Heian Kento 1200: World Heritages and Urban Future (1)


Heian Kento 1200 in 1994 is a concentrated period when Kyoto disseminated its image as a historical city internationally through a series of event. In December 1994, 17 properties were approved for inclusion as “Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto” during the 18th Session of the World Heritage Committee. About a year ago, 17 sites including Nijojo, Kiyomizudera Temple, and Kinkakuji, were selected from many cultural properties in Kyoto as a part of the city’s 1200th-anniversary celebration, and the investigation process finally completed in 1994. These historic sites are preserved in exceptional condition, and they are all national treasures or special place of scenic beauty that enjoy the highest status in the country.[1]

(World Heritage Map)

The registration of World Heritage pushed the reformation of city master plan.  Japanese government always has special laws for Kyoto, including detailed buffer zones around important historic sites in the city’s master plan to develop tourism under protection. The situation in 1994 wasn’t satisfying, Kyoto people felt it was totally not enough, especially when the constructions including Kyoto Station and Kyoto Station had just escaped the borderline of preservation area. However, since all the Kyoto world heritages drew the city’s baseline clear,  the city’s master plan and ordinances were put under further discussion.[2]Both landscape division and height regulation discussed in other posts see clear how prioritizing world heritages influences the cityscape.

Kyoto’s cultural historic heritages were strongly influenced by internationalization. In the late 20th, conservation was a trend, especially in Europe. For Germany, during the miracle economic boom in the 60s, nobody wanted to think of conserving historical buildings. It was in the 70s when they tired of the industrialized life and environment, they started to talk about conservation [2] The international recognition pushed Kyoto to protect the city.To further preserve the heritages’ landscape and their relationship with site context, also to meet the requirements by UNESCO, strict enforcement of building regulations was carried out in the buffer areas surrounding the heritages, covered by the “Historic Environment Control Area”, where proposed urban development projects are controlled by 4 laws and codes.[3] From another dimension of development, it’s also required by UNESCO to “reinforce communication between the government and property owners to balance protection and modern development”.[3]

While celebrating the 1200th anniversary, in April 1994, the World Conference of Historical Cities was held in Kyoto, again increased Kyoto’s image and international involvements and advocated international collaboration. The Kyoto Mayor Tanabe advocated that the heritage and wisdom of historical cities would benefit the mankind instead of only a nation, and historically rich cities should take an active role in fostering peace worldwide.Meanwhile, he also commented upon the negative effects. “The depletion of environmental resources, social problems, excessive population growth and most recently, regional conflict are all issues that historical cities have to face.”[4]

As a part of the conference, representatives of different historic cities would have a chance to inspect Kyoto. [5] It is meaningful and clear from the chart, the two optional courses included both historic cultural properties and famous modern manufactures, most of which were related to Japanese traditions. This arrangement showed the consensus that a historic city’s value and identity existed in not only old heritages, but also in how city develop the old into future.  Two months later during International Forum on the Wisdom of Humanity in Kyoto, under the theme of “Human, Civilization and the Earth”, intangible historic “heritage” was extracted as “human wisdom”, which is knowledge shared by the world to face the future.[6]

Part two would discuss how world heritages involve in future urban life.


[1] “World Heritage Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto.” Preservation of Cultural Properties Section, City of Kyoto. Accessed December 20, 2017. Retrieved from http://www2.city.kyoto.lg.jp/bunshi/bunkazai/sekaiisan-e.htm.

[2]Pawasarat, Catherine. “World Heritage and Kyoto.” Kyoto Journal, 27: The Death and Resurrection of Kyoto (1994).

[3]Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto (Kyoto, Uji and Otsu Cities).”UNESCO. Accessed December 20, 2017. Retrieved from http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/688

[4]“The World Conference of Historical Cities.” Convention News. April 28, 1994. Accessed December 19, 2017. Retrieved from http://www.convention-news.co.jp/historical.htm

[5] “Information Update for the 4th World Conference of Historical Cities in Kyoto, April 25-28, 1994.” World Historical Cities, 2: Spring 1994: 3.

[6]“International Forum on the Wisdom of Humanity.” Convention News. June 10, 1994. Accessed December 19, 2017. Retrieved from http://www.convention-news.co.jp/wisdom.htm

1 Comment on “Heian Kento 1200: World Heritages and Urban Future (1)

  1. It is quite sad that the idea of preservation was capable since there was a trend for it. Although throughout history there always have been different ideologies, concepts, and arguments that were regarded ‘important’ or ‘plausible’, I wonder if there is anything of architecture or urban planning that has to be secured no matter what the trend may be. Will there be a definite ‘need’ or ‘wrong’ ideas they we have to pursue throughout all generations for our field of architecture?

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