Spain (ES); Sustainable Development (THE_7357); Traditional Craftsmanship (ICH_1231);
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to demonstrate how safeguarding intangible cultural heritage contributes to environmental conservation and favours sustainable development of natural landscapes. To do so, the authors will focus on a study of dry stone constructions, which have been recognised by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as Intangible Cultural Heritage. Design/methodology/approach – The research has been carried out through three methodologies: the search and review of archives (historical and administrative documents), ethnographic methodology (field work and interviews) and case studies. Findings – The abandonment of dry stone constructions is placing rural zones at risk, as they assume a strategic role in environmental conservation efforts. This article seeks to highlight the importance of safeguarding this cultural heritage. Research limitations/implications – The art of dry stone walling has its origins in ancient times and can be found in numerous regions around the world. The main ideas of this paper may be applied to many of the places where this vernacular architecture can be found. Practical implications – Some stakeholders may apply the results of this study to identify new uses for heritage resources that allow maintenance of ecosystems while at the same time safeguarding intangible cultural heritage. Social implications – This paper stresses the importance of raising public awareness of cultural heritage and vernacular architecture, its link with traditional activities such as farming and livestock raising, the rural landscape and reinforcement of cultural identity and historical memory. Originality/value – This study illustrates the actions taken by UNESCO to safeguard intangible cultural heritage and the effects of those actions. It also considers dry stone constructions from the perspective of environmental sustainability, an area that has been subject to limited study.