Yokohama Statement '96 on
Urban Cultural Individuality

We, the representative of local authorities, relevant organizations and academic institutions, assembled at Yokohama, Japan from 25-27 March 1996 at the Regional Seminar on Urban Cultural Individuality to discuss various issues relating to urban heritage conservation with the intention of promoting better quality of life for all.

Considering that:

  • Over the past quarter century, the unprecedented rate of concentration of industry and people in large cities has resulted in the deterioration of living conditions, particularly for people in major metropolitan areas in the Asia-Pacific regions, as seen in housing shortages, traffic jams, environmental degradation and the lack of basic services.
  • It appears that the rate of urbanization will continue acceleration for the next few decades, and many of the old historic areas are in danger of being destroyed in the name of economic development and modernisation;
  • Development has often worked at odds with creating environmentally friendly, culturally vibrant and liveable cities. Cities' cultural and historic areas have often suffered as a result of rapid economic development and.
  • Cities in Asia are becoming increasingly standardized as they become more integrated into the global economy;
Recognizing that:
  • Creating "People Friendly Cities" that are socially just, environmentally sustainable, economically productive, politically participatory and culturally vibrant should be fundamental objective in the urban agenda;
  • A city should be a place where its residents can be proud of its cultural individuality, uniqueness and charm;
  • Due in part to their recent economic emergence, many countries in the Asia-Pacific region have restored confidence in their own cultures and heritage. Preserving and promoting local heritage will provide an important cultural anchor in an increasingly globalized society;
  • It is crucial to utilize the unique yet diverse features of Asian cities as strength in the process of urban development;
  • Interventions by governments, community organizations and academic institutions concerned is advisable, as market forces alone may not be sufficient to protect and promote cultural and historical urban heritage, both physical and intangible;
  • Participation of community members and various stockholders in the decision making and planning processes of cities is the key to sustainable development;
  • It is the role and responsibility of the city administration to create an appropriate environment for the growth of the local culture; and;
  • It is necessary to take a holistic approach to urban planning. This requires strong institutional coordination among various governmental and non-governmental organizations.
Acknowledging that:

Many cities are developing projects with the goal of creating more vibrant cities, such as:

  • Penang, that has adopted a strategy of fostering economically viable conservation that targets individual buildings as well as whole districts of the city for renovation;
  • Indian cities, which are experimenting with the concept of Heritage Economic zones. This concept put forth a variety of innovative measures such as the use of Floor Area Ratio (FAR), the Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) and other legal mechanisms to control the change of land use.
  • Colombo, which has put considerable effort into researching and identifying historical sites in the city; and
  • Singapore, which over the past ten years has protected most of the remaining traditional buildings through a combination of market forces, conservation legislation and enforcing agencies, while at the same time maintaining some of the highest rates of growth in the world.
We therefore affirm the importance of

  1. Reviewing present urban policies and planning practices at national and local levels in order to identify elements that could be strengthened, modified or developed to promote unique local culture and identify as well as historical heritage;

  2. Researching development strategies and mechanisms for conserving specific areas as well as individual architectural entities. These strategies and mechanisms must consider both historical heritage and local culture as strengths and advantages;

  3. Preserving intangible heritage, including neighbourhoods, communities and unique local features as well as physical structures;

  4. Taking a comprehensive approach to urban planning. Transportation, for example, should be one of the considerations included in urban cultural conservation process;

  5. Securing the well-being of the people, which is the ultimate goal of conservation projects.

  6. Re-evaluating traditional settlement conditions and patterns, such as mixed land-use development in search of examples that can be applied in modern context;

  7. Researching mechanisms and incentives such as Floor Area Ratio and Transfer of Development Rights in order to regulate changes in bulk, shape, design and use of protected buildings;

  8. Developing a quantifiable index which incorporates social and cultural as well as economic costs and benefits to development projects;

  9. Identifying and listing heritage buildings and designing guidelines for urban conservation;

  10. Promoting community participation and fostering awareness concerning the advantages of cultural and historical preservation; and

  11. Encouraging technical exchanges and information sharing among cities, NGOs, bilateral and multilateral agencies, and other relevant organizations towards the goal of conserving urban cultural identity.
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Hari Srinivas -