The Future of Heritage in the context of the tourism slump resulting from a global pandemic

Prof. Michael Turner

Planning for the future is full of risks and dangers. The ancient Greeks believed there were multiple futures – and not one predetermined future – from which the mortals attempted to select the best, aided by divination . Confronting this, Horace, in his Odes1, encourages us carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero, to “seize the day, put little trust in the future”. Some centuries later Rabbi Johanan said: ‘Since the Temple was destroyed; prophecy has been taken from prophets and given to fools and children’2 .

However, the 1987 Brundtland Report, ‘Our Common Future’, recognizes sustainable development as a “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”.

David Reid questions whether it is meaningful to talk of sustainable development when we have no certainty of the needs of future generations, their ecological, social and economic conditions as representing a sustainable state and how close we may be to such conditions. He implies that we need to consider whether this is an imprecise idealism unchecked by reality 3.

One of the two key concepts was the “idea of limitations imposed by the state of technology and social organization on the environment’s ability to meet present and future needs”. Not only today’s dramatic technological capabilities but the post corona situation has changed the rules encouraging multiple solutions and urban diversities.

The Grand Tour – Vol 1; Thomas Nugent (1 January 1749)

The grand tour of the seventeenth and eighteenth century highlighted the tourist destinations of Paris, Florence, Rome and Venice and was based on the British School of empiricism as promulgated over two centuries by Francis Bacon, John Locke and Edmund Burke4. Knowledge comes from the experiences of travel in touching the art and architecture of the cities and was an essential part of one’s education. These experiences were understood through sensation and perception. Graffiti around the world declares that ‘there can be no return to normal, because normal was the problem’. The current negative sensations of over-tourism may be replaced by perceptions developed through the multitude of virtual images from Wikimedia and Google StreetView, making for a more sustainable environment.

Via Dolorosa, Jerusalem, Zehnfinger Wikimedia Commons

For example, Cambodia’s Angkor Wat was digitally mapped in 2014, allowing people to visit the World Heritage Site from the comfort of their armchair using Google Street View. Google took more than a million photos of Angkor – the result is 90,000 360-degree views of more than 100 temples. Google maps have created similar experience for the Taj Mahal, the Grand Canyon, Mount Fiji.

Angor Wat digitally mapped, Cambodia

Not physically visiting the urban heritage reduces our tactile experiences but opens up amazing new understandings about our environments. Experiences will be less sensual and more perceptual. These experiences engage the realisms from – Reality through Augmented Reality and finally Virtual Reality5  .

The existing urban heritage will surely benefit from this new state. And for the future? The architecture of today is the heritage of tomorrow. The post corona architecture may be less global and more sustainable in supporting local enterprises and in the interpretations of the vernacular. Perhaps we may consider taking a page out of the vintners’ manual on climate, soil, water, light, oak barrels and time. We can ensure that the ingredients are of the highest quality, but the proof of the quality will be on the tasting after maturing.

 

Jerusalem, 31 July 2020


Notes:

1 – Kim Beerden, Futures, Volume 60, August 2014, Pages 23-29 Ancient Greek futures: Diminishing
uncertainties by means of divination.

2 – Babylonian Talmud Baba Bathra 12b.

3 – Reid, D., Sustainable Development: An Introductory Guide, 2013.

4 – Locke John, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding.

5 – R = the world or the state of things as they actually exist, as opposed to an idealistic or notional idea.

AR = a technology that superimposes a computer-generated image on a user’s view of the real world,
thus providing a composite view where the objects that reside in the real-world are enhanced by
computer-generated perceptual information, sometimes across multiple sensory modalities.

VR = implies a complete immersion experience that shuts out the physical world; from essentialism to
existentialism.

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