Norway’s architectural heritage encompasses many different types of structures, from ruins, stave churches and other types of medieval buildings, to various, more recent buildings and complex installations. A great deal of Norway’s older architectural heritage is related to agriculture.
The preservation of architectural heritage is important for many reasons. Firstly, it provides a unique source of knowledge about a country’s past. Buildings may hold a symbolic value within local communities, adding to the sense of history and identity of the inhabitants. The aesthetic and artistic qualities of buildings are also important to preserve. Finally, sound management of the architectural heritage is essential as part of the global effort to achieve sustainable development and reduce consumption of material resources and pollution.
The built environment constitutes a substantial portion of Norway’s overall capital. Thus, management of the architectural heritage involves making sound use of a large part of society’s total investments in both economic and environmental terms. Studies have shown that maintaining old buildings instead of demolishing them and rebuilding in their place can greatly reduce pollution, diminish waste generation and decrease energy use. In other words, protecting buildings provides a direct and important contribution to sustainable development.
Norway has a comprehensive register of older buildings, comprising a unique record at the national level. These records have been made available to local authorities throughout the country in an official register of ground properties, addresses and buildings (the GAB Register). The Directorate for Cultural Heritage has also launched the Askeladden national register over protected archaeological and architectural monuments and sites. This provides a powerful tool for integrating information on monuments and sites into municipal planning processes.
The rapid changes taking place in society today are adding to the pressure on certain aspects of the architectural heritage, for example in urban areas and at traditional industrial sites. The Norwegian cultural heritage authorities are deeply committed to taking active part in urban development processes in order to promote the role of Norway’s architectural heritage as a vital source of the population’s sense of identity and continuity. These efforts not only enhance the welfare of the people, but also clearly illustrate how conservation and development can be successfully combined.
Norway’s 28 stave churches are considered an important contribution to the world’s architectural heritage. The Directorate for Cultural Heritage has launched a special programme to ensure the conservation of all the Norwegian stave churches.