Governments and state agencies protect historic buildings or sites through legislation. Law does not automatically protect an old or historic building each state has a list of protected assets based on criteria. So who and how they decide if a building is important?
The requirements differ from country to country as well as the process for recognition, though there are shared standards. The ministry of culture commonly maintains the list, nomination for inscription is often open to the public. Therefore, anyone can begin the process of recognising a heritage place.
How do I get a building or site listed as heritage?
1. Check the list of historic buildings and sites, the criteria for inscription and the application process at the state agency responsible. Most offer the information online.
2. Assess the values of your heritage place. The main values associated with historic buildings are:
- Architectural interest: representative of a specific style, era or features unique architectural elements.
- Historical interest: a place where important events took place or are associated with.
- Is part of a recognised heritage and conservation landscape.
- Group values.
- Age and rarity
There are, of course, more values that designate the heritage significance of a place. Our article DIY Values Analysis goes in depth in what they are and how to identify them. Moreover, for international heritage sites, the process is state-led and follows an assessment and produce a “Statement of Outstanding Universal Value”. You can use the SOUV process as a guideline to identify the values of your local heritage.
3. Contact the responsible agency and submit your request.
What are the benefits of adding a building to the list?
Preserving heritage helps maintain our holistic identity, history and culture. A building added to the list is protected by law, meaning that it cannot be torn down. Recognised heritage places qualify easily for preservative actions and funding. Moreover, it increases touristic interest that can benefit the local economy.
In the United Kingdom, the process of recognition is highly optimised. Anyone can get information on historic sites, apply or get guidance online. The system is available through the Historic England website under listings. Their work can serve as a benchmark for states with rich cultural deposits as they ensure heritage protection, inform the public and give visibility to important heritage assets in an incredibly accessible manner.
The process in most countries is much more difficult than the UK and requires tons of paperwork, which is often deterring. Nonetheless, there are plenty of actions the public can take to protect buildings. For example, in New York, USA, there is the Village Preservation, founded in 1980 that advocates for the preservation of the architectural landscape of New York. They have secured designation for 1,250 buildings and continue to preserve and promote their heritage. Furthermore, you can visit the virtual village online, tour the iconic building of New York City and learn about their history and importance.
The actions in New York prove that we can all be part and actively protect our heritage!
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