Application to UNESCO for Inscription on the World Heritage List by Macau SAR
Application to UNESCO for Inscription on
the World Heritage List by Macau SAR

    “an area surrounding the nominated property, important views and other areas or attributes that are functionally important as a support to the property and its protection” – UNESCO


There are mainly two buffer zone.
Zone 1 starts at A-Ma Temple, this protection zone follows the city’s initial urban route linking the original Chinese harbour to the heart of the old “Christian City”, passing through Macao’s “acropolis”, on Mount Hill, and following on to the Protestant Cemetery area. It encompasses Praia Grande Bay and the Inner Harbour area, with coastlines that still correspond to the historic settlement.
Zone 2 is outlined by the contours around the base of Guia Hill. (CTM Internet Services in Macau)

The building height is restricted within these zones, as well as the activities that can take place inside. Government used this as a method to eliminate areas surrounding heritage. In the NAPE area, the two main buffer zones are mainly occupied by residential buildings. However, gaming industry is developed right next to the border of this zone.

Taking Macau’s size into consideration, even though the buffer zone size is not set,( MACAU DAILY TIMES) many gaming industries have chosen to build far away from these original center of the city, resulting in the non-site condition of these entertainment facilities. The phenomenon of island casinos is the result of purposeful design of buffer zone. (Klebanow) The drastic change of activity types, scale of street and building is therefore connected by vacant lands.

Scholars, as well as residents have urged the cooperation of land policy with heritage legislation, as well as the overall urban planning since the above-mentioned way of allocating new projects has poor efficiency of land use. It also creates “ghettos of historic preservation”, which the UNESCO has predicted and tried to avoid. According to Caballero, “A well thought of urban master plan, which harmoniously considers the conservation of historic centre, which slowly transitions to the casino and shopping district, is much needed.’’(2016) Therefore, despite the conflicting programs, a certain degree of linkage is needed and these linking area should not be without programs and function in the overall urban network.

Taking the Macau Peninsula as example, the big road that separates heritage and gaming industry is now occupied by vehicles. However there is also a pedestrian walkway. This scale of street is connected with the larger scale heritage, namely the Senado Square at the other end of the street. Along the street, which is filled with shops, there are also small squares like the heritage square. The row of casino including Wynn Macau, MGM Macau, L’Arc, StarWorld, the Lisboa formed a parallel street to the heritage. According to Klebanow and Gallaway, “There is no better example of casinos working harmoniously with their surrounding neighbors than the casinos that comprise the central casino district on the Macau Peninsula”. Nearby stores penetrate the alleyways and heritage buildings to form a vibrant commercial zone, taking advantage of pedestrian flow created by casinos. It also fits into the street grid of the neighborhood.



The international expert meeting on World Heritage and Buffer Zones held in November of 2006 has suggested an alternative approach called “preservation by development”(Kubota, 2010) To achieve this, proper management of heritages, land property transition policy in the buffer zone are determining factors of its success.

1 Caballero Gabriel, “Challenges of the Casino and Historic City of Macau: Preserving heritage amidst the creation of stage-set townscapes”, March 2016
2 Andrew M. Klebanow. and Steven M. Gallaway, Casinos and the City : A White Paper on the History of Casino Development in Cities, Past and Current Trends, and Recommendations for Future Development, Global market advisor, April 2005
3 Macau Daily Time, AL needs precise size for buffer zones around heritage sites. March20 2013
4 Oliver Martin. and Giovanna Piatti (Ed.), World Heritage paper 25. World Heritage and Buffer Zones, UNESCO, 2009
5 Sonia Nunes, An unprotected heritage, Living and art magazine, September 2013
6 Instituto Cultural de Governo da R.A.E de Macau- The Historic Centre of Macao
7 Rieko Kubota. Issues of Buffer Zone management of UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Sites Located in the urban area of East Asian countries, Ritsumeikan University, 2010
8 UNESCO, Historic Centre of Macao, 2005
9 World Heritage Sites of Historic Centre of Macao


  1. This development buffer zone around heritage sites is quite interesting. How did it come about? Is it a wholly top-down initiative, or were there voices from the grassroots that called for it? Were the residential buildings built by developers who also own gambling businesses?

  2. The adoption for a controlled land use in Macau is very logical as the streets play a large role with tourism and Casinos. Large facades and entrances are used to pick up this high flow of pedestrians. The height limitation ensures that the casinos will not outplay the heritage monuments thus the buffer zone revolves around these heritage sites. This partly ensures the longevity of the tourism activities in Macau.

  3. The buffer zone is a top-down move by the Cultural Affairs Bureau but the initiative is the guide of UNESCO to protect world heritage.(world heritage paper 25), however the definition has never been clear and in 2014 March the government is trying to remove this zone for development, which is also approved by the Legislative Assembly.

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