ICON, Summer 2004
When people think of historic preservation, what often comes to mind is a campaign to save a singular work of architectural merit. Yet over the years, the preservation community has adopted a wider world view of conservation, one that demands that we step back and consider collections of buildings—or entire building programs— as a single entity to be cared for within an environmental and cultural context. Taken together, the built environment and its surroundings constitute a cultural landscape.
This issue we highlight a series of imperiled cultural landscapes, greatly varied in space and time, yet united in their plight. On the West Bank of the Nile at Luxor, archaeologists and conservators are in a race against time to preserve vast New Kingdom remains that have become saturated with salts in the four decades since the construction of the Aswan High Dam. At the ancient caravan station of Shaxi in the Himalayan foothills, Swiss architect Jacques Feiner and his team are working to resuscitate a Ming Dynasty market town in Yunnan Province. It is the last of its kind in all of China, and a critical document in our understanding of trade along the tea and horse caravan route from Yunnan t o Tibet, which continued in the area well into the twentieth century. At the rare Edo-Period port town of Tomo-no-Ura on Japan's Inland Sea, a grassroots effort is underway t o prevent the town's waterfront from being disfigured by highway construction. And in Cuba, cash-strapped historians are campaigning for the renewal of the Calzada del Cerro, a nineteenth-century Neoclassical thoroughfare that connected downtown Havana with the once-exclusive enclave of El Cerro. Whether declared obsolete, threatened with insensitive redevelopment, or subject to environmental change, all of these sites represent chapters in our collective history, chapters that warrant at a minimum reassessment and careful consideration before they are erased from the landscape forever.