A protocol for the conservation of the built heritage of Suakin
Mallinson Architects developed a protocol for the conservation of Sudan’s historic port town Suakin through a series of surveys, stakeholder consultations, and public exhibitions and cultural events between 2010 and 2014. The protocol has been adopted by the Sudan’s authorities, establishing an approach that can be adapted for sites elsewhere. The research to develop the protocol was conducted in collaboration with Loughborough University through a four-year Doctor of Engineering award, to strengthen links between academia and industry and to tackle problems on the ground in a new way.
For the conservation of a built heritage such as Suakin to be effective, it must meet the needs of its local context and stakeholders. Yet, stakeholders are often unequally represented in the development and implementation of conservation policies and guidelines, especially local communities. Consequently, there is often no clear strategy for a site's conservation or responsibility for implementation. An essential aspect of the Suakin protocol and its validation was to enable a comprehensive and inclusive approach, with equal representation of Suakin's stakeholder groups, to address the issues impacting their heritage. Findings from each stage of the research instigated the method and programme of subsequent stages, the research process thus directed by the stakeholders themselves. This process generated ownership of the research by the stakeholders, encouraging the protocol and outcomes generated by it to be applied by the stakeholders in the future.
The research activities were conducted in partnership with Sudan’s National Corporation for Antiquities and Museums, the local Suakin authorities and community. Further collaboration and financial assistance towards the research activities was provided by UNESCO's World Heritage Centre and Arab Regional Centre for World Heritage, the British Institute in Eastern Africa, and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. Outcomes of the protocol and its research have contributed to a number of publications and conferences, the development of further funded projects, and Suakin's forthcoming application for World Heritage status.