Heritage Alerts

Heritage Alerts

An initiative to promote the preservation and protection of 20th Century Heritage


The ICOMOS International Scientific Committee on Twentieth Century Heritage (ISC20C) was established in 2005 to lead and sustain this area of ICOMOS activity conservation practice. The ISC20C deals with issues impacting Twentieth Century Heritage places arising from: 

  • Lack of recognition of their significance, promotion and celebration;
  • Specific construction technology and materials;
  • Particularity of original design ideas and social context;
  • Management and development pressures;
  • and Neglect

and aims to encourage the sustainability and survival of Twentieth Century heritage places. Twentieth Century Heritage places include buildings, structures, urban ensembles and plans, cultural landscapes, industrial and historic archaeology, tangible and intangible values. The Heritage Alert process uses the ISC20C’s professional and public networks to promote the conservation of Twentieth Century Heritage and draw attention to the threats which is confronts and to promote good conservation solutions. The Committee recognizes the publicizing and defining such matters requires a high degree of responsibility. The assessment of situations leading to a Heritage Alert being issued by ISC20C will therefore be pursued with ethical rigor and accuracy. The Committee is by its nature multi-disciplinary, with expert members worldwide. 


The Committee regularly receives requests from affinity groups and the public for letters supporting efforts to conserve or protect Twentieth Century Heritage properties which are under threat. To ensure the reputation and international credibility of the ISC20C Heritage Alert response, a formal process has been established that will confirm that the heritage significance and threat is well understood before an ISC20C Heritage Alert is issued. A template outlining the information needed to prepare a Heritage Alert is attached and available for download on the ISC20C website. The ICOMOS ISC20C Heritage Alert project aims to: 

  1.  Use the expertise of the members of the ISC20C committee and relevant national ICOMOS committee to assess the significance of and threats to a property indicated to be at risk;
  2.  Confirm the facts of the threat and the heritage significance of the property;
  3.  Alert the public to the significance and threat to the property at risk using ICOMOS networks to publicize the situation;
  4.  Selectively act to support the conservation of the property at risk;
  5.  Maintain a list of properties at risk and follow the results of any conservation action for future analysis and
  6.  Provide input to the ICOMOS Heritage at Risk Report. The ICOMOS Heritage Alert system will be compatible with similar programs currently promoted by other conservation non-profit organizations and  NGOs. The opportunity to disseminate information through the networks of partner organizations such as UAI, Docomomo and TICCIH gives further scope for publicity, and adds mutual responsibility for the accuracy of the Heritage Alert assessment.

A five step process includes broad but fast consultation by the Advocacy sub-committee:

  1. Preliminary Assessment: When a proposal for an alert is received, it is distributed to all sub-committee members for an initial confirmation that the case is of international or national significance. If so, the Advocacy sub-committee chair (or acting chair), forwards the Heritage Alert template to the proposer. and immediately invites comment and advice from the relevant national committee of ICOMOS. The ICOMOS Secretary General is advised of the issuing of a Heritage Alert template. Affiliated organizations such as Docomomo, TICCIH or UIA may also be advised and invited to investigate or take action, such as joint support letters.
  2. Advocacy Sub-committee recommendation: The sub-committee Chair will receive the final template and associated documentation from the proposer Additional or comparative material may be requested. The sub-committee will aim to assess and recommend on the Alert request by email within five business days whenever possible and recommend action to the ISC20C president whose decisions are final. The ICOMOS Secretary General and relevant ICOMOS National committee will be consulted regarding the proposed actions by the ISC20C President.
  3. ISC20C Action: The ISC20C Secretary General will prepare the necessary public documentation ISC20C letters and media briefing material in consultation with the ICOMOS National Committee and ISC 20C President.
  4.  ICOMOS Action: The ICOMOS Secretariat in Paris will facilitate the Heritage Alert being electronically forwarded to all ICOMOS members. ISC20C will prepare any letters required, including the addresses, and they will be disseminated on ICOMOS letterhead by the ICOMOS Secretary General.
  5. Website Action: The Heritage Alert template and associated documentation will be uploaded on the ISC20C Website by the ISC20C Secretary General.
Accessing Proposals for Heritage Alerts:
  1. Assessment Criteria: The ISC20C Advocacy sub-committee will respect established national and international guidelines for the significance assessment of heritage through analysis of history, fabric, form, function, use and design intent. The committee recognizes that it is important to conserve not just building fabric, form and function, but the ideas and philosophies behind a building, structure or landscape and its use. The committee may need to request and assess additional materials that rely on original research. Other critical information needed may include comparative knowledge of other similar or associated places.
  2. Scale of Involvement: ICOMOS, as an international organization will generally respond only to requests of international/national urgency and forward other requests to national and local heritage organizations for action. Decisions as to when a Heritage Alert will be accompanied by official correspondence from ICOMOS to relevant national authorities, or indeed an ICOMOS conservation campaign will be resolved between the ISC20C President, the national committee ICOMOS President and the ICOMOS Secretary General.
  3. Template: The Heritage Alert assessment template will regularly updated , kept simple and the response methodology streamlined to ensure active and timely participation from the ISC20C Advocacy sub-Committee, since most members are working on a volunteer basis and have a limited capacity to respond to requests. The template is available for download below.
  4. ICOMOS Wide Scope: The Heritage Alert system may well be useful to other ICOMOS national or scientific Committees and indeed to ICOMOS generally.
  5. Organizational Relations: Ongoing relationships with cooperating international organizations running similar “heritage at risk” programs are always carefully considered to ensure that the ICOMOS Heritage Alerts are both timely and effective. Cooperating organizations include the International Working Party for Documentation and Conservation of Buildings, Sites, and Neighborhoods of the Modern Movement (DOCOMOMO), The International Committee for the Conservation of the Industrial Heritage (TICCIH), and the International Union of Architects (UIA).

Sheridan Burke

Former President, ICOMOS International Scientific Committee on Twentieth Century Heritage

August 2015