Chapter 1 Cultural Heritage and Placemaking

In: Placemaking in Practice Volume 1
Conor Horan
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Francesco Rotondo
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The role cultural heritage plays in our understanding of place and urban planning is underdeveloped within placemaking research activities. Placemaking Europe highlights that

a placemaking project never starts from scratch, it is intimately linked to a specific context and to the cultural heritage of a place – both tangible and intangible. Whether tangible (key monuments, squares, statues) or intangible (social customs, rituals, expressions), this heritage needs to be embraced by placemakers along with the community to understand the “soul of the place”. (Placemaking Europe, 2022)

Whereas the multifaceted concept of cultural heritage can be understood in different ways, this section offers insights into the role of both tangible and intangible elements and how they might contribute to, and impact on placemaking practices.

In Chapter 2, “Placemaking and Networking of Heritage for Sustainable Tourism”, Aleksandra Djukic, Dina Stober, Piero Tiano, Mircea Negru, Jelena Maric, Marichela Sepe and Agisilaos Economou use case histories drawn from Romania, Italy, Croatia, Greece and Serbia to investigate how emotional connections can create a common community identity across various communities. The focus is on how this might be harnessed to improve sustainable tourism. This chapter also analyses the relationship between digitalization and the networking of cultural heritage. It discusses how digital tools can help preserve community identities. Here the networking of heritage represents a goal to improve sustainable tourism between small- and medium-sized towns.

In Chapter 3, “Cultural Heritage as an Inspiration for Placemaking in the Historic City: A Transversal Approach”, Juan A. García-Esparza, Carola Hein, Ljiljana Rogac Mijatovi and Mircea Negru focus their attention on tangible historical artefacts as starting or reference points to reclaim what might otherwise be lost identities. The authors investigate how cultural heritage regulation can provide new forms of appropriation and integration in permanent scenarios of the past. They also discuss how placemaking and cultural heritage serve to delineate new forms of heritage-making in historic cities. The chapter also asks how we might define and further explore ethical forms of culture-based placemaking practices.

In Chapter 4, “Placemaking at a Time of Changing Port City Relations”, Carola Hein, Juan A. García-Esparza and Lucija Ažman Momirski illustrate three examples of the preservation, transformation and adaptive reuse of historic water- and port-related structures. The authors investigate the role of placemaking concepts in a historic port environment, with emphasis on the linkages between a working port and a living city. How this might inform policy and design approaches are explored.

In Chapter 5, “Memory and Placemaking: Competing Memory, Forgetting and Distorted Rediscovery in Eastern European Cities”, Emina Zejnilović, Erna Husukić, Nika Đuho, Tatisiana Astrouskaya and Edmond Manahasa highlight the role of memory in placemaking. The authors discuss how identity in placemaking activities is inherently linked to the concept of memory or memorization (as, for example, already illustrated by Choay, 1992). Placemaking activities that are sensitive to the concepts of memory and memorization are inherently linked to identity. Placemaking tools can help to capture and preserve “memory”. This presents an interesting challenge around the relevance of historical references. Conflicting or competing interpretations of such artefacts can be a source of tension which may need to be managed.

In Chapter 6, “Placemaking within Urban Planning: Open Public Space between Regulations, Design and Digitalization”, Branislav Antonić, Despoina Dimelli, Francesco Rotondo, Alexandra Delgado Jiménez and Agisilaos Economou highlight how open public spaces in urban design can represent core aspects of a community’s identity. As many authors have shown, urban spaces in themselves can be understood as complementing the knowledge communities hold of their own identities and many planned urban spaces provide a multi-layered and multifaceted understanding of these identities. The authors warn against ignoring urban relationships and connections – even if they are less prominent or poorly understood. Whereas capturing this complexity represents a challenge for placemaking practitioners, it is important for sustainability. Five case histories from Bari in Italy, Chania and Trikala in Greece, Estepona in Spain and Smederevo in Serbia are drawn upon. These reflect countries sharing the Southern European experience of vibrant public open spaces. In addition, how urban planning has become more complex in the digital age is highlighted.

In Chapter 7, “The Use of Digital Technologies in Improving the Quality of Life: ICT-Supported Placemaking in Urban Neighbourhoods”, Matej Nikšič, Cor Wagenaar, Gilles Gesquiere and Kinga Kimic describe how capturing and maintaining memory alongside historical references contributes to our understanding of identity. Three case histories from Groningen, Ljubljana and Lyon are presented. Similar to other chapters addressing how digital tools and digitization can improve sustainability, the quality of life of local communities (safety, health and well-being) as well as creating a common language is highlighted. How such tools help to reclaim aspects of cultural heritage across urban regeneration processes in Europe between 1950 and 1980 where hundreds of neighbourhoods were rebuilt is used to illustrate this point.

1 Conclusion

Three interrelated themes can be found across the chapters in this section. The first addresses how intangible elements of cultural heritage (“community identity”, “memory” and “emotional connection”) can contribute to placemaking activities. The second theme focuses on using tangible historical references to reclaim intangible elements of cultural heritage, such as lost identities and issues of memorization. The final theme considers the role of digitization and blurring the boundaries between tangible and intangible elements in capturing and/or rekindling different aspects of cultural elements that might have previously been underutilized.

1.1 The Intangible Elements of Cultural Heritage

The first theme evident in the chapters focuses on the role intangible elements of cultural heritage can play in improving placemaking activities. Here cultural heritage represents the emotional connection people have to place. Intangible elements such as “emotional connections” (Chapter 2), “memory” (Chapter 5) and “community identities” (Chapter 6) play in understanding the importance of cultural heritage in placemaking activities. Across these chapters we see how emotional connections, memory and community identity can be seen as essential intangible resources that have previously gone under-researched.

1.2 Using Tangible Historical References to Reclaim Intangible Elements of Cultural Heritage

The second theme evident across the chapters focuses on using tangible historical references as a basis for reclaiming intangible elements of cultural heritage, such as lost identities. Tangible elements are important for sustainable development (Chapter 2). Historical artefacts can be seen as reference points to reclaim lost identities (Chapter 3). Industrial spaces can be used to reclaim a lost heritage as in the example of a port city (Chapter 4). The relevance and meaning of historical artefacts can become the subject of much debate (Chapter 5).

1.3 The Role of Digitization and Blurring the Boundaries between Tangible and Intangible Elements

The final theme that plays out across the chapters in this section refers to the role digitization plays in capturing and representing cultural heritage, memorization, building emotional connections and community identities. Here we see how digital tools can combine both intangible and tangible elements to help enhance the historical significance of a site, improve our understanding of cultural heritage and, in turn, improve the quality of life of local communities. As digitization represents an ambiguous ontological status, we see a further blurring of the boundaries between both tangible and intangible elements (Chapters 2, 6 and 7).

By way of conclusion, this section offers various case studies to illustrate how both tangible and intangible elements when combined in various ways have the potential to improve placemaking practices. As digitization improves, various layers of cultural heritage will become increasingly important for experiential engagement with place. Placemaking activities can benefit greatly from a comprehensive review of the role cultural heritage plays in influencing how multiple stakeholders, involved in and influenced by placemaking activities, engage with a given intervention.


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Placemaking in Practice Volume 1

Experiences and Approaches from a Pan-European Perspective


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