By R Eguia
. Last month, scholars, community members and students gathered at the Southwest School of Art Coates Chapel to hear a conversation by the San Antonio Conservation Society Endowed Professor at UTSA, William Dupont, called A Resilient Heritage: Designing San Antonio’s Future to Preserve Our Past.
The talk introduced Cultural Sustainability as the continuity of cultural systems of human existence. People have heritage identities and values that bind them to places and communities are essential for full sustainability.
“Design with respect for Heritage,” was a key theme as Dupont explored the challenges in capturing intangibles in cultural traditions and spirituality. He asked, “How does a place come to be as it is?”
Founder of UTSA’s Center for Cultural Sustainability, Dupont’s work informs how communities, designers, and policy-makers use heritage. His goal is to make cultural heritage more resilient and to raise awareness about what he argues is one of the great challenges of our time. “I start from the premise that cultural heritage, like natural heritage, is easily harmed or destroyed if we do not make careful choices about how to keep what we value,” he said.
He identified natural disasters as one of the main threats to historical preservation and talked about his work Building a Sacred Places Heritage Network with the State Historic Heritage Network for Disaster Resilience in the Texas Gulf Coast Region. The correspondence for these efforts are anchored in the network of Historic Churches in the Gulf Coast.
Fast change strains the existing built environment, increases vulnerability to disasters and decreases resilience to sustain, survive or recover. On the positive side, Dupont observes how greater resilience of cultural heritage strengthens communities, increases respect for cultural identity, and deepens our understanding of each other as humans.
His body of work proactively designs for a future that retains the wisdom of past generations, promotes continuity of cultural identity and increases the resilience of the built environment. Dupont conducts his research with the assistance of passionate colleagues and lots of enthusiastic students who were all in attendance. The room was filled with warmth and he spoke with so much joy and appreciation for the support of his peers.