ICOMOS CIAV International Conference 2016 Conservation and Rehabilitation of Vernacular Heritage: The Cultural Landscape of Wendland circular villages September 28 - October 2, 2016
ICOMOS CIAV International Conference 2016 Conservation and Rehabilitation of Vernacular Heritage:The Cultural Landscape of Wendland circular villages September 28 - October 2, 2016

Conference Theme

The CIAV International Conference 2016 will be held under the theme


"Conservation and Rehabilitation of Vernacular Heritage: the Cultural Landscape of the Wendland Circular Villages".


The Wendland circular villages form an exceptional and unique historical cultural landscape, which allows experiencing the planned circular settlements and the adjoining land-use patterns of medieval subsistence farming, which have been preserved in their entirety and architectural form of the 18th and 19th century, to this day. The intense density of numerous, extremely well-preserved circular villages in a confined space, and the interjacent terrain which they affect, constitute a cultural landscape which has fully preserved its agricultural and vernacular aesthetics. The clear legibility of the village typology, formed by gable-ended aisled houses circularly arranged around an open centre, and the good preservation of the axially planned land parcels extending from the village centres and shared meadowlands between settlements, makes this cultural landscape a globally unique example of a Central European traditional human settlement and land use form.  


Noting the rarity of such vernacular landscapes in Central Europe, the conference "Conservation and Rehabilitation of Vernacular Heritage" aims to draw on the inspiration of the circular villages to discuss contemporary challenges in the conservation integrity and authenticity of vernacular heritage in Central Europe while considering the need for and challenges of future demographic and infrastructure developments.


The conference has developed five sub-themes which shall assist in exploring the above qualities, pressures and challenges. The Scientific Committee invite papers for four of the five sub-themes, while the fifth will be explored in a panel discussion with invited speakers. This fifth theme will address specific contemporary challenges of vernacular heritage threatened by armed conflicts and will debate the potential for preservation also in light of the below subtheme of reconstruction.


The four sub-themes to which we encouraged a submission of papers are the following:


Sub-theme 1

The local context: Wendland circular villages, an exceptional vernacular heritage.


This subtheme aims at providing international participants with an introduction to the local context in which the international conference takes place. It is intended to present the circular villages as a specific type of vernacular heritage settlement - also in comparison to other central European settlement types - and analyse the vernacular architecture, which conference participants will have the opportunity to enjoy at great depth. Reflection on the vernacular architectural heritage will include the half-timber construction typologies and the relationship between architectural structures, settlement plans and the wider cultural landscape.


Sub-theme 2

Conservation and rehabilitation of built vernacular heritage in times of rural exodus


This subtheme aims at exploring the challenges that migration processes towards urban centres create for the  conservation and rehabilitation of built vernacular heritage. Needs of contemporary society are often related to transport and communication infrastructures which may not be accessible in remote locations. These pose challenges for the perceived quality of life in rural contexts and, at times, lead to demographic and economic pressures in villages and rural landscapes. We invite papers which address how vernacular heritage can contribute to addressing such questions and strengthen the economic and demographic situation of rural communities, including through changes in use of vernacular architecture and possibilities for cultural tourism.


Sub-theme 3

Vernacular heritage and alternative energy generation


The Wendland cultural landscape has over the past three decades been a location of heated debates on energy generation methods due to a temporary storage site for nuclear waste which the German government installed in the wider district. Following years of protests against the nuclear waste transports, many environmentalists and anti-nuclear activists settled in the region and continue to direct supportive policies towards alternative energy generation. However, how alternative energy generation through wind turbines, solar panels, photovoltaic cells and bio-gas plants can be reconciled with vernacular heritage settings poses an ongoing challenge to local authorities. To address these, this subtheme aims at exploring conflicts and seeking solutions which might allow alternative energy generation in vernacular heritage landscapes.


Sub-theme 4

Reconstruction of vernacular timber architecture


In line with ICOMOS' general theme for scientific discussions in 2016 and the on-going debate on reconstructions in light of destructions by armed conflict and natural disasters, this subtheme invites to explore policies, strategies and methods for the reconstruction of vernacular timber architecture. Participants are invited to explore in which contexts and under which circumstances reconstructions might be desirable and how these should ideally be conceptualized. The subtheme invites both, theoretical considerations on approaches towards reconstructions and specific case studies of reconstructed timber architecture which could be presented as best practice or examples to learn from. 



Subtheme 5 

Round-Table Session on 'Vernacular built heritage threatened by war'.




Participants of ‘CIAV 2016 conference in Lübeln, Germany, are invited to attend and contribute to the Round-table on “Vernacular Built Heritage Threatened by War”, scheduled on Saturday, 1st October, 2016 from 17.00 to 18.30. 

CIAV members who cannot attend the conference and annual meeting in Lübeln are welcome to send their thoughts, questions and ideas to Hossam Mahdy who will be moderating the Round-table and will be happy to present any ideas he receives for the discussion: hossammahdy1960[at]yahoo.co.uk

A few discussants will be invited to talk for ten minutes each, while most of the time will be devoted to the discussions from all present.

A short report on the Round-table will be published in CIAV Newsletter. And a brief will be presented to ICOMOS Scientific Council this year in Istanbul by CIAV Expert Member Samir Abdulac, the chairman of “ICOMOS Working Group for the Safeguard of Cultural Heritage of Syria and Iraq”.



While built heritage specialists, and perhaps the whole world, were shocked at images of the destruction of grand monuments and archaeological sites in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and other countries, the destruction to the vernacular built heritage in these countries is much less known. If you have information on particular case studies you are invited to share them for circulation and discussions at the Round-table.

The following questions are intended to start the discussion. You are invited to add to the questions, suggest replies or offer examples and case studies to highlight and demonstrate different aspects of the issue.

The main question for the Round-table is:

How to address the particular nature of vernacular architecture within the efforts to protect the built heritage threatened by war?


This can be broken up into simpler questions:


  • What are the specific characteristics of the vernacular built heritage that require special attention with regards to war threats?


  • Before war, what can be done to prevent or reduce threat to the vernacular built heritage?


  • During war, what can be done to protect the vernacular built heritage?


  • After war, what can be done to restore, reconstruct and/or revitalize the vernacular built heritage?


  • Does post-war reconstruction impact the authenticity and integrity of vernacular built heritage, in the same way it does for other heritage categories?


  • How is the safeguarding of the vernacular built heritage affected by the mass displacement of the communities that used to live in them? What can be done about this?


  • When vernacular historic houses are bombarded during wars and their inhabitants need to rebuild them quickly to go back to live in them, how can this be done without the loss of authenticity?


  • What can CIAV do?