Shrinking settlements between permanence and change: a cross-cultural perspective
Built heritage has been subjected to unprecedented demographic shifts which have jeopardized cultural and material continuity. This paper is concerned with “shrinking” settlements resulting from population shift towards urban centres that provide advanced economic and employment prospects and modern amenities.
The paper argues for a more sustainable and holistic approach to conservation focusing on the need to address cultural aspirations current within a society. A cross-cultural perspective is advocated here to allow a wider understanding of lessons and practices. The paper addresses conservation and revitalization opportunities and efforts in the arid regions of Italy and the Middle East by focusing on Sàdali in Central Sardinia and the oasis settlements of Nizwa and Bahla in Central Oman. Both cultures have relied on systems of conservation and careful distribution of water resources, especially for irrigation purposes, which is reflected in the comparable agrarian economy and the settlement proximity to cultivated land.
In order for the modernizing aspiration to be fulfilled, it is suggested that a “re-interpretive” approach to conservation is adopted. In understanding significance within the built heritage it is important to identify the “essence” of the built heritage that takes conservation beyond material and typological confines.