A future for the past : architecture and urban conservation of historic buildings and areas in Gaza, Palestine
The continual loss and neglect of historic buildings and areas is due to many factors. Among the most important are the inadequacy of existing legislation and the inability of institutions to protect the built heritage. I do not only mean the protection from the threat of demolition and decay, but also the readiness to promote change in order to contribute to socio-economic development. Therefore, conservation strategies should establish appropriate legislative and administrative frameworks to guide conservation initiatives, otherwise, the continuing lack of a legislative strategy will remain a problem. Palestine is in the process of defining itself as a nation. In this process its built heritage plays an important role in that it embodies its culture and traditions and is an important part of its cultural identity. At present Palestine's built heritage is largely neglected and parts of it are being lost every day. The absence of public awareness of the values of its historic heritage leads to detrimental interventions into historic buildings and areas. There are many factors which affect the way in which a society relates to its built heritage. One of these factors is the rules and procedures which govern the relations between citizens and their built heritage. The thesis addresses this issue in the context that the present legislative structure for conservation in Palestine is the product of laws issued by the successive powers that occupied Palestine in the last centuries and, what is more important, Palestine is currently reviewing its whole legislation and administration structures. The aim of the thesis is to pave the way for the establishment of a legislative and administrative framework that would underpin a conservation strategy for Gaza, Palestine. The research starts by surveying the literature in the field of study to determine the different principles and attitudes within the current conservation discourse, placing special emphasis on legislation for the conservation of historic buildings and areas. An analysis of the current Palestinian legislative and institutional systems is followed by an appraisal of the city itself and its built heritage. Two case studies of cities which are in some ways comparable to Gaza, the cities of Jeddah and Cairo, are analysed in some detail. The findings are used as a means to compare and evaluate conservation strategies for the city of Gaza. The study concludes by recommending a comprehensive conservation legislation model which would function within a local and national legislative frameworks, would have clear aims relevant to a particular place, and enable an administrative framework capable of efficiently implementing conservation initiatives.