Today, the conservation of integrated cultural environments is of growing importance – the integration of monuments and sites that tell us something about ordinary people's lives and activities. A cultural environment is an area where monuments and objects form part of an integrated whole.
Ten cultural environments are protected by law
The term "cultural environment" was introduced into the Cultural Heritage Act in 1992. A new provision provided the legal authority to protect a cultural environment because of the value of the area as a whole, even if protection of the individual elements would not be justified.
Cultural environments may appear in towns and urban areas, in the agricultural landscape or in forested and other uncultivated areas.
Examples of what may be designated as a cultural environment include a cluster of historically valuable farm buildings round a courtyard, situated in an agricultural landscape that still shows characteristic features of traditional farming methods, or a fishing village with houses, boathouses, quays and other buildings and installations related to fishing activities. An industrial area with factories and workers' houses is also a cultural environment.
So far, ten cultural environments in Norway are protected by law:
- Havrå farm complex (Hordaland)
- Utstein monastery (Rogaland)
- the east-Sami settlement Neiden (Finnmark)
- Kongsberg silver mines (Buskerud)
- Sogndalstrand (Rogaland)
- Birkelunden (Oslo)
- Sør-Gjæslingan (Nord-Trøndelag)
- Bygdøy (Oslo)
- Tinfos (Telemark)
- Ny-Hellesund (Vest-Agder)
Awareness of the influence of change
Conservation of cultural environments is based on an awareness that all the features of an area are related and form an integrated whole, and that all parts of the environment have a meaningful relationship to each other. This means that changes to or disturbance of one aspect of a cultural environment may alter its whole character in the same way as large-scale development.
Some examples of changes of one element of an environment that may alter its character as a whole are demolition or reconstruction of buildings, and alteration of the facades of buildings. Changes in farming practices may also alter both the ecological functions and the aesthetic aspects of an agricultural environment as a whole.
Cultural heritage considerations need to be included
Cultural heritage conservation and considerations need to be integrated into planning and development processes at local, regional and national levels. Cultural heritage considerations need to be included at an early stage of planning processes, as part of the basis for decisions in various sectors. This is particularly important if land use issues or changes of land use are involved.