Obsolete structures in the UNESCO Dolomites Site

Anyone who is familiar with the Dolomites will have no difficulty in thinking of several examples of obsolete structures: discarded hiking equipment, old huts, disused infrastructures and ski lifts and, generally speaking, everything that for some reason or other “clashes” with its surroundings. However when we try to establish a clear definition of obsolescence, the matter becomes a bit more complicated: what criteria should we use to define something as being obsolete in the territory? Does obsolescence depend on neglect, degradation, visual impact or a set of different factors? Is it an intrinsic feature of the object or does it depend on the setting?


Studying obsolete structures means gaining a greater insight into the dynamics of the landscape in the Dolomites. If we consider them parts of a system and not purely individual objects, they can provide us with interesting evidence of how man has used and is using the mountains. Furthermore, the research can tell us something about the values we attribute to the Dolomites landscape. The word “obsolete” has a negative connotation, suggesting something that is in conflict with its setting.

The UNESCO Dolomites Foundation – through the Landscape Heritage and Protected Areas Operating Network –  is carrying out research into so-called “obsolete structures” as part of the Overall Management Strategy of the UNESCO Dolomites site. This project has been commissioned to the Department of Project Cultures at IUAV University in Venice (head of research Prof. Viviana Ferrario, research fellow Chiara Quaglia). The need to define and classify obsolete structures arose from a special request from the IUCN, which recommended this course of action back in 2011, following an inspection visit to the Dolomites UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The research paper: “Obsolete Structures and Exceptional Landscapes Values and disvalues in the landscape of the Dolomites and in the management of the UNESCO site” expanded on the subjects covered in the Guidelines for Landscape, building on the original methodology and further examining the issues of values and disvalues in the Dolomites UNESCO World Heritage Site. One of the outcomes of the research was to be able to identify and catalogue obsolete structures, collecting the relevant data on various occasions between December 2015 and July 2017. This was achieved both directly, by carrying out inspections, and indirectly through interviews, questionnaires, written texts and Web references. The document is designed to provide the relevant bodies throughout the territory with a user-friendly way to find out about the structures that have already been surveyed, and to identify those which could be the focus of measures to mitigate their impact.

Study – Obsolete structures in the Dolomites UNESCO World Heritage Site [in Italian]