The role of attributes defining intervention concepts in international doctrinal documents on built heritage

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Purpose: Attributes conveying cultural significance play a key role in heritage management, as well as in differentiating interventions in built heritage. However, seldom the relation between interventions and attributes, either tangible or intangible, has been researched systematically. How do both tangible and intangible attributes and interventions relate? What attributes make interventions on built heritage differ? Design/methodology/approach: This paper conducts a systematic content analysis of forty-one international doctrinal documents—mainly adopted by the Council of Europe, UNESCO and ICOMOS, between 1877 and 2021. The main aim is to reveal and compare the selected eight intervention concepts, namely—restoration (C1), preservation (C2), conservation (C3), adaptation (C4), rehabilitation (C5), relocation (C6), reconstruction (C7) and renewal (C8)—and their definitions, in relation to attributes, both tangible and intangible. The intensity of the relationship between intervention concepts and attributes is determined based on the frequency of the mentioned attributes per intervention. Findings: There were three key findings. First, although the attention to intangible attributes has increased in the last decades, the relationship between interventions and tangible attributes remains stronger. The highest frequency of referencing the tangible attributes was identified in “relocation” and “preservation,” while the lowest was in “rehabilitation.” Second, certain attributes play contradictory roles, e.g. “material,” “use” and “process,” which creates inconsistent definitions between documents. Third, as attributes often include one another in building layers, they trigger the intervention concepts in hierarchical patterns. Originality/value: This paper explores and discusses the results of a novel comparative analysis between different intervention concepts and definitions, with a particular focus on the attributes. The results can support further research and practice, clarifying the identified differences and similarities.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Cultural Heritage Management and Sustainable Development
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • Adaptation
  • Attributes
  • Built heritage
  • Conservation
  • Cultural significance
  • International doctrinal documents
  • Intervention
  • Intervention concepts
  • Preservation
  • Reconstruction
  • Rehabilitation
  • Relocation
  • Renewal
  • Restoration


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