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close this bookInitial Environmental Assessment: Urban Development - Series no 12 (NORAD, 1996)
close this folderPart I: Urban development. The urban environment, projects and environmental impacts.
close this folder3 Possible environmental impacts
View the document(introduction...)
View the document3.1 Air, water and soil
View the document3.2 Vegetation, fauna and ecosystems
View the document3.3 Management of natural resources
View the document3.4 Climate
View the document3.5 Landscape, architecture and cultural heritage
View the document3.6 Health
View the document3.7 Way of life

3.5 Landscape, architecture and cultural heritage

Urban development and projects of a certain magnitude, be it buildings, roads or other constructions, will entail considerable physical encroachments on the landscape. To which degree visual damages occur depends on the form of the landscape or terrain (valley, ridge, plain), type of surface cover (vegetation, agriculture or settlements), and scale (the relative dimensions of the project compared to dimensions of the landscape). How transition zones between the various types of surface cover or terrain are changed is of importance. Large differences in scale between project and affected landscape may increase the negative impacts. One should particularly consider changes to the richness of variation and complexity of the landscape. Some landscape types are especially vulnerable to encroachments. This pertains to coastal areas, open cultural landscapes adjacent to urban areas (fringe zone between rural and urban areas), and visually exposed hills and ridges. The urban landscape consists of the natural and cultural landscape where the city is situated, the built-up area and the placing of various objects (signs, trees, sculptures etc.) in the city. Construction projects may cause both functional and aesthetic impacts on settlement structures and urban landscape. Transport measures, design of housing environments (both indoor and outdoor areas) and the respective location of the various service functions like for instance schools, shops, and public buildings will have different impacts if a clear functional division of land use or an integration of various functions in the housing environment is selected.

Architecture and building traditions are of great importance for the visual character of the city or urban area. Individual buildings or building environments contain a symbolic value and convey a signal which may be important to consider in construction projects. Changes to building environments through establishment of new buildings may have consequences for the population's identification and experience of the place where the building is located. Large buildings and/or buildings established as part of development projects may come to have a normative function as ideals for small and large developers. Choice of design and materials should therefore be carefully considered. Two different strategies may be relevant: a) Adaptation to existing buildings is especially relevant where there already exists a relatively homogenous architecture and building tradition. Caution should be shown in encroachments which alter the holistic impression. New projects can be adapted to existing construction either by building on old traditions or by tailoring new solutions. b) Creative urban design can be relevant where any homogenous architectural language and building tradition does not exist, but rather a mixture of various styles and traditions. Daring may be shown in the design of new projects. It may be relevant to give the project a design which represents something new, and which can contribute to alter the holistic impression of the area in a positive direction.

If the modification of existing traditional building habits or architecture is desired the following questions should be posed:

· has the local population contributed to the formulation of the needs?
· is local design being considered?
· are locally available materials utilised?
· are energy-efficient materials being utilised?
· are traditional techniques and handicrafts being considered?
· is adequate consideration given to social organisation and division of labour in the local community?
· can the users maintain the buildings?
· can new technology be modified for use in existing or future buildings in the area?

Various construction projects and several activities in urban areas like for instance waste management, industry and transport may damage the cultural heritage. This may happen through projects and activities being located too close to the cultural heritage and creating visual disturbances, noise, vibrations and/or pollution of air and water. Air pollution may corrode materials thereby destroying monuments and buildings of aesthetic, cultural and architectonic value. Too little emphasis is given to this issue in urban development. In addition to loss of cultural heritage the consequence may also be loss of revenue from tourism. In addition to local losses, the cultural heritage of national or international interest may be damaged. The sites included in the UNESCO "World Heritage List" are for instance included in the last group.