Heritage buildings are important in demonstrating the cultural identities of cities and, consequently, communities throughout the world. In the contemporary era, adaptive reuse has been considered as a strategy for protecting these buildings for both present and future generations. At present, the 19th and 20th century conservation and restoration theories are the backbone of the contemporary adaptation movement by introducing different forms of adaptive reuse over time. These theories revealed how the prioritization system for protecting heritage buildings has changed from a value base to technological needs and user demands. These theories have become theoretical guidelines and policies under modern development. However, these theories are less considered in the contemporary practice of adaptive reuse, and thus remain as theoretical guidelines and policies that are still being developed periodically in the national and international levels. The main aim of this study is to review and critically analyze principal 19th and 20th century theories of conservation, restoration, and adaptive reuse of heritage buildings in order to provide a holistic view of their application, aspects of which may be incorporated in future research, practice, and discussion on the subject. For this paper, these key theories are critically reviewed, analyzed, and discussed, contributing to the study of contemporary practice of adaptive reuse. A summary of the analysis of all key theories is presented. The analysis of the theories presents the evolution of different approaches to adaptive reuse of heritage buildings over time and shows the role of theories in the establishment of international conservation policies. The analysis further reveals the existing gap between theory and practice in contemporary adaptive reuse practice.
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