Heritage Challenges in Cities
The importance of recognising cultureIn talking about how urban fabric can produce place values and meanings it is necessary to discuss the role of culture in that construction. Have you ever had an attachment to a building or place, somewhere which has great value and meaning to you? This attachment comes about in many cases through cultural learning. People learn to value a place and associate the built environment with that place. So, a building or a part of a landscape is not only ‘the place’, rather it is a part of how and why people feel attachment to a place. If planners do not have knowledge of this culture and instead are part of a more dominant culture, place values can be missed in redevelopment projects. The marginalization of less dominant cultures is particularly relevant in the current neoliberal climate of governance, be that in Australia, China or elsewhere in the world.
A connection to places
A connection to place is an essential ingredient of human development because it is integral to what it means to be human (Malphas, 2008, p. 326). Authentic places then are places which are ‘humanised and ‘humanising’ (Malphas [following Wordsworth] 2008, p.325). This means that the fabric of a place is seen as having living objects which, simultaneously, influence the daily lives of those who interact with them. In considering authenticity, we can look to the Nara Document. This document offers guidance on what constitutes cultural heritage in a global setting. It speaks about authenticity and the need to assess heritage in each cultural context. Cultures vary and so the approach or means of identifying and assessing heritage will be different for different cultures.“We all have our own stories about the places that matter to us, and about the ways in which our lives have been affected, and even shaped, by the places in which we live.”(Malphas, 2008, p. 325)
Example: China’s planning system
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Cities of Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow: Why Heritage Matters
- was set up based upon socialist principles
- is characterized as being top-down
- lacks transparency and forms of public engagement
- has “domination by local discretionary power” (Chung & Zhou, 2011, p. 333)
Example: Kinkabool building – Gold Coast, AustraliaThe Kinkabool building on the Gold Coast (Australia) illustrates another type of contemporary challenge. It is a listed heritage building, yet today a large majority of people think it would be better to destroy it due to its derelict condition, and make way for a more modern building in its place. The main issue in this case is private ownership, where the owner’s individual interest works against the good of the community. In the long term, heritage is associated with the worst living conditions and people therefore lose its meaningfulness.
Successful adaptive reuseYet, there are plenty of examples of successful adaptive reuse, which is the ‘process by which structurally sound older buildings are developed for economically viable new uses’ (Austin, 1988). This was first developed as a method of protecting historically significant buildings from demolition. Today, it is also a major means of tourism. You may have heard of buildings being transformed into famous attractions (Versailles castle in France, Sigiriya Rock Fortress in Sri Lanka, Taj Mahal in India, etc.) but did you know that full territories/communities have also benefited from this approach to heritage. The Ruhr Valley in Germany or the urban redevelopment of Bilbao in Spain are just some of them. Many societies and communities have a common vision and understand that heritage is a base to transmit culture, yet good critical distance is needed not to be blinded by short term perspectives or economic interests. In the long term, it is important to make sure the next generations can benefit from what we have left them.
ReferencesAustin, R. L., Woodcock, D. G., Steward, W. C., & Forrester, R. A. (1988). Adaptive reuse: Issues and case studies in building preservation. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold. Chung, H., & Zhou, S. (2011). Planning for plural groups? villages-in-the-city redevelopment in Guangzhou city, China. International Planning Studies, 16(4), 333-353. Malpas, J. (2008). Place and human being. In F. M. Vanclay, M. Higgins, & A. Blackshaw (Eds.), Making sense of place: Exploring concepts and expressions of place through different senses and lenses (pp. 325-331). Canberra: National Museum of Australia Press.
AcknowledgementsThe Gold Coast City Libraries Local Studies Collection and the Queensland State Archives have kindly provided some images used in the step video. Reproduced with permission from the City Libraries Local Studies Collection:
- Elevated view taken from Kinkabool apartment building looking along Hanlan Street towards the Esplanade, Surfers Paradise, Queensland, 1968 [picture] / Bob Avery, photographer.
- Kinkabool, the first high-rise building in Surfers Paradise, Queensland, 1960 [picture] / Photographer unknown.
- “Queensland State Archives, Digital Image ID 659” by Queensland State Archives is licensed under CC BY 3.0
- “Queensland State Archives, Digital Image ID 669” by Queensland State Archives is licensed under CC BY 3.0
- “Queensland State Archives, Digital Image ID 575” by Queensland State Archives is licensed under CC BY 3.0
- “Queensland State Archives, Digital Image ID 760” by Queensland State Archives is licensed under CC BY 3.0
- “Queensland State Archives, Digital Image ID 683” by Queensland State Archives is licensed under CC BY 3.0
- “Queensland State Archives, Digital Image ID 668” by Queensland State Archives is licensed under CC BY 3.0
- “Queensland State Archives, Digital Image ID 762” by Queensland State Archives is licensed under CC BY 3.0
Cities of Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow: Why Heritage Matters
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