An Interdisciplinary Methodology For The Characterization And Visualization Of The Heritage Of Roadway Corridors

Geographical Review Early View

Mar Loren-Mendez, Rafael Mata-Olmo, Rita Ruiz, and Daniel Pinzón-Ayala

American Geographical Society: What is the main purpose of your study?

Mar Loren-Mendez:This study addresses the need to develop and consolidate a specific heritage assessment methodology that reflects the complexity of roadway corridor heritage. Specifically, the research proposes an interdisciplinary methodology in order to define the heritage assets that characterize roadway corridors, varying in type and in their relationship to the road.
Likewise, GIS technology is used in conjunction with an online database specifically designed to systematize and assess roadway corridor heritage and its complex cross-disciplinary nature.

American Geographical Society: What are the practical, day to day implications of your study?

Mar Loren-Mendez: The territorial dimension proposed in this study would allow heritage protection institutions and the general public to recognize the value of roadway corridors as a whole. Thus, rather than adopting a fragmented approach to conservation and in order to avoid simplistic classification, the article defines integrated heritage configurations (‘heritage sequences’), where natural, cultural, and historical features combine to produce a cohesive, integrated form of heritage.

American Geographical Society: How does your study relate to other work on the subject?

Mar Loren-Mendez: Although the significance of road landscapes was noted in the 1980s by cultural geographers such as John Brinckerhoff Jackson (1984), specific roadway heritage studies are recent and still scarce. Research in the separate disciplines of geography, civil engineering, urban planning, and architecture has identified certain features of roads, but a thorough and integrated approach to roadway heritage or even a consensus on what this constitutes are lacking.
In this respect, the study completes the current bibliography with the proposal of an interdisciplinary approach that reflects the singularity of roadway corridor heritage.

American Geographical Society: What are two or three interesting findings that come from your study?

Mar Loren-Mendez: We have defined the heritage area of roads (that we refer to as corridor) as a territorial space that relates directly to the road, varying in width along its route, and dynamically evolving over time.
We have also developed a novel interdisciplinary heritage assessment methodology, applied in the different phases of our research. The assessment methodology systematically characterizes roadway corridor heritage and can be extrapolated to other geographical environments.
We have also demonstrated how the methodology applied assesses roadway corridors by integrating criteria related to both the natural environment and heritage assets created by human activity.

American Geographical Society: What might be some of the theoretical implications of this study?

Mar Loren-Mendez: In this study, roadways are interpreted within the framework of the semantic and methodological openness that currently characterizes the field of heritage studies. Heritage assessment in general has recently widened in scope to include more extensive spatial contexts, territory being the basic element of interpretation. The territorial dimension studied in this article is the overall heritage area of the road: an extensive elongated space whose function and transformation has been greatly defined by the transiting roadway and which, in this study, has been referred to as a ‘corridor’.
Considering that the protection could not take account the complete roadway corridor, the article also proposes another new concept: the heritage sequences (defined as specific sections of the road containing a high density of heritage assets). These sequences could be the object of the protection strategies and represents heritage configurations which integrates technical, natural and architectural aspects into a single narrative, with the road acting as leitmotif.

American Geographical Society: How does your research help us think about Geography?

Mar Loren-Mendez: The method we propose for assessing the heritage value of roadway corridors requires to involve different heritage experts engaged in spatial analysis in different fields (not only in geography). These disciplines should range from civil engineering and geography to architecture and urban planning. This approach allows an integrated cross-disciplinary assessment of the technical infrastructure of the road (alignment, cross-section, structures and auxiliary elements), its geographical setting (including any examples of natural assets) and human activity in the corridor (and specifically architectural, urban or rural resources).

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