29 October 2019

Heritage at the Heart of Urban Regeneration

“Public policy makers have a responsibility to promote every project that can fight the extreme right,” declared Paula Marques, Deputy Mayor of Lisbon during her keynote address at the 7th Informed Cities Forum.

Marques used her speech to emphasise how important it is for politicians to protect cultural heritage, as heritage can have a huge impact on communities. Katarzyna Sadowy (SARP), who delivered the event’s other keynote, further stressed the importance of communities, explaining, “Heritage doesn’t exist without the heritage community – people who are about the buildings, places, stories, and make them part of their identity.”

The Forum explored the interrelation of urban regeneration and heritage, including through close examination of Praga, a rapidly changing district of ICLEI Member Warsaw (Poland), where the event was held.

Through exploring the question of “why heritage matters,” including with respect to urban regeneration, Giulia Facelli, Policy Officer, European Commission Directorate General for Research & Innovation, stressed that cultural heritage is not a separate issue from sustainability. In fact, projects can and must help demonstrate that heritage can contribute to sustainable cities and to the European and global sustainable development goals.

The realities, challenges and successes of urban regeneration were illustrated through “field workshops” organised by local partners representing the public, private and community sectors. These demonstrated, in part, what Ms. Facelli had introduced: that heritage projects can and must work towards global goals for sustainable and just communities. Workshops explored community-managed spaces; partnerships for creative districts; the future of urban peripheries; mapping values using heritage; and modern placemaking in Praga. A common theme of the discussions coming out of the field workshops was the need for all of us to become investors and developers of our own cities.

During the two days of discussion, Hanna Szemzö, project coordinator of OpenHeritage – an event co-organiser – explained their aim “to open up the discussion of how heritage can be used.” She further explored the difficulty faced due to ‘heritage’ often being defined by experts, and not communities. For this reason, OpenHeritage works to alter “the flow of information,” in part through its six labs, one of which is located in Praga. This can help ensure that 'heritage work' is driven by and in support of people.

The Forum brought together a diversity of perspectives, fostering exchange with experts and practitioners from all over Europe. The “Room Full of Ideas” session, for example, featured experts from the European Commission, European Crowdfunding Network, ZK/U, Platoniq, University of Ghent, Community Land Trust London, Museum of Housing Estates and many others (full list available on the Forum website).

The Informed Cities Forum was co-produced by ICLEI Europe, OpenHeritage and Actors of Urban Change, and co-organised by ICLEI Member Warsaw.

For further information on the Informed Cities Forum, click here (conference report and video to be published soon).