WHAT is the Historic Urban Landscape?
The Historic Urban Landscape (HUL) is an approach to the management of heritage resources in dynamic and constantly changing environments. It is based on the recognition and identification of a layering and interconnection of natural and cultural, tangible and intangible, international and local values present in any city. According to the HUL approach, these values should be taken as a point of departure in the overall management and development of the city.

On 10 November 2011, after six years of international policy and best practice reviews, expert meetings and stakeholder consultations, UNESCO’s General Conference adopted the Recommendation on the Historic Urban Landscape. It is a ‘soft-law’, which Member States can include in their suite of legal instruments and implement on a voluntary basis. 1- UNESCO Recommendation on the Historic Urban Landscape (in 6 languages)

The Recommendation defines HUL as the urban area understood as the result of a historic layering of cultural and natural values and attributes, extending beyond the notion of “historic centre” or “ensemble” to include the broader urban context and its geographical setting. This wider context includes the site’s topography, geomorphology and natural features, built environment –both historic and contemporary–, open spaces, land use patterns and spatial organization, as well as all other elements of the urban structure, next to social and cultural practices and values, economic processes and the intangible dimensions of heritage. All these contribute to the city’s singularity, its genius loci, and the specificity of the urban experience, which should guide any decision as regards the planning and design of interventions.

Until recently, traditional urban conservation practices focused primarily, or sometimes exclusively, on the architectural monuments of the city. Nowadays, however, there is a broad recognition that a more inclusive and comprehensive approach is needed to identify and understand the urban values, which are at the heart of the identity and character of the city.

The Recommendation promotes the HUL approach as a new way to include various aspects of conservation in an integrated framework, such as how cultural diversity affects values and approaches to conservation; the awareness of the link between natural and cultural factors in the conservation of the built environment; the new challenges brought about by rapid social and economic changes; and the need to ensure a sustainable future for heritage conservation.

Furthermore, the HUL approach provides the basis for a comprehensive and integrated approach for the identification, assessment, conservation and management of historic urban landscapes within an overall sustainable development framework.

The HUL approach is not developed with the aim to replace existing doctrines or conservation approaches to cultural heritage, but rather as a tool to integrate policies and practices of conservation of the built environment. It does this by defining operational principles that are able to ensure models of urban conservation that respect the values, traditions and environments of different cultural contexts.

The HUL approach shifts emphasis from the monumental architecture to  the conservation  of  urban values that  undergird the life  of  the city.