Archive for the ‘Economics’ Category

Greece: A Future in Heritage

April 8, 2014

Last week at the invitation of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation I participated in a conference on youth unemployment in Greece. The first day featured leading labor economists defining the scope and depth of the problem, which is quite staggering in a nation where youth unemployment reaches 60%. The keynote was by Jeffrey Sachs, who discussed the particular place-based challenges of youth unemployment and the challenge of technology, especially robotics. He proposed focusing on export, which includes tourism. A variety of other scholars and professionals also spoke, including Alan Krueger and Richard Freeman, who proposed that Greece target the growing Chinese tourist market. Many, including Robert Lerman, talked about how to train or educate youth for the next economy.
capitol hill ruins5

Day Two was more upbeat, beginning with a keynote by Mike Lazardis, who invented the smartphone and enthused us all about the connection between research and economic growth. Next up were plenaries discussing where the problem could be addressed, including Agriculture, Entrepreneurship and Cultural Tourism. It was my role to respond to the potential for addressing unemployment through cultural tourism, which is precisely what we do at Global Heritage Fund.
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I described GHF’s mission – to save threatened heritage sites – and how sustainability only comes through stewardship. How do you create stewardship and ownership? By insuring that the heritage site redevelopment benefits the local community, the only long-term stewards.
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Heritage practice gives us a process, following the Burra Charter, to integrate the community into the planning process from the beginning. I talked about community based tourism and the challenge of revenue capture – how do you keep the money in the local community? heshui meeting0

The Foundation, the Initiative for Heritage Conservation and the Ministry of Culture are working together on pilot projects at Kerameikos, the ancient cemetery of Athens, and Brauron in Attica. The two sites take advantage of existing touristic infrastructure. At the same time, I warned about distinguishing between types of tourism – they are focusing on high-end, which is good, because not only is the return better, but the impact on the site is less than mass tourism. I also advised that they insure a long-term entity to maintain the site through captured revenue, otherwise the effort will simply create another unsustainable state subsidy.

My cultural tourism bottom line? Capacity, control and capture. Identify your market, your site capacity and critical mass; control the process to insure the site gets saved; and capture the revenue so it benefits the local community. Plenty of obstacles, but the right goal.


Following the Money

March 29, 2014

In understanding the motivations of various actors in a social economy, the mantra “follow the money” is used by analysts of many political and economic persuasions. After all, both Karl Marx and Adam Smith were materialists who saw the basic economic relations within a society as the best predictor of behavior. The corollary is that actions inspired by faith, love, loyalty, or other belief systems are less important.
cupid ptg louvr
Acting with cupidity

Now, we all know that you can manipulate a whole collection of belief and identity systems to get people on one political side or another in defiance of their own economic interests. That’s not what I want to talk about, because the endgame there is a political point and I want to follow the money, especially when it leads us away from the fantasy of the false dichotomy.
money or culture
Money or Culture You Decide

The false dichotomy is of course the free market versus the state, and as a historian I can promise you that the one NEVER happened without the other. Indeed, following the money usually means massive private investments are following huge public investments which can occur in the form of land grants, subsidies, tax breaks, or, most commonly, infrastructural investments. Two hella ginormous examples in American history are the construction of the railroads by giving away tons of government land and the construction of the highway system by the government, which amounted to a massive subsidy of both automobiles and the trucking industry.
old train


Land grants also funded “public” universities, many of which were subsidized by state governments, although interestingly those percentages have dropped so low at places like the University of Michigan it is hard to consider them public anymore.
uiuc ag bldgS
They all had ag schools, which were a subsidy to the dominant industry

When we follow the money behind the recent proliferation (over 200% from 1998 to 2008) of for-profit universities the subsidy becomes obvious – student loans. These institutions are basically created to capture government investment in students, with 80 percent of their revenues coming from taxpayers and their students borrow at a much higher rate than traditional not-for-profit universities.
NU gothicS

So what got me thinking about this was the decision this week that Northwestern University football players could unionize because they are effectively working for the university. And if you look at that famous map of the highest paid public officials in every state, you realize that it is mostly university football coaches. So here you have a massive industry that is subsidized by a.)student loans, b.)possibly state money(not at NU), c.)gate receipts from football games, d.)other receipts from said football, and e.)free labor.
academic 1914 tamu

Now of course the not-for-profit universities also have another subsidy – their not-for-profit status. They share this with churches, which are also subsidized, despite our Constitutional amendment that prohibits the establishment of an official religion. You ever wonder why you see so many storefront churches in the inner city? Because everyone is real religious? Because no one else is courageous enough to set themselves up there?
near cabrini vwupS


Follow the money. It’s because it is a lot cheaper to run a tax-free church in commercial space than an actual commercial enterprise, even though money changes hands in both scenarios.

So much of art history was crafted for churches, not because the artists were especially religious or not, but because that’s where the money was. Before the Europeans figured out ways to enslave Americans and Africans on haciendas they enslaved their own at monasteries, the plantations of the Middle Ages. Sure Henry VIII needed to get divorced and hence quit the Roman Catholic Church, but if you follow the money it was not love nor faith but the vast assets of the monasteries that made the dissolution worthwhile.
lindisfarne ruine87
Besides they look a lot cooler as ruins. Ruins that inspired 19th century Brits to invent heritage conservation

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Tax exemptions and incentives have been huge for historic preservation, although it is important to note that the incentives were crafted because the actual real estate market was biased toward new construction, a byproduct less of the nature of construction or even supply and demand, but the peculiarities of financing, especially that most revered of economic principles: certainty.
hudson oldnewoldS
I certainly know the market. I can certainly predict the cost of the middle building, but the flankers may present unknowns

In this case the historic preservation tax incentives helps older buildings by offsetting the deficit caused by the difficulties of getting financing on the same terms as new construction. Form follows Finance, which follows subsidy, like student loans, and highways and sewers and so forth.

280 viewsi
I live in Silicon Valley, which the economist Ed Glaeser (my blog on his book is here) called one big City of Ideas covering some three dozen municipalities over 60 miles of the Bay Area. Glaeser plays to type by whining about regulation, but he has a point in this autoclave of a real estate market, since the vast reserves of open land, parks and forests has pushed prices up in the most attractive parts of the Bay Area.
great victorian wilderishS

So, are the parks and climate externalities that drive up the price instead of place you could build, thereby driving down the prices? Or are the high prices in part a result of this being a really nice place to live, thanks to the parks and climate? I have often blogged before about the fundamental middle- and upper-class desire to control the environment you live in, or at least have a say in the process. The money is following the climate, and it is following the public subsidies of Big Basin and Windy Hill and Vasona Park.
LG trail lakesS
Not hard to take on a daily basis

We were looking for souvenirs for our Japanese student guest last weekend and the postcards included one that pictured a wrecked wooden shack and the postcard says “Bay Area Fixer-Upper, $996,000” which is true down here in Los Gatos but probably underpriced for Palo Alto.
oak hill fr drvwyS
this one’s in good shape, but would command more than 996k

But the Bay Area market is not driven simply by supply and demand nor even by regulation and climate. The key for Glaeser is the face-to-face encounters, the logic of concentration which is in fact the logic of capital. People crafted the 21st century economy here and still do so daily with their company-subsidized lunches and their Save The Shire t-shirts. That’s why Zuckerberg came here, even though he invented Facebook in the midst the the second-greatest concentration of technology in North America. Success breeds success and money follows money.
google carS
Drones are illegal in California but this Google car has been following me for 21 months. I suppose I should be happy someone is following me, even if that someone isn’t money…

Yangon Heritage

March 6, 2014

Rangoon. The Garden City of the Orient. It really was, and thanks to a half-century of neglect, it still is. Sort of like Havana, Rangoon gives you that sense of stepping back in time, before the glass skyscraper shopping centers, before Rayon and ubiquitous telephony. I rarely wax nostalgic but when I walked the streets of Rangoon in May of 1986, I fell in love with the colonial architecture.
You could feel the sense of time there. I have never been to Havana, but I have experienced the sense of time frozen in architecture in a few other places – Budapest a decade ago, Georgetown (Malaysia, not D.C.) in the 80s, even Leeds back in ’82. It is an architecture that begs for preservation but not restoration. It is messy but it is literally dripping with history; with significance
I was in Chicago last week meeting with Thant Myint-U, an historian, author and leader in both the preservation movement in Burma as well as its peace process and emergent democracy. Global Heritage Fund is working with Yangon Heritage Trust because like YHT, we see conservation of architectural heritage as a vital social and economic development tool.

Thant is considered one of the 100 Leading Global Thinkers by Foreign Policy Magazine and I think it is significant that he thinks so much about preservation.

This is my photo of the great Shwedagon Pagoda, 1986.

For a couple of years now, there has been a rush to Rangoon, which sits neatly between the great South Asian cultural sphere of India and the great East Asian cultural sphere that includes China and Japan. The rush is prompted by openness, trade, and of course that time-capsule city that is just dying for redevelopment in the time-honored manner of all Asian cities….
shang mus INup
Yum. Can’t wait.

So Thant sees a rare opportunity to preserve the best of the old – and the garden city feel crafted by the original designers and NOT LOST due to the depredations of mid-century highway engineers – while allowing Rangoon to evolve into the 21st century. Almost every other such opportunity in Asia has been lost.
Bund E
Except the Bund, although it is dwarfed by the rest of Shanghai and outsmarted nightly by Pudong across the river.

Shortly after visiting Rangoon in 1986 I went to Singapore, and while it is cleaner and safer than anywhere in the U.S., my impression was: The alien shopping centers have landed and they are having a sale. Not warm and fuzzy. Not special character.

Rangoon is the last best hope for crafting a modern Asian city that respects not only a few odd landmarks, but an urban landscape, a balance of then and now, a place made humane by the urban patina of these buildings.

There are challenges – sorting out the ownership and tenancy rights, and these are primary in Thant’s mission, which seeks to secure a conservation NOT reliant on gentrification. That is a tall order, but in every important sense, he is up to that challenge and I will work to make Global Heritage Fund a partner in that effort.

Another challenge lies in the naysayers. I heard it more than once – why would the Burmese want to preserve the colonial architecture built by the British who literally conquered the country?

This is a common slam against preservation, and it ranks up there with the other fallacies used as excuses by those who find preservation HARD.

Fallacy Problem One: This assumes that the oppressed peoples IDENTIFY that architecture with oppression. They might. They might not. First thing you should do is ask them. Thant has and is acting on the answer.

Fallacy Problem Two: The architecture of oppression can become the people’s architecture in no time at all. Here is a palace of a despotic ruler:
louvre cr cr
Except they chopped his head off and opened the building to the public as the WORLD’S FIRST MUSEUM causing, well, museums.

Here is a palace of 600 years of despotic rulers:
forbid city e ctyd2s
So when radical Communists took over the country they demolished it, right? Um, no, they made it into a public museum and tourist attraction.

Here is what every NEW building in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos looks like:
mcmansion khmer
It’s French. You want to show off your newly minted middle-class status, you build a house in the style of the colonial powers. Short answer: Don’t assume what the architecture symbolizes to people until THEY TELL YOU.

Fallacy Problem Three:
The embedded notion here is that people just want to get ahead and you and your fancy-pants aesthetic snobbery are preventing them from their unencumbered march into prosperity.

This is a fallacy in the developed world as well, proceeding as it does from the assumption that ANYTHING that gets in the way of redevelopment is an impediment. Like buildings. Like zoning. Like laws. Like financing. Like infrastructure.

We don’t consider zoning or financing impediments but maybe we should, because they can shut down a development project COMPLETELY. An old building CAN’T DO THAT. The worst it can do is change the FORM of the development project.

Why is that so HARD? Maybe Yangon Heritage Trust will prove that is isn’t.

In Search of Luxury

February 18, 2014

For thirty years I gave tours of the Illinois and Michigan Canal National Heritage Corridor outside Chicago and talked about the earliest European history of the area, which was the French trade, the couriers de bois who paddled through the wilds of the upper Midwest from Montreal in search of one thing: beaver pelts. Why? To make fancy top hats for the European upper class.
10 voyageur
Dude is starting a fire with flint and steel on a real island in Illinois

Now I give tours of Monterey, where the earliest European history is of course the Spanish, who were sailing to California from the Phillipines and China in search of one thing: sea otter pelts. Why? To make capes and caps for the Chinese upper class.
qiu ying 16C
wicked sea otter snapback dude!

If you look at key trade items that led to the creation of new places, they tend to be luxury goods. It ain’t the Polyester Road that goes through Samarkand, it’s Silk. Heck, some places are even named after these goods: Java, Spice Islands, Cote d’Ivoire. Penang in Malaysia evinces the layers of trade from Portuguese and Chinese to English. The Spanish and Portuguese spent two hundred years looking for gold in the Americas.
BOG Oro97
And they found it. Even if they had to pry it out of your cold, dead nose

Even the second and third waves of settlement are often focused on luxury goods. When you visit the Custom House in Monterey, the oldest public building in California, you learn about the cowhide trade during the Mexican era in the 1820s, where boats were laden with hides and then shipped much farther than China: to Boston and New York, where the markup was about 10 times the price in California.
Mont Cust House hidesS
hidebound and hell bent for leather

Mont Cust HouseS
Here’s the Custom House.

And of course once the Americans manage to take over California from the Mexicans – in fact about exactly three weeks later, the Americans get all hot and bothered for gold as well, and basically San Francisco and all of Northern California get created in like a year.
nice italS
which is why there are still like a thousand of these despite the earthquakes

Interestingly, the 19th century witnesses the rise of industrial economies and trade becomes more a quantity thing. The European top hats stop being beaver and start being, of all things, silk. The hides being shipped from Monterey are used not so much for boots and jackets as for belts to power factories. Malaysia becomes more interesting for rubber and palm oil, Illinois runs out of beaver and starts growing corn by the crore, and dear old Monterey starts whaling on whales to produce the oil that lights and heats everybody’s house.
Mont whale sidewalkSThis sidewalk is made of whale vertebrae. Honestly

Now, between the Gold Rush and the discovery (which oddly eluded the Spanish for a century) that San Francisco was a WAY better harbor than Monterey, little old Monterey became a backwater. No more hides, no more whales. So, they turn to tourism, which is, in itself, a luxury good. They do it way back in the 1880s, when only the wealthy get more than one day a week off.
casa del oroS
They called this one Casa de Oro

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And this was a hotel and…

Pretty soon with the tourists come the artists. Robert Louis Stevenson. Eventually Jack London, Upton Sinclair, Robinson Jeffers, Mary Austen, and a local guy named John Steinbeck who turned tales of the Inland Empire into a Nobel Prize. He published Grapes
of Wrath
just two years after Monterey created their historic district of downtown adobes in 1937 – basically the same time as New Orleans’ created the Vieux Carré.

Cannery Row21s

And then he writes another book called Cannery Row, about another industrial operation, which then collapses and gets turned into yet another tourist attraction, although this time on an industrial rather than exclusive scale.

My tour continues through Cannery Row, past the 1984 Monterey Bay Aquarium which cemented its tourist position to 17 Mile Drive, the fun way to get to Carmel, the town the artists flocked to 100 years ago. There is plenty of luxury at Pebble Beach and the houses of 17 Mile Drive.
17M PebBeach crs bS

Carmel itself has a history dating to 1771 when Fra Junipero Serra established his second mission on El Camino Real (he actually established it a year earlier in Monterey) and there you can see the heavily reconstructed Mission, mostly dating from the 1930s.
Carmel mission w plaqS

I suppose today PLACE is the luxury item, and with most houses starting at a million despite their über-cute diminutive scale, Carmel is a luxury good and its trade is booming.
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little houseS
The houses have no numbers, only names. You have to get your mail at the post office.

Giving and Getting: the Nature of Charity

December 30, 2013

The world is too much with us, late and soon
Getting and spending we lay waste our powers
Little we see in Nature that is ours

This poem fragment from Wordsworth, learnt in the first year of high school, remains stuck firmly in my head these many decades later. To me it was a critique of consumerism, although I suppose in its time it was a critique of industrialism. In either case it was a critique born of nostalgia, a disease that makes letting go difficult, a disease of heart and mind that fears change and newness and the gross manipulations that are our human economy.

If you have ever seen my website or taken one of my classes, you know I dislike nostalgia, even though it would seem to be the base impulse behind all I have ever done professionally: the urge to preserve is a nostalgic urge, no?

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No. The reason I am in California running the Global Heritage Fund is the same reason I toiled behind the scenes during the creation of the Illinois and Michigan Canal National Heritage Corridor 30 years ago. Because both approached preservation as an economically viable choice about the future, not a desperate nostalgic attempt to hold on to the past.

lock 8 houseS

Right now you and I and everyone else are being hit with end-of-year giving requests from a variety of worthy causes and charities. I have spent the entirety of my 30-plus year career working for non-profit organizations, and now is no exception and this blog is in fact an end-of-year giving request. Right here. But it is also an examination of the nature of charity.

old city merchant

Charity is giving in a way that supports getting. It is the classic “teach a man to fish” paradigm. Our way of doing it involves heritage, which is something indigenous and permanent to place.

Trail 12 peeps

That is Dr. Santiago Giraldo, who has come twice to California in the last year to present our project at Ciudad Perdida in Colombia. It is a model project for many reasons: it incorporates all four of our Preservation By Design® aspects: Conservation Science, Partnerships, Planning, and Community Development. It creates local jobs in tourism and provides infrastructural improvements like bridges and stoves and sanitation and health centers that serve tourists, peasants and indigenous alike. Most importantly, it saves heritage because Conservation is the most sustainable human economy.

Trail up i10 village

I wrote recently about how many environmental organizations were abandoning the Puritanism of the wilderness model, recognizing that the most effective way to conserve some natural areas was through a sustainable USE of the land by a native population. That is what is happening at Ciudad Perdida in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountains of Colombia.

CP 39 terraces houses

It is our goal at all of our sites in the developing world. Indeed, the special sauce that makes Global Heritage Fund unique is that we ONLY work in developing regions. We do that because we know that money spent on heritage is wasted unless the local community want to save it. They will do that if it benefits them – economically as well as spiritually. We also work in these places because we recognize conservation as the most sustainable way to develop and improve economies for the future. That’s it.

CP 16 main axis best

Our mission is to save heritage in the developing world, and do it in a way that improves lives, because that is best for the heritage, for the local people, and for the local economy. It gives the lie to Wordsworth, because we can see what is ours in nature and we can get and spend in a way that builds our powers rather than wastes them.

heshui geese 3 copy

Cultural Landscapes: The Confluence of Conservations

October 6, 2013

I have blogged previously about the differences between natural area conservation and heritage conservation, especially in terms of use-value, as I wrote about last year in this blog. The basic point was that natural area conservation is largely about preserving non-use value – a liability (or at least an externality), while heritage conservation is about preserving use-value – an asset.
Big Sur 97bS
we could all use some of this

That blog also delved into the 41-year history of World Heritage, which includes both cultural, natural and “mixed” sites. I detailed how we had shifted in heritage conservation from iconic and monumental singular sites to broader cultural landscapes. In recent discussions with conservation foundations, I am sensing a new confluence of heritage conservation and natural conservation as both approaches are moving into the arena of cultural landscapes.
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Guizhou, China

More than one foundation that sees the conservation of natural areas as its mission has moved into funding efforts to protect indigenous peoples and landscapes: cultural landscapes that are NOT “wilderness” in any traditional sense, but whose balance of humans and nature seems to be in a sort of equilibrium we would not claim for our American cities and suburbs. At least two foundations I recently met with are looking at specific regions where indigeous people occupy – and farm or shepherd – a landscape in a way that may preserve the natural environment in an overall sense despite the “taint” of human occupation. Instead of merely keeping people out of these areas, the goal is to allow traditional indigenous economies to manage those landscapes in a sustainable way with traditional agriculturalist and pastoralist practices.
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Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, Colombia

The evolution of natural area conservation from wilderness to occupied landscapes has occurred over a long period, and arguably efforts to preserve Andean watersheds or Central Asian steppes without regard to political boundaries has its roots in the earliest national parks. My own experience in heritage conservation began with an organization that is still not 50 years old that undertook a comprehensive look at the landscapes near Chicago and identified pristine nature amidst industrial and agricultural development and devised a scheme to preserve BOTH.
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Illinois & Michigan Canal near Channahon.

Arguably, it is the historic preservation people who got to the party late, focusing on iconic architectural landmarks to the exclusion of layered landscapes where history might best be captured in ordinary structures. In my dissertation research, I identified a gap between the traditional architectural preservationists who sought to save individual landmarks and those community activists who identified potential historic districts almost a century ago. Those groups slowly came together in the 1960s and 1970s, just as the environmental movement achieved an apex of influence on public policy.
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Greenwich Village, Manhattan
El Capitan strea Alex5

It has been argued that both environmentalism and historic preservation are reactions against industrialization and its effects on the landscape; that both are somewhat nostalgic oppositions to economic growth. This argument fails to account for the entirety of my 30 years in the heritage development field but it does reveal an interesting bias that accounts for the current trends in regard to occupied landscapes.
mt vernon
Here is Mount Vernon, famously saved in the mid-19th century from the depredations of development, especially “manufactories.” There is of course its iconic association with George Washington, but if you go there today you realize that it is a plantation, which is to say, a settled agricultural landscape. Ann Pamela Cunningham and her friends saw BOTH the house and the landscape as worthy of preservation. The first preservation group in the US was the American Scenic and Historic Preservation Society. The motives were nostalgic and anti-progress, but their goals were both historic and environmental.

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Princeton Battlefield

So perhaps it is not unusual that these two movements are coalescing AGAIN. I remember being really struck by Bill McKibben’s The End of Nature a quarter-century ago when he argued that most of the truly wild places were gone. It is hard to find pieces of the planet untouched by civilization (or at least societies). I have visited the archaeological sites of many past civilizations who so despoiled their landscapes that they made deserts of rich fields and ruins of great cities.
burren pavements
The Burren, Ireland. Cromwell’s general said of the landscape, heavily populated millenia earlier, “a savage land, yielding neither water enough to drown a man, nor tree to hang him, nor soil enough to bury him.”

If you look on the National Trust website today, you see the fruits of decades of efforts to move from icons to “places that matter” and you see that the targets of the movement in the U.S. are, in addition to architectural landmarks, places as vast and diverse as the Mississippi Delta, Chimney Rock and even Princeton Battlefield. Internationally, the trend is quite similar, and it is instructive to look at the goal of BOTH heritage and natural area conservation, which is NOT stopping change, but MANAGING change.
rui9ncrop and river
Wachau, Austria

Managing change is what heritage conservation is all about. For the Global Heritage Fund project in Guizhou, our goal is to come up with ways of preserving both the structures and folkways of these World Heritage minority villages as they become linked by fast roadways to the big cities. It is a classic GHF problem requiring careful community planning and conservation while working with communities and partners to insure positive economic and social benefit.
heshui waterwheelS
Waterwheel for pounding wood pulp to make paper, HeShui Village, Guizhou

Many of our projects combine heritage conservation with natural area conservation. We have had many support our Classical Mayan archaeological site of El Mirador in Guatemala because it preserves massive Mesoamerican pyramids as well as disappearing rainforest. Similarly, when you trek to our site of Ciudad Perdida in Colombia, you are in both the Tayrona indigenous area and a national park.
CP 39 terraces houses

Over thirty years ago I began working on an effort to save a landscape that had pristine natural areas, historic towns, steel plants and vast agricultural plots. It was a whole story of human existence layered into a landscape and it was a pioneering approach to the concept of conservation as managed change that does not remove nature or history from the economy, but manages its future as a vital – and conserved – element of the economy. I have been privileged to witness the confluence of heritage and natural conservation over those decades, and to be able to participate in it every day.
vw to lock 8s

Community-Driven Development versus Community Outreach

May 17, 2013

Tuesday night we had our Colombia Project Director Dr. Santiago Giraldo speaking here in Palo Alto on “Education and Community at Ciudad Perdida”. The Global Heritage Fund (Join Here!) works to preserve the most significant and endangered heritage sites in the developing world, and Ciudad Perdida is a prime example, abandoned in the 16th century after a thousand years of unique urban development, the site was left to the ravages of the jungle, looters and narcotraffickers. GHF worked with the Colombian Institute of Anthropology and History to help conserve these amazing structures of stone: huge circular platforms and embankments, connected by myriad stone stairways in a unique open urban system I described two months ago here.
CP i main iBest
But Santiago on Tuesday night was focusing on education and community development efforts. As I am constantly pointing out to everyone who will listen, community development is not an “add-on” to heritage conservation. It HAS to be there or the conservation doesn’t work: local people are the ultimate stewards of every site, so it must work to their advantage (cultural, social, economic) or they won’t keep it around. It is not how much money you spend on a site, or even how clever you are about planning and conservation treatment. Sustainability requires stewardship, and that means the heritage site must be central to community development.
PY Nan st vwS
The problem I often encounter is that many conservation professionals, in hearing that Global Heritage Fund prioritizes community development, will propose a series of community meetings and inputs for their archaeological or architectural project. They will propose conservation skills training, and often community tourism training. These are all good things, especially the ones that provide jobs. But they are only a sliver of what community development is.
Much of what I see in proposals is community outreach. We explain how we are going to excavate or restore a site to the local population and make sure they are okay with it. That isn’t community development. As we learned last week in a great meeting with World Bank officials, the current terminology is community-driven development, and I think that is very helpful. We are not reaching out to explain or enlist the local community. We are asking for their needs, issues, hopes and dreams BEFORE we plan the project. They are a driving force in the development of the heritage site.
heshui meeting0
This what Santiago does very well at Ciudad Perdida. He stops and talks to everyone about what they need, about what they think. And they know he is willing to change plans to support their needs. One of the items we shared at the Tuesday night event in Palo Alto was a teacher’s guide La Sierra Y Yo that uses the heritage site and surrounding national park as the basis for learning science, natural history, culture, history and more. GHF has also supported Guides to the wildlife of the area.
La Sierra Y Yos
We have helped develop sanitary systems that serve the eco-lodges where tourists stay, and more efficient wood-burning stoves for these same lodges. These aren’t just for the tourists: they help improve living conditions for locals who live and operate in the homestay lodges. The stoves also reduce the need for firewood – and the subsequent deforestation – by a third or more.
Trail 8 cook
Heritage conservation is a process, and that process includes community-driven development. The identification, evaluation, registration and treatment of sites is a process that incorporates a community’s needs and desires from the beginning: they help identify what aspects of a site are important to them and they help define the treatment of those sites. They also drive how the site can be developed for conservation work, for tourism, for retail, and indeed for the enhancement of the value of a PLACE.
Trail 12 peeps
To accomplish this you need more than skills in architecture, archaeology or conservation: you need skills in working with stakeholders, identifying how heritage relates to their social and economic everyday, and planning a project with their input from the very beginning. GHF has always been proud of its planning capabilities, and we aim to enhance those capabilities in the future so that we live up to our motto: Saving heritage globally; changing lives locally.

Homeownership as Industrial Relic

May 10, 2013

This blog is of course inspired in part by living in one of the world’s most expensive real estate markets where double-wides can cost a million dollars, but it is also situated in time, and as the blog in its eighth year is still called Time Tells, let us think about homeownership in time.


The idea of homeownership and the financial mechanisms to achieve it were a key to the economics of the 20th century, when the growth of the middle class and a consumer economy became the lion’s share of GDP, especially in the States.  There are innumerable studies that also link homeownership to things like family and economic stability, rising real estate values, and other attributes of the growth of the middle class.  And the phenomenon has spread beyond the United States to other parts of the developing world, although never with the market saturation seen stateside.


The roots of the obsession with homeownership and our economic dependence on it go back to the 19th century Industrial Revolution, when, for the first time, we separated work from home on a grand scale and had to invent a whole new culture of domesticity (and unnaturally restricted gender roles) to support a new economic geography.  Men went to work and women stayed home.  This was a new thing, and a literature and an art had to develop to support this innovative cultural frontier.


As the middle class came into existence and expanded, the importance of domestic architecture grew correspondingly.  It had to be tranquil, conducive to family, a respite from the smoky reality of factory and office.  Even the crowded urban tenements, constantly being reformed throughout the 19th century, kept adding elements of middle class respectability.  My Fair Lady may focus on the costumes, but that “middle-class respectability” was also about architecture interior and exterior.


burbank strsS
belgravia flats

An old college friend with considerable financial expertise told me recently that it made no economic sense to buy a house in California. While he relented after years to domestic pressure (the cultural construct outlives the economic rationale) I took his words to heart. And I also thought about what Time Tells: homeownership means a fixed location, which makes sense for an industrial economy where you might comceivably have one job in one place for an entire career. It makes sense when fixed assets like factories remain in place. But in the fluid global knowledge economy of the 21st century the average worker must be trained for 20 years instead of 8 or 12. That same worker will need to be retrained 3 or 4 times over their lifetime and need to relocate 4 to 6 times.

classic span colS

In SO many ways we are SO over the middle class of the 20th century so why on earth would we tie ourselves to a mortgage and a fixed location? Culture of course. It outlasts economic rationale. And of course the massive suite of U.S. Government support of homeownership, extending from a host of 1930s financing mechanisms (including the dramatic reduction of down payments from 50% of value) to the ongoing deductibility of mortgage interest has extended the economic benefits of homeownership well beyond the larger economic rationale. Will these subsidies shift in the coming years as we recognize the desirability of a more fluid workforce in a more fluid economy or will the pressures of political support (great to have voters fixed in place!) override the rationale? We shall see.

from front doorS

All of this thinking about the (relatively recent) history of homeownership was inspired by a recent study by David G. Blanchflower of Dartmouth and Andrew J. Oswald of the University of Warwick, which argued that “areas with high levels of homeownership are more likely to stifle innovation and job creation.” Why? Labor mobility, discussed above, was a major factor. Zoning was also a factor, a much longer discussion we must save for another day. Silicon Valley – a crucible of innovation for two generations – is pretty far from Warwick, but its never-ending blast furnace of real estate values may well be the exception that proves the rule: the one place where home values defy history and continue to go up, fueled by the churn of knowledge workers. Or?


The Economics of Uniqueness

March 21, 2013

The World Bank recently published a book called “The Economics of Uniqueness: Investing in Historic City Cores and Cultural Assets for Sustainable Development.” which is an intriguing title given our work at the Global Heritage Fund, since it pretty much defines a key feature of our mission:  saving heritage sites and making them work economically for local communities in developing countries.


Pingyao, a city core we have been working in since 2008

The report includes contributions by Christian Ost, an acknowledged leader in the economics of historic cities, and the award-winning Donovan Rypkema, both members of our Senior Advisory Board.  More than simply touting the various types of economic benefit brought to communities by heritage conservation (jobs, land value, tourism, etc.) the report actually focus on the strategy and process of heritage conservation.  This is key.  At Global Heritage Fund we talk about our Preservation by Design® methodology combining scientific conservation, planning, partnerships and community development.  You can only sustain a heritage resource if the community is involved in, and benefits from, its conservation.  That way you have a multigenerational conservation strategy.


On the trail to Ciudad Perdida

The World Bank report takes a similar tack: instead of simply enumerating economic benefits, it outlines the process of engaging community in conservation.  It talks about stakeholders; about balancing regulation and incentives; about balancing conservation and “an acceptable degree of change;” about ensuring a dialogue between the public and private sectors.  It is in short, a solid 21st century approach to our field.



Indeed, the report acknowledges that the economic arguments are well understood at this point: “the economic justification for public sector investment is well established” while recognizing that all projects need an element of private sector investment as well.  This is key, because the old model of public sector conservation has been somewhat obsolete since, well, since I began working in this field 30 years ago.  The byword then, in the Reagan Era, was “public-private partnerships,” and indeed the entire World Bank document is essentially addressed to public and private stakeholders in heritage.

ImageMesilla, New Mexico

The report points out the fact that the economics of heritage is a relatively new field, having separated itself from the “Use and Non-Use Value” concepts of conservation economics in the 1990s, promulgated the concept of “cultural capital” and eventually settling on the hedonic valuation method.  This is exciting to me, because it incorporates the urban economics I studied and practiced in my last incarnation with the tourism economics that has been a mainstay of GHF’s archaeological projects.  In effect, the report captures both the economics of a heritage city like Pingyao and the community- and labor-intensive economics of heritage tourism.  The latter is important because our economic understanding of tourism has evolved very significantly since the 1980s when I was first involved in this. 


Indiana Dunes town


David Throsby’s chapter deals with the concept of cultural capital and cultural assets within the context of sustainability, which again cuts to the core of the GHF mission:  if you save or restore a site without community investment and benefit, your efforts will not last a generation:  if you save it with community input and gain, it will last longer.  It will be more sustainable.  Moreover, as Throsby notes, cultural heritage, like endangered species, is irreplaceable: you cannot make new heritage sites.  They are a limited resource.


not authentic ones anyway

Actually, Throsby does consider that new heritage CAN be made, although like wine or scotch, only time tells whether it will contain the cultural value we associate with currently recognized heritage. In the United States our preservation battles today are often over 1960s High Modernism, where some debate still takes place over its value. Throsby goes on to enumerate the cultural values inherent in heritage which are non-economic:
Aesthetic Value
Symbolic Value
Spiritual Value
Social Value
Historic Value
Authenticity Value
Scientific Value

This list is broader than the Alois Riegl list many of us grew up with, but it does track with many landmarks ordinances, and in terms of our work at GHF, it relates well to both our archaeological (Scientific Value) and architectural (Aesthetic and Symbolic Value) projects, not to mention those spiritual and social glues that make communities cohere. Throsby then links the two and proposes a future valuation technique analagous to health economics that would begin to more mathematically monetize cultural values. We sort of “get it” when we read about cities people choose to live and invest in due to “quality of life” issues.
X drum tower nightS
like good dumplings
Throsby also deals with the carrot-and-stick of heritage policy. This is something we discuss a lot at the National Trust for Historic Preservation: trying to go beyond The Ones Who Say No. You need elements of both regulation and incentives to succeed in saving heritage and making it function profitably. Much of this is a catalyst effect, but Throsby backed up the contention with a host of statistics and results from a variety of cities, notably in Eastern Europe (Skopje and Vilnius). If the public-private partnership is the vehicle for heritage conservation, then regulation-and-incentive policies are the fuel for its economic engine. The field is still young, as the actual economic impacts have yet to be fully or even adequately measured. For one in the business as long as I, it is at least gratifying to see that economics is now at the heart of our field, rather than tangential to it.

Modern and Ancient, my Whirled in Views

February 7, 2013

As the Executive Director of the Global Heritage Fund I deal with many ancient sites, including one of the most ancient, the religious complex being excavated by the Deutsche Archaeologische Institut at Göbekli Tepe, Turkey, where stone columns carved with animals form intriguing ringed structures that predate Stonehenge by 6,000 years. This is not only ancient, it is more ancient than almost any other site people are preserving. I am honored to be involved in this.
Klaus-Peter Simon_2012

But as a Trustee of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and Board Member of Landmarks Illinois, I am dealing with lots of modern artifacts, including the justifiably famous Prentice Women’s Hospital, a 1975 landmark that marked the first deployment of computer-aided design and crafted concrete cantilevers known for their beauty as well as their ability to hold a 45-foot projection. Bertrand Goldberg – whom I met – designed the building in his famous ‘flower petal’ mode and I have blogged about it many times before. Here. And here. And here. And way back here over two years ago. Which just goes to show you that preservationists are not always slow on the draw. We had the drop on the bumbling owner (Northwestern University) by, like EIGHT YEARS. Their clout might well prevail, but they definitely showed up late and unprepared.

The denouement, a court-ordered second hearing on landmark status and denial, will be held today, February 7, 2013.
prentice 1009s

Okay, time for ancient again. One of our cool sites here at Global Heritage Fund (you can JOIN here.) is El Mirador, a 2,500 year old pre-Classic Mayan site in Guatemala. Led by Dr. Richard Hansen, the conservation of this site includes one of the world’s largest pyramids and a massive frieze uncovered by Hansen’s team. The project also preserves a unique and rich biosphere that surrounds the site, enveloping it in dense jungle.

And now back to modern. I was just reading about the people who bought the Frank Lloyd Wright house in Arizona and wanted to demolish it because it sits on two lots and they could make a lot of money developing the land. Their attitude was that the building is a lovely landmark, but they need their money. Which is in my view a dramatic misunderstanding of capitalism. Capitalism is not a system that guarantees a profit: it is a system that may reward risk with profit; may reward investment with return; and may reward hard work with leisure. But it doesn’t guarantee that. That would be socialism or something. I used to have a hard time explaining to my students that real estate values didn’t always go up – because they had lived in a time when real estate values always went up. This gave them a skewed vision of history, which 2007 quickly corrected. Also, the owners whined and whinged that landmarking affected their property value negatively, without noting the irony that zoning into two lots had artificially inflated their property value. Both are government actions that affect the marketplace.
waller 98 2844s
Here is a Frank Lloyd Wright Building I bought for $1 twenty years ago. I paid at least $40,000 too much. But I didn’t whine about it. Maybe I should have. The Arizona housenappers got paid.
CM allen hs 1863s
This house cost $10,000 to build in 1863. It sold for less than $4,000 40 years later. That’s how history and economy work.

The challenge for all of historic preservation/heritage conservation is the challenge of adaptive re-use: How do you make a cultural artifact viable for the present and future social economy of a place? Every use is an adaptive re-use: the most primitive is the museum (even though museums as a concept are less than 300 years old). We think that this is preserving a house or an archaeological site just as it was but in fact it is repurposing it: it is making it into a museum.
glessner viewS
Dear old Glessner House, Chicago
Dear old Hanyangling archaeological site, Shaanxi

Museums are not a great business model, so at GHF we are always looking for more economic variety and vitality in our projects. Ways to rekindle economic engines. Sitting in the heart of Silicon Valley, that approach to re-use seems to me more possible than ever. I live in an economy of ideas and technology, where fortunes are made not by the crude manipulation of matter into universal type-needs, but by the creative manipulation of concepts into new types of action and interaction that redefine not simply how we live but what we live and why we live.
virtuous real estateS
And unlike Arizona, our real estate is virtuous.

The internet (where you are right now) means people can live in many places, and while the value of face-to-face easily trumps online, we are finally living in the world that Morse promised over 150 years ago, where place becomes more of a choice for a significant portion of the population. And thus PLACE becomes not only the most valuable consumer item, but a key economic generator. And historic artifacts are a key – often the dominant one – to the iconography and desirability and thus the price – of PLACE.
from front doorS
Nice weather helps.

But isn’t ancient more important than modern? It is older, after all, right?
the view84s
N gate best
The top picture depicts a site that is newer and younger than the lower picture.

Bund E
robie sideS
Same here.

And here.

History is not arithmetic. 3000 years old is not three times as good as 1000 years old, and for that matter, 100 year old is not twice as good as 50 years old. Of course “age” figures into it, but so does “significance.” There are sites that have had massive impact on millions of people that are relatively modern, and there are corresponding ancient sites that have affected only a small number. More intriguingly for some of our GHF sites, we do NOT YET KNOW the impact of some of these places until we research them further. Marcahuamachuco in Peru is one example I mentioned last fall.
monjas B or C
this place, remember?

In addition to age value, we art value and historical value, which apply to some of the architectural landmarks pictured above. These values, handed down to us most notably by Alois Riegl (who wrote in 1903, making him twice as important as Hosmer who wrote 50 years later – JK!) have been at the center of heritage conservation discourse for a while. Riegl distinguished between a small number of historic monuments preserved essentially as museums, and the more common practice of adaptive re-use for the cultural landscape as a whole. He also recognized “newness value,” which is sort of the “next shiny thing” value because it describes our species obsession with novelty.
South St colorful3
old is new again

Each of these values can contribute – in different amounts – to the value of a PLACE, and I think ultimately that is the goal of our science, our mission. At Global Heritage Fund we recognize that conservation of heritage is about engaging and improving the lives of those who live around that heritage. We recognize that how heritage is preserved is part conservation science and part economic development. And we also know that when things are conserved in this way, they last.