Home or museo for our children?

Katja Huovinen

Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisMonograph


My dissertation compares the practice, realisation and results of Urban Conservation in three UNESCO listed European city centres, in three different countries. As the objects of the study I have chosen the cave district of Matera in Southern Italy, the wooden quarter of Old Rauma in Finland and the Hanseatic town of Visby in Sweden. My research is a comparative case study about the "success" of urban conservation, not only from the point of view of built heritage but also of the stakeholders, especially the inhabitants. The period studied extends from 1950s to today. The first chapter concerns the birth of the concept of "the historic quarter" as a result of the growing awareness of history, time and change. All three cities studied have been growing during the last century out their "original" boundaries. In that period the historical core was given its significance as an "other" compared to the "new town", and it was seen as a picturesque curiosity, a problem in need of rehabilitation or even "a national shame". The second chapter examines the history of concepts of conservation and restoration, and the moving of focus from monuments to cultural landscape, vernacular architecture and to the protection of immaterial heritage. Paradoxically, urban conservation is an evolution of the modernist metanarrative, believing in progress, as conservation is thought to be always better, and its progress can be described in a timeline. In the sites object of study, I try to define the moment when inhabitants - or authorities - realised the value of the site. I observe the awareness of urban conservation as part of shared consciousness and the political agenda through the articles in the local newspapers. Conservation doesn't start with the UNESCO listing, and neither does it end with it. The third chapter is based on interviews of inhabitants and shopkeepers, and on observation of the use of the city space. As a tool, I use a four-field model, and I observe the common problems in historic city centres placing them on two axises alive-dead and authentic-false. In each site I go through a check list, edited by me, on the most common problems in historic centres, which left unsolved may lead to the death of a city by loosing its original functions, material authenticity, or both. The fourth chapter deals with the instructions and manuals produced by international organizations (UNESCO, ICOMOS) for historic city centres and cultural heritage sites. Regarding studied sites I observe the conservation instruments, divulgation and especially the "not-to-do" lists. As a source I have used the material produced by local authorities, city plans, and complementary conservation instructions. Besides that, Istudy the instructions directed at architects and constructors. In the conclusions chapter, I compare for each site the discourses defining the historical centre, discourses on urban conservation, the way the ideal and use value of the site is represented, and the discourse created by authorities. I evaluate the outcome of urban conservation with regard to governance, sustainable integration, training and participation. I observe the relevance and results of hypothetic actions, tracing their origins from aforementioned common problems. To conclude, I discuss the possible future scenarios and trends in historic centres. The most evident conclusions are the significance and the validity of the paradigm of integrated conservation and planning. The divulgation of conservation practices and self-direction towards a collectively shared aim seem to give more sustainable results than the control practiced by authorities, Personally, I consider as important the safeguarding of functional and social diversity in a historical centre. In the light of studied cases, I have to note that it might be even more difficult than conserving the material authenticity.
Translated title of the contributionHome or museo for our children?
Original languageFinnish
QualificationDoctor's degree
Awarding Institution
  • Aalto University
Print ISBNs978-952-60-7257-9
Electronic ISBNs978-952-60-7256-2
Publication statusPublished - 2017
MoE publication typeG4 Doctoral dissertation (monograph)


  • Urban Conservation
  • World Heritage
  • change
  • management of change

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