The habit of passing down things from an older to a younger generation is ingrained in the human way of life. From biological genes to personal things and aspirations, things are passed unto their children as a way of marking legacies and milestones. Heritage and legacy are tokens of trust and sources of pride among deep-rooted communities. These stories passed down through generations, are fragments of memories used to anchor and inspire younger generations to take part in the future. Heritage can then be considered as a collection of traditions that are established to maintain values and provide inspiration to future generations.

Heritage Matters: Beyond Laws and Governance - Sheet1
An unsightly view of utilities on an old building _ ©KelvinZyteng

From the root word heriter, meaning to inherit or to receive, heritage is the word loosely used to describe something that is received freely often from a close of kin. Today, heritage is used to refer to things, traditions, and structures with cultural significance and often either irreplaceable or in danger of being lost due to their age, provenance, and historical background. Heritage assets also remain to be a source of inspiration for artists, whether it is from experiencing cultural buildings to traditions and objects alike. 

A meaningful transfer

Intellectual, cultural, and economic merits are the factors that are usually used to justify what can be considered heritage. Architecture and objects often provide glimpses into past ways of life with tradition enriching and enhancing the narrative. As UNESCO defined heritage “tangible and intangible, natural and cultural, movable and immovable and documentary assets inherited from the past and transmitted to future generations by virtue of their irreplaceable value.” Although there are different ways to understand and view heritage, affinity to communal values brings people together regardless of religion, race, sex, and other factors.

For example, from a western lens heritage is viewed as something tangible such as monuments and sites whereas the standpoint of heritage in Asia lies in the intangible-customs, traditions, and way of life are often given more value. Festivals, community, and spirituality also play a large part in heritage in Asia as compared to how it is anywhere else. In identifying these different tropes of what constitutes heritage from different perspectives, specialized frameworks for preserving them must also be put in place.  

Hedging against volatility

What history tells about the rise and fall of humankind lies in the degree of devastation that succeeding wars has left in the landscape over the years. Alongside the detriment to heritage and loss of irreplaceable artifacts, buildings lie as silent casualties of this man-made turmoil. Countless wars across the globe have seen how the acquisition or destruction of heritage becomes a token of victory for the conqueror and a tragedy for the conquered. It can be universally observed that national pride and public spirit are often tied to their collective identity which is symbolized by spaces, artworks, and things they associate it with.  

Heritage Matters: Beyond Laws and Governance - Sheet2
Vandalized Lamassu,

Invasions, wars, and colonization are the primary factors in the loss of heritage in the ancient and modern world. The marching progress post World War has seen rampant change in the landscape as well as the loss of unrecoverable heritage. In the Middle East and Asia, wars meant that various cultural minorities are displaced and driven far away from their indigenous territories. The change in the territory and asylum-seeking efforts meant that old intangible traditions are forgotten as they assimilate into a new culture. It is in this regard that the 1972 UNESCO General Conference has been launched with the hopes of trailblazing guidelines for protecting cultural and natural heritage around the world.

Banking on heritage

Whether it is the historical souks in Morocco or the Pyramids of Giza, a bit of history has always piqued the interest of modern man. Compared to most Disneyland and modern parks, sought-after destinations often boast a certain je ne sais quio and a degree of authenticity that people cannot usually find in the modern world. Curious travelers, people often travel far and wide in search of unique destinations, experiences, and stimulating experiences. The beauty of heritage is that not does it only rely on science in proving its facts, but it is also banking on the stories that these places carry within their walls. 

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Souks at Marrakech _ ©

Heritage as a cultural capital meant that not only that well-preserved heritage stirs emotions, but it also helps solidify the local economy by providing financial sustainability. Constant visitors meant that tourism can help support the local economy as well as help contribute to funds that help maintain the area. Not only that heritage towns and edifices are magnets for the curious wanderer, but it is also attracting potential investors willing to contribute to the local economy of the city. 

However, despite the obvious upsides of keeping cultural cities intact, the changing world and climate change are proving to be its contemporary nemesis. Although centuries-old buildings are more sustainable, the upkeep and constant maintenance of a heritage structure remain to be a challenge for most custodians. It is also a growing dilemma for highly urbanized cities that expansion within the city is restricted, driving rents and land prices up within the area. Such social pressure pushes existing heritage laws to buckle and give leeway to public interests, leaving the future of heritage in limbo.  


With a predilection for imperfect things and strong coffee, Chris is an architect who spends his free time sketching, gardening, or pondering on topics that pique his interest. He aspires to bridge the old and the new by looking at how evolving culture and future technology can help reshape environments.