a more comprehensive plan of activities in proportion to the real problems of the structures. 

2.3 A full understanding of the structural and material characteristics is required in conservation practice. Information is essential on the structure in its original and earlier states, on the techniques that were used in the construction, on the alterations and their effects, on the phenomena that have occurred, and, finally, on its present state. 

2.4 In archaeological sites specific problems may be posed because structures have to be stabilised during excavation when knowledge is not yet complete. The structural responses to a ?rediscovered? building may be completely different from those to an ?exposed? building. Urgent site-structural-solutions, required to stabilise the structure as it is being excavated, should not compromise the complete building?s concept form and use. 

2.5 Diagnosis is based on historical, qualitative and quantitative approaches; the qualitative approach being mainly based on direct observation of the structural damage and material decay as well as historical and archaeological research, and the quantitative approach mainly on material and structural tests, monitoring and structural analysis. 

2.6 Before making a decision on structural intervention it is indispensable to determine first the causes of damage and decay, and then to evaluate the safety level of the structure. 

2.7 The safety evaluation, which is the last step in the diagnosis, where the need for treatment measures is determined, should reconcile qualitative with quantitative analysis: direct observation, historical research, structural analysis and, if it is the case, experiments and tests. 

2.8 Often the application of the same safety levels as in the design of new buildings requires excessive, if not impossible, measures. In these cases specific analyses and appropriate considerations may justify different approaches to safety. 

2.9 All aspects related to the acquired information, the diagnosis including the safety evaluation, and the decision to intervene should be described in an ?explanatory report?. 

3 Remedial measures and controls 

3.1 Therapy should address root causes rather than symptoms. 

3.2 The best therapy is preventive maintenance 

3.3 Safety evaluation and an understanding of the significance of the structure should be the basis for conservation and reinforcement measures. 

3.4 No actions should be undertaken without demonstrating that they are indispensable. 

3.5 Each intervention should be in proportion to the safety objectives set, thus keeping intervention to the minimum to guarantee safety and durability with the least harm to heritage values. 

3.6 The design of intervention should be based on a clear understanding of the kinds of actions that were the cause of the damage and decay as well as those that are taken into account for the analysis of the structure after intervention; because the design will be dependent upon them. 

3.7 The choice between ?traditional? and ?innovative? techniques should be weighed up on a case-by-case basis and preference given to those that are least invasive and most compatible with heritage values, bearing in mind safety and durability requirements. 

3.8 At times the difficulty of evaluating the real safety levels and the possible benefits of interventions may suggest ?an observational method?, i.e. an incremental approach, starting from a minimum level of intervention, with the possible subsequent adoption of a series of supplementary or corrective measures. 

3.9 Where possible, any measures adopted should be ?reversible? so that they can be removed and replaced with more suitable measures when new knowledge is acquired. Where they are not completely reversible, interventions should not limit further interventions. 

3.10 The characteristics of materials used in restoration work (in particular new materials) and their compatibility with existing materials should be fully established. This must include long-term impacts, so that undesirable side-effects are avoided. 

3.11 The distinguishing qualities of the structure and its environment, in their original or earlier states, should not be destroyed. 

3.12 Each intervention should, as far as possible, respect the concept, techniques and historical value of the original or earlier states of the structure and leaves evidence that can be recognised in the future. 

3.13 Intervention should be the result of an overall integrated plan that gives due weight to the different aspects of architecture, structure, installations and functionality. 

3.14 The removal or alteration of any historic material or distinctive architectural features should be avoided whenever possible. 

3.15 Deteriorated structures whenever possible should be repaired rather than replaced. 

3.16 Imperfections and alterations, when they have become part of the history of the structure, should be maintained so far so they do not compromise the safety requirements. 

3.17 Dismantling and reassembly should only be undertaken as an optional measure required by the very nature of the materials and structure when conservation by other means impossible, or harmful. 

3.18 Provisional safeguard systems used during the intervention should show their purpose and function without creating any harm to heritage values. 

3.19 Any proposal for intervention must be accompanied by a programme of control to be carried out, as far as possible, while the work is in progress. 

3.20 Measures that are impossible to control during execution should not be allowed. 

3.21 Checks and monitoring during and after the intervention should be carried out to ascertain the efficacy of the results. 

3.22 All the activities of checking and monitoring should be documented and kept as part of the history of the structure.

Charter of the Built Vernacular Heritage


[PDF-84 Kb]


Ratified by the ICOMOS 12th General Assembly, in Mexico, October 1999


The built vernacular heritage occupies a central place in the affection and pride of all peoples. It has been accepted as a characteristic and attractive product of society. It appears informal, but nevertheless orderly. It is utilitarian and at the same time possesses interest and beauty. It is a focus of contemporary life and at the same time a record of the history of society. Although it is the work of man it is also the creation of time. It would be unworthy of the heritage of man if care were not taken to conserve these traditional harmonies which constitute the core of man's own existence. 

The built vernacular heritage is important; it is the fundamental expression of the culture of a community, of its relationship with its territory and, at the same time, the expression of the world's cultural diversity. 

Vernacular building is the traditional and natural way by which communities house themselves. It is a continuing process including necessary changes and continuous adaptation as a response to social and environmental constraints. The survival of this tradition is threatened world-wide by the forces of economic, cultural and architectural homogenisation. How these forces can be met is a fundamental problem that must be addressed by communities and also by governments, planners, architects, conservationists and by a multidisciplinary group of specialists. 

Due to the homogenisation of culture and of global socio-economic transformation, vernacular structures all around the world are extremely vulnerable, facing serious problems of obsolescence, internal equilibrium and integration. 

It is necessary, therefore, in addition to the Venice Charter, to establish principles for the care and protection of our built vernacular heritage. 


1. Examples of the vernacular may be recognised by: 

a)A manner of building shared by the community; 

b) A recognisable local or regional character responsive to the environment; 

c) Coherence of style, form and appearance, or the use of traditionally established building types; 

d) Traditional expertise in design and construction which is transmitted informally; 

e) An effective response to functional, social and environmental constraints; 

f) The effective application of traditional construction systems and crafts.

2. The appreciation and successful protection of the vernacular heritage depend on the involvement and support of the community, continuing use and maintenance. 

3. Governments and responsible authorities must recognise the right of all communities to maintain their living traditions, to protect these through all available legislative, administrative and financial means and to hand them down to future generations. 


1. The conservation of the built vernacular heritage must be carried out by multidisciplinary expertise while recognising the inevitability of change and development, and the need to respect the community's established cultural identity. 

2. Contemporary work on vernacular buildings, groups and settlements should respect their cultural values and their traditional character. 

3. The vernacular is only seldom represented by single structures, and it is best conserved by maintaining and preserving groups and settlements of a representative character, region by region. 

4. The built vernacular heritage is an integral part of the cultural landscape and this relationship must be taken into consideration in the development of conservation approaches. 

5. The vernacular embraces not only the physical form and fabric of buildings, structures and spaces, but the ways in which they are used and understood, and the traditions and the intangible associations which attach to them. 


1. Research and documentation 

Any physical work on a vernacular structure should be cautious and should be preceded by a full analysis of its form and structure. This document should be lodged in a publicly accessible archive. 

2. Siting, landscape and groups of buildings

Interventions to vernacular structures should be carried out in a manner which will respect and maintain the integrity of the siting, the relationship to the physical and cultural landscape, and of one structure to another. 

3. Traditional building systems

The continuity of traditional building systems and craft skills associated with the vernacular is fundamental for vernacular expression, and essential for the repair and restoration of these structures. Such skills should be retained, recorded and passed on to new generations of craftsmen and builders in education and training. 

4. Replacement of materials and parts

Alterations which legitimately respond to the demands of contemporary use should be effected by the introduction of materials which maintain a consistency of expression, appearance, texture and form throughout the structure and a consistency of building materials. 

5. Adaptation

Adaptation and reuse of vernacular structures should be carried out in a manner which will respect the integrity of the structure, its character and form while being compatible with acceptable standards of living. Where there is no break in the continuous utilisation of vernacular forms, a code of ethics within the community can serve as a tool of intervention. 

6. Changes and period restoration

Changes over time should be appreciated and understood as important aspects of vernacular architecture. Conformity of all parts of a building to a single period, will not normally be the goal of work on vernacular structures. 

7. Training

In order to conserve the cultural values of vernacular expression, governments, responsible authorities, groups and organisations must place emphasis on the following: 

a)Education programmes for conservators in the principles of the vernacular; 

b) Training programmes to assist communities in maintaining traditional building systems, materials and craft skills; 

c) Information programmes which improve public awareness of the vernacular especially amongst the younger generation. 

d) Regional networks on vernacular architecture to exchange expertise and experiences.


Madrid, January 30, 1996,

Jerusalem, March 28, 1996

Mikkeli, February 26, 1998.

Santo Domingo, August 26, 1998.

ICOMOS: Stockholm, September 10, 1998. 

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