Recent thinking amongst conservationists, and those in the cultural field, has focused on differences in the views and beliefs about cultural heritage. Examples include the approaches to and understanding of conservation in the Asian region that rely on total reconstruction or restoration to preserve monuments. This is underpinned by the belief in the importance of intangible values as opposed to tangible, the spiritual aspects of a site or place and the relationship between landscape and monument within the cultural landscape. There have been attempts to address these differences. Conservation guidelines such as the Nara Document on Authenticity and charters such as the Burra Charter provide flexibility in interpretations of cultural significance. However, the debate remains fractured and the solutions provided remain firmly within the Western/Euro-centric mechanistic reductionist worldview. Based on a review of literature this paper proposes an approach to understanding and interpreting cultural built heritage adopting the principles of resilience thinking. Resilience thinking engages in a transdisciplinary way the dynamic interconnections and interdependencies amongst the key systems of cultural built heritage. In summary, the work in the field of resilience thinking has made great gains in providing an understanding of the complex nature of socialecological systems and how these could be better prepared to deal with disturbances and in the long term be sustainable. From the studies on urban resilience there is potential for an exciting opportunity to rethink our understanding of cultural built heritage as a social-ecological system developing a more universal approach to its conservation and ultimately its sustainability.
International Research Conference on Sustainability in Built Environment. Conference Proceedings: International Research Conference on Sustainability in Built Environment (Colombo, Sri Lanka 18-19 June, 2010) p. 126-133