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Border Town: Preserving a 'Living' Cultural Landscape in Harlingen, Texas

The preservation of cultural landscapes takes an understanding of a region’s shared history, their sense of place, and the sensory and spatial behavior of their appropriated spaces. That being said preserving cultural landscapes in urban areas can be especially challenging. They are constantly growing and evolving which requires special considerations to avoid suffocation of the space and the inhabitants’ spatial behavior. The practice of preserving cultural landscapes on an urban scale has been relatively lacking in the United States. The same preservation strategies are used for various types of cultural landscapes that have their own characteristics and stories. Different tactics and mentalities for varying cultural landscapes hasn’t been thoroughly investigated or acknowledged. That being said, the underdeveloped strategies provided a challenging and yet free interpretation of what preservation of cultural landscapes may look like. This paper discusses the key components that were used as a guide to prepare a plan and design a contemporary intervention for promoting a cultural landscape in a city located in the lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas. Harlingen, Texas is a unique border town with its varying layers of settlement and inhabitancy has created a particular assemblage of people from a diverse set of backgrounds and heritages. It holds a distinctive location in the southern portion of Texas as it sits closely to the Mexican border as well as the coast of the Gulf of Mexico which has created a distinctive dynamic between nature and culture. If one were to observe Harlingen in all its qualities a question arises: How can we celebrate Harlingen as a unique culture and historic resource while allowing the small urban setting in South Texas to continue developing and growing. With the understanding of Harlingen’s unique character, history, and sense of place this paper works to implement the components of preserving a ‘living cultural landscape’ where consideration of preserving the physical aspects as well as Harlingen’s daily life are the main priority.
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