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Public Space: Development of Garden and Park Conservation Practices, Current Debates and Laws

María del Carmen Magaz, Universidad del Salvador, Summer Fellow 2008/09

My aim during the summer fellowship at Dumbarton Oaks was to appraise the legal debates on public space conservation worldwide and the current status of laws, norms, codes, and ordinances in the United States and in Europe.

Reviewing the documents and charters of international organizations like the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), the International Council of Museums (ICOM), the Council of Europe, the Draft European Landscape Convention, the Greenways system in North America, the National Capital Parks, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the American Society of Landscape Architects proceedings, and several American cultural landscape foundations, I have found that legislation about cultural landscape has only recently emerged as a suitable area for international attention, and there is much to be learned about its protection, management, and planning.

Cultural landscape is a very important and inclusive concept that brings together the cultural and natural environments and is considered today a new frontier for environmental law. It strongly emphasizes public involvement and expresses the diverse cultural, ecological, social, and economic heritage that is the foundation of regional and national identity. It is necessary to develop legal approaches that consider all these ideas together. However, the most important consideration is that isolated laws do not work without people to care for and to be part of the conservation project. In exploring these issues, I have availed myself not only of the important library resources at Dumbarton Oaks but also those of the Library of Congress, in particular its Law Library.

On my return to Argentina in my position as advisor to a senator of the National Congress, I will be able to propose to Congress a number of laws inspired by my research at Dumbarton Oaks as well as by recent in-depth discussions with specialists. My experience will allow me to focus on the efficiency of local public policies geared to the city and to its people. Buenos Aires is one of the most important Latin American cities in terms of its public parks and squares, but it lacks legislation on heritage conservation, especially of its cultural landscapes. New laws should be passed before our Bicentennial in 2010. The research at Dumbarton Oaks on Debates and laws on garden and park conservation practices allowed me to acquire the information to update and better articulate appropriate legislative action and will be the basis for our legal projects, taking into account local idiosyncrasies.

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