The online resource for the historic environment

2.02 Unit overview

“[aesthetic] quality is, apart from age, perhaps the most dominant component in the assessed value of most historic buildings and designated areas [or assets]. Any intervention, even the smallest repair, will affect appearance, and so affect value. No project work should be undertaken unless its impact…is fully understood… the whole …must be fully understood before work begins…”
Stirling, S & Bolling, C. Heriot-Watt University 2002

“Aesthetic value: derived from ways in which people draw sensory and intellectual stimulation from a place". BS 7913: 2013 section 4


This Unit is designed to stimulate and encourage you to ask yourself some fundamental questions about why and how you intervene in the historic environment. Perhaps an even more fundamental question to address to yourself is – what, why and how is this place or object important enough to make me question my motives for intervention and how shall I plan and execute any works of intervention?

Additionally, it is intended to stimulate you to improve your understanding of aesthetic quality and value, its use and interpretation and how it informs, assists and underpins any intervention process in respect of the historic environment. It outlines personal challenges, skills and procedures necessary to enable you to evaluate aesthetic qualities and values.

Aim of this Unit

“There is a need to impart knowledge of conservation attitudes and approaches to all those who may have a direct or indirect impact on cultural property.”
ICOMOS Guidelines for Education and Training.

See ICOMOS website Guideline for Education and Training

The Unit is divided into five sections that are equivalent to and in compliance with the 1993 ICOMOS Education and Training Guidelines clauses 5c, 5e, 5h, 5l & 5m.

Each section comprises textual and illustrative information that together with the essential reading, recommended reading, additional reading and web sites to visit will assist you in gaining an understanding of what aesthetic quality means and how to evaluate it.

The questions are designed to test your understanding and comprehension of each section and the overall concept of aesthetic quality. They are rhetorical in nature and require you to respond in your own way. The in text questions are progressive in nature and build up to a better understanding and decision making about what to include in your folio.

You should answer these questions by reference to both the text of this module and by reading the material suggested. Omission of these actions may reduce your understanding of the Unit text; completion of the reading suggested will provide better understanding of the discipline of conservation and how professionals within it function and operate to preserve and protect the historic environment: You should consider how the body of conservation knowledge is constantly being questioned, expanded and added to by specialists within the field and how the principles, ethics and philosophy of conservation informs and structures any intervention work. A personal acceptance of this fact will help you to understand that you must also continue to expand your own knowledge of conservation philosophy – it is subject to continuous change and your understanding of it needs constant updating. The important fact to recognise is that it is a process of personal improvement that needs to be self-generated through enthusiasm for the subject!

“Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson 1803 - 1882

All of this assists your understanding of what needs to be contained within your individual portfolio for accreditation assessment.

Within this Unit the term SME will be used to describe heritage assets and is derived from the words: sites, monuments and ensembles. The word asset is also used in this regard.