Heritage Preservation in War: Proactive and Reactive Approaches Applied to the Old City in Sana’a, Yemen

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emergency planning
heritage protection
Historic Preservation and Conservation
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Armenta, Xochilt Del Rosal

The inherent nature of heritage as a symbol of a community’s identity – whether it be dependent on national, ethnic, or religious affiliations – has made it a frequent target during warfare despite heritage destruction being a war crime according to the 1954 Hague Convention. During war, the institutions responsible for preserving heritage spaces are often unable to offer support, making it the community’s responsibility to uphold preservation methods which can be secondary to the pressing issues of safety. The protection of heritage amid war depends on numerous variables ranging from community knowledge to the available resources and capacity to enforce preservation strategies. The Old City in Sana’a, Yemen – a UNESCO World Heritage Site – has recently been at the center of a foreign-backed civil war. Since 2015, it has suffered damage from strategic bombing to its historic core. It is therefore an appropriate site for studying the relationship between architecture and war; for highlighting the toll of armed conflict upon a world heritage city; and for proposing both proactive and reactive approaches that can help mitigate further damage. By researching proposed and existing strategies for preserving heritage in war and applying them to the Old City of Sana’a, this thesis sheds light on the obstacles that heritage sites face in planning for war. Ultimately, it seeks to contribute to the continuing conversation around the protection of heritage in Sana’a and worldwide, with the hope that improvements will be made in Sana’a during a time of eventual peace. The lessons learned in Sana’a will have relevance for other World Heritage Sites, and specifically for developing cities with historic cores that are beginning to create management plans for their future.

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Suggested Citation: Armenta, Xochilt (2018). Heritage Preservation in War: Proactive and reactive approaches applied to the Old City in Sana’a, Yemen (Masters Thesis). University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA.
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