The use of ICT to support urban heritage appraisal : the case of medieval Tripoli, Lebanon
Conservation officers are faced with many problems when dealing with applications for intervention in urban heritage areas. The process involves reviewing different categories of heritage resources and legislation; understanding and relating together different heritage values; applying different kinds and levels of analysis; contacting the various stakeholders and accessing diverse digital and paper based documents. Such processes are largely tedious, time consuming and are generally inefficient (Morton, 1996a; Angelides, 2000). Despite the intention of many heritage organizations to identify models that can be used for managing decision-making in urban heritage areas, as yet no information model exists that is capable of properly and dynamically appraising such areas. The lack of such a model has exacerbated the difficulties and conflict in the selection and assessment of alternative intervention strategies in urban heritage areas. The diverse range of heritage categories, values, stakeholders and types of data related to the conservation of urban heritage resources provide a challenge in developing an adequate information model for informing the management of intervention. ICT based on a combination of Geographical information system (GIS), surveying, visualization and database packages can help in urban heritage appraisal process. However, efforts to apply the recently developed ICT to urban heritage recording and appraising have not yet fully come to fruition (Ford et al, 1999). Generally, efforts have only been concentrated on the use of ICT as a records database, (Sahib, 1993) rather than making more use of their analytical capabilities. This study develops a theoretical framework to help the full understanding of the categories of urban heritage resources, values and the identification of the constraints for using ICT in the urban heritage appraisal process. The aim is to develop a decision support system for intervention in Lebanese urban conservation areas. The effects of war, negligence and conservation plans have been the main factors causing destruction of the urban heritage in Lebanon. Appraisal is a necessary step to define the major components which contribute to the character of urban heritage. It is a first step towards the future development of heritage policies with regard to heritage management, conservation and enhancement (English Heritage, 1997a-b). This study creates, according to a developed theoretical framework, a prototype model for the appraisal of urban heritage areas. The study takes the medieval centre of the city of Tripoli as a case study. This centre is the unique sole depository of Mamluk art and architectural treasures in Lebanon.