Platforms of knowledge: architectural heritage practice and the information age in South Africa

Arthur Barker, Johan Swart

Abstract

The intellectual basis for preservation and conservation is formed by the study, record and dissemination of the works of humanity. Due to the negative impacts of exponential city growth, through densification and the impact of climate change, more considered design approaches need to be made for the reuse and adaptation of buildings in historical contexts. The fast pace of project design, and implementation, in the 21st century, has fostered the need for directly accessible architectural heritage knowledge. Therefore, architectural heritage practice demands access to curated information to ensure considered, and appropriate, design responses. This is important, not only for heritage and other related practitioners, but also for researchers and students. The advent of the Information Age initiated new methodologies for archiving knowledge. These developments provided architectural heritage practice with extended platforms of knowledge, either born-digital or founded on analogue principles. But what are these digital architectural heritage knowledge platforms in South Africa? Where are they located and how is information curated? How accessible is the information and how useful is it for heritage assessment practitioners? This article will describe the development of analogue architectural platforms and their development into digital formats. Thereafter, the nature of architectural heritage practice in South Africa will be defined through an assessment of legislation and professional practice. Then the types of information needed for architectural heritage practice to be effective will be explained. A selection of currently available architecturally related heritage platforms (with a digital bias) will be located and described, followed by a critique of their effectiveness. A number of case studies will then be highlighted to determine the effectiveness of the work of heritage assessment practitioners. The article will conclude by suggesting ways of adding value to current, and future, digital information platforms to cater to the pressing needs of architectural heritage practice in South Africa.


Keywords

architectural heritage practice; heritage assessment practitioner; digital architectural heritage; knowledge platforms

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References

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