US/ICOMOS Adopts Savannah Declaration

SAVANNAH, Georgia – Sept. 19, 2013 – Focus on the nation’s heritage districts in more comprehensive terms and sustain our resilient cities: this was the call to action for more than 200 historic preservationists, urban designers and other professionals from 14 countries and 30 U.S. states at the 16th Annual US/ICOMOS International Scientific Symposium co-hosted by the Savannah College of Art and Design this past May.

In a formal pronouncement of this ethos, ICOMOS President Gustavo Araoz and US/ICOMOS trustee Patricia O’Donnell presented a document titled the Savannah Declaration to symposium participants. The presentation and discussion of this document was a benchmark for the event. It describes a paradigm shift, noting the promise of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s Historic Urban Landscape (HUL) model for the 21st century. The declaration was supported by acclimation.

UNESCO’s 35th General Conference adopted the Recommendation on HUL in late 2011, encouraging the use of a landscape approach to the study, conservation and decision making for future development in cities, their broader urban contexts and their geographical settings.

The momentum of ideas, including the Savannah Declaration, made their mark at SCAD. Beginning this month, SCAD Architecture Professor Sam Olin and Historic Preservation Professor Chad Keller are collaborating on a course to employ preservation theory, philosophy, and community, social, cultural and economic factors to ensure their student designs are compatible with HUL. The commercial center of Savannah’s historic district will serve as the site for the study.

“I’m thrilled that SCAD faculty and students are employing the findings of the recent symposium,” said Jeff Eley, US/ICOMOS trustee and chair of SCAD’s historic preservation department. “By incorporating an interdisciplinary approach, students will be better equipped to develop creative solutions for designing in the historic urban landscape.”

Don Jones, executive director of US/ICOMOS, said that he hopes other academic programs will recognize the goal of the Savannah Declaration and utilize the principals of HUL as a tool for students throughout America. “The Savannah Declaration and its incorporation into the SCAD curriculum illustrates the benefits of holding our annual symposium on such a dynamic campus, where the next generation of preservation leaders are being trained. I hope this will serve as a model for other preservation programs in the United States and abroad.”

The 16th Annual US/ICOMOS International Scientific Symposium explored the theme of “The Historic Center and the Next City: Envisioning Urban Heritage Evolution.” More than 20 speakers shared insights into ways communities strive to balance the diverse challenges of protecting history, heritage and values while meeting the demands for economic vitality, successful planning, new development, and construction. Session discussions provided additional insights and identified other challenges that sparked further conversation during field sessions and at symposium receptions.

Additional information, including a full copy of the Savannah Declaration and select PowerPoint presentations from the symposium, are available on the US/ICOMOS web site at

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