Explore the unique cultural heritage of cities

Cultural heritage is usually discussed in national or religious terms: we speak of Italian culture, Greek civilization, Islamic art, and so on. But today cities are creating their own heritage through museums, galleries, markets of artistic goods, and urban networks.

Discover how cities develop their own unique cultures and explore key concepts related to cultural heritage.

Part of my learnings and learning journal


Urban transformations

How do urban transformations participate in defining a city’s heritage? We will talk about the heritagization of urban infrastructures and discuss the challenges of defining and labelling urban heritage.


Key Points

three types of tensions between urban development and heritage preservation and promotion. … how we can evaluate the impacts of cultural heritage projects on cities. This week, we will look at the possible negative impacts of heritage policies on cities. We will discuss the work of those who argue that these policies can harm the urban fabric by raising prices and causing populations to flee inner-city areas…  how cities recognize former infrastructures as part of their heritage.

Heritage and urban change

As a city evolves, some of its infrastructures and buildings may lose their initial functions, be conserved and become part of its cultural heritage: Various examples can be found, such as the former Orsay train station in Paris turned into a museum, the former antique port in Genoa turned into a cultural and entertainment area, or the old the police stations in Hong Kong and Singapore turned into cultural centres and testifying the colonial past of these cities.

the place of train stations changed, impacting the urban landscape as a whole. In the 19th century, with the rise of railway networks, numerous train stations were built in cities. Some of them were monumental buildings like the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus in Mumbai built in 1887 for the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria or the Milano Centrale train station which was built in 1931 and was the object of a 100-million-euro restoration project in 2006.

in the second half of the 20th century, with the rise of automobile transportation, numerous train stations became obsolete. Some were “heritagized”. This week you will encounter this concept of “heritagization”, which refers to the social construction of heritage, the process that leads people to consider something as heritage.

six stages in the relationship between cities and ports. Ancient and medieval ports, through the 19th century, he argues, constitute the stage of the primitive port/city in which port and city are closely associated, from both a spatial and functional point of view. A second stage emerges between the 19th century and early 20th century in which the growth in industry and trade pushes ports outside the city’s confines. Third, in the mid-20th century, with the rise of industrial activities like oil refining and the introduction of containers, the port starts being separated from the city. Fourth, from the 1960s to the 1980s, new martime technology causes the establishment of separate port industrial development areas. It is a stage of “retreat from the waterfront”. But by the 1970s to the 1990s, a stage of redevelopment of the waterfront is identified, with a process of urban renewal within the original port areas. Thus, from the 1980s onwards, a new stage or reconnection between the port and the city has emerged, with redevelopment projects enhancing the importance of port and city integration.

This transformation in the organic relationship between the port and the city has strongly affected popular urban neighbourhood where the workers employed in port activities once lived. Many waterfront redevelopment projects have enhanced the industrial heritage of old port areas.

The City of Hamburg is an eloquent example of such a strategy. As this case study from the UNESCO report underlines, not only did the city manage to enhance the waterfront as a cultural heritage, they also sought to tackle social issues such as the risk of eviction of local populations.

Having former ports and industrial areas recognised as places of heritage value has been a tortuous process. Indeed such areas were rather seen as problematic or difficult because of poverty, abandonment, crime, and poor services. Their inclusion in heritage catalogues and heritage programmes is still a contested issue in many cities.




Key Points

Tell us about one of your city’s buildings, infrastructure, or neighbourhoods. What is it that makes it part of the city’s cultural heritage?

When defining cultural heritage, where should we draw the line in order to reconcile urban development and heritage preservation?

According to which criteria should a building be recognized as heritage?

In Bulli we have the Railway Heritage Precinct – which has NSW State Heritage significance.
Included in that area is the Bulli Railway Station East building which now houses the Black Diamond District Heritage Centre Museum of which I am President.
The aims and objectives of the Centre are to :
Generate a sympathetic and appropriate use of the old “down side” Bulli Railway Station building.
Promote local history, including family history.
Open the Centre to the Public at set times – 1pm – 4pm on most Sundays – and at other times for Group bookings.
Continue to restore, maintain and landscape the whole of the Bulli Railway area, encouraging other groups to be involved.
Make the Centre available as an educational resource
Our collection on eHive



Key Points

the interactions between urban transformation and heritagization in Istanbul.

Istanbul is, on the one hand, a millenary imperial city that contains the layers of numerous civilizations, from the Greek colony Byzantium to Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire, eventually conquered by the Ottomans in 1453. On the other hand, Istanbul is now a global metropolis that has undergone massive expansion and transformations, with a population that rose from one million inhabitants at the midpoint of the 20th century to 14 million today.

In this context, the dynamics of urban change and the construction of the city’s cultural heritage are closely intertwined.

Urban development occurring rapidly – 1 to 14 million population growth and massive expansive. Historical peninsula – heritage tourism – zones inscribed in UNESCO WHS listing in  1985 – increased tourism with hotels, restaurants, souvenir shops. 19th Century area which was industrial converted into Cultural Centres and Museums (some extra one’s to visit in a future visit to Istanbul)

Does urban development appear as an asset or as a threat to the preservation of heritage?

All too often heritage and heritage listing is seen as a negative rather than an opportunity. In 2017 I presented a lecture on UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Australia – Opportunities & Threats to a U3A group and then earlier this year to a social group associated with our local university. In Australia many of our UNESCO sites are listed for natural heritage and often it is easier to see heritge listing as a constraint and not an opportunity in urban development.

We visited Istanbul in 2006 and 2014 – it’s one of my favourite cities in the world. I hope to visit there again some day


Key Points

The debate began in October 2016. The house where Adolf Hitler was born, in the city of Braunau in Austria, became a site of worship for neo-Nazis. A commission appointed by the Austrian government therefore recommended tearing it down and replacing it with a new building that would not recall the former dictator. The interior minister reportedly asserted: “a thorough architectural remodelling is necessary to permanently prevent the recognition and the symbolism of the building.” But against all expectations, the parliament eventually renounced demolishing the building and chose to only remodel the façade. As the provincial governor Josef Puehringer argued, they did not want to be accused of “tearing down a piece of burdensome history.”

In your opinion, is it right to demolish this house?

There are other sites that depict the horrors of the Holocaust.
Here we have to look not only at heritage considerations but also political hero worship eg by Neo Nazis. As such I believe it should be demolished and a peace park building or monument established there.

Cultural heritage vs urban development

Explore three key tensions between cultural heritage and urban development


Key Points

three kinds of tensions between cultural heritage and urban development.

  • Archaeological research in the urban environment can take place under the pressures of urban developers willing to avoid delays in their projects – the cultural heritage that is the least visible, the one that is under the ground. The ground is often filled with testimonies of the past. In cities dating back to antiquity, many monuments are still buried in the ground. But beyond monuments, there is an issue of finding traces that may help understand the past: tools, coins, bones that can provide historians with additional materials to better understand periods lacking historical sources. But in urban environments, such archaeological pressure can be under pressure. Urban developers accuse them of causing delays and additional costs to construction projects.
  • Another tension can oppose the advocates of preservation and restoration of existing built heritage and the advocates of urban redevelopment projects. Some advocate the preservation of the integrity of the historical urban landscape while others want to guarantee an adaptive city that is able to adjust to urban growth or to populations’ changing needs and practices. Apart from the obvious cases where urban transformation projects plan to demolish sites considered to carry a heritage value, such tensions can emerge in rehabilitation projects, when a building or a neighbourhood is restored. Both private and public owners are constrained by urban planning norms related to buildings’ statuses and locations
  • Finally, tourism-oriented urban regeneration strategies can be to the detriment of the preservation of local intangible heritage and vernacular social practices. The existence of measures to safeguard built heritage does not necessarily guarantee the preservation of the city’s social character. Heritage policies can therefore generate tensions. The question here is who is heritage for? Some governments instrumentalize heritage to promote their own vision of society and erase dissonant voices. Besides, when heritage policies mainly aim at maximizing tourism, it may lead to a so-called “Disneyfication”, meaning that the urban landscape is transformed into a theme park better-suited for external visitors to the detriment of the local population.

1. Underground – One of the 19th Century hotels in our city Wollongong was due to be demolished and the site redeveloped. Archaelogists were brought in as various artefacts were found. Then there was a day organised so that the community could view the excavated site and some of the artefacts. Now one of our city engineering consulting firms displays photographs of the “finds” and the site. It set a new paradigm in our city.
2. An area called the Rocks in Sydney was due to be demolished and redeveloped. There were lots of protest activities and ultimately the area was saved and has become an important cultural heritage tourism area in Sydney which attracts lots of visitors from Australia and overseas.




Key Points

the exceptional archaeological discovery made during the construction of a gigantic railway project connecting the European and Asian shores of Istanbul.

the Marmaray project? It is a metropolitan-scale rail network inaugurated in 2013 extending all the way from Halkalı in the west, on the European shore of Istanbul, to Gebze in the east, on the Asian side of the city. When completed, it will cover a distance of more than 76 kilometres and reach a capacity of 1.5 million passengers per day. Such a transportation project has tremendous impacts on urban mobility and urban transformations. It can encourage people to choose public transport over car, thus reducing congestion on the roads. It can also greatly affect the neighbourhoods surrounding the train stations and raise real estate values. But the Marmaray is more than just a transportation project. It is also a political project, bearing the symbol of connecting Europe and Asia.

In spite of the urban planners’ endeavour to avoid encountering archaeological remains, the site progressively revealed major findings, which caused the project to be delayed for years

Dating from the fifth to the eleventh century, the shipwrecks illustrated a previously murky chapter in the history of shipbuilding and were exceptionally well preserved, having apparently been buried in sand during a series of natural disasters.

the remains of a Neolithic dwelling, dating from around 6000 B.C. It was previously unknown that anyone had lived on the site of the old city before around 1300 B.C. The excavators, attempting to avoid traces of Istanbul’s human history, had ended up finding an extra five thousand years of it. It took five years to excavate the Neolithic layer, which yielded up graves, huts, cultivated farmland, wooden tools, and some two thousand human footprints, miraculously preserved in a layer of silt-covered mud.”

Major stakes were behind this railway project. First the major congestion issues in the large metropolis of Istanbul. Before the opening of the Marmaray, two million people were moving from and to the Asian and the European shores of Istanbul daily, over the two bridges and by ferries.

In your opinion, how should we prioritize the archaeological works and the improvement of transportation system?

In a time of urgent need of better transport, can we afford to delay a project for years because of the presence of historical remains?




Key Points

until the 1980s, the historic centre of Naples was under threat of demolition. A shift takes places in the 1990’s, when cultural heritage starts being viewed as an asset.

has a largest historic centre in Europe and was once one of the largest cities in Europe but after reunification it became less important than Renaissance cities of central – northern Europe – Florence, Venice and now Rome.

It has a large low income population. It stops being less of a major industrial centre as a steel industry shuts down – anticorruption process led to a change in political makeup and popular election of mayor – combined to create a more cultural heritage centre in Naples.

I visited Naples in 2016 and was really impressed with its Archaeological Museum – it was beyond what I anticipated. It has artefacts from Pompeii, Herculaneum and the less well known Stabiae



Key Points

lower class populations living in the historic centre of Naples have been viewed by the urban elites as an obstacle to promoting the area as cultural heritage, as they were associated with a bad reputation, namely crime and poverty. This led the administration to redefine the right behaviour in the city and make reproaches to local inhabitants for their “lack of heritage consciousness”.

Rise of rents and costs of living Michael Hertzfeld’s work on Rome – Governmentality of Heritage in Naples & a population that lacked heritage consciousness





two case studies from the UNESCO report on Culture and Sustainable Urban Development in order to understand how the tension between heritage preservation and urban development has been resolved in practice in Afghanistan and in Tunisia.

City of Bamiyan in Afghanistan. The ‘Cultural Landscape and Archaeological Remains of the Bamiyan Valley’ was listed as a World Heritage Site in 2003. But the rapid pace of urban growth has put intense pressure on the site. The national authorities have responded by establishing urban planning documents that integrate the needs of heritage preservation and set up a framework to evaluate construction projects in order to avoid damaging the site.

the Medina of Tunis and shows how the Tunis municipality faced the poor living conditions of inhabitants of the old city of Tunis, while striving to avoid evictions and damage to built heritage. Rural families came to live in the traditional houses that had been abandoned by their original occupants, renting by the room. Known as oukalas – a term previously used only for short- stay hotels – these dwellings rapidly became overcrowded and run down. Deteriorating living conditions and the risk of collapse led the municipality to embark on a social and building policy to restore the heritage and reduce poverty. Three thousand tenant households were urgently evacuated from buildings threatened with collapse. Two thousand of those households were rehoused in the medina or on the periphery in housing belonging to the municipality, which they were able to buy on terms adapted to their economic status. One thousand households were temporarily rehoused while the work was carried out, prior to returning to their former homes. For privately-owned heritage, a credit line at a subsidized interest rate was put in place to encourage the owners to upgrade the buildings. Failing that, the municipality took over from absent or recalcitrant owners and carried out emergency work, recovering its costs in the form of rent. For public heritage, the dwellings were thinned out and brought up to habitable standards. Certain buildings of architectural or historical interest were restored before being reassigned for socio-cultural uses.”

Based on these two case studies, what are the main points of tension between the preservation of built heritage and urban development? In a city like Bamiyan that grew from 50,000 to 1 million inhabitants in 50 years, or like Tunis, where many populations have fled the old city to live in new neighborhoods with modern facilities, how can heritage be viewed as a priority?

Reference: UNESCO report on Culture and Sustainable Urban Development


Bamiyan is said to derive its name from the ancient Dari word Bamikan, which means the “middle roof.” As a passage into the Hindu Kush and an important subsidiary route of the Silk Road, the Bamiyan Valley was, for over two thousand years, a centre of trade between East and West and a place of cultural and religious exchange.

Today, Bamiyan still embraces the memories of a glorious past in its tranquillity. Giant Buddhas niches carved in the red cliff overlooking the valley indelibly marked Bamiyan as a Buddhist centre of pilgrimage where pilgrims gathered to share and partake in rites of life and eternity. The vivid silhouette of Shahr-i Ghulghulah still suggest the ancient citadel fighting off invasions. You can travel to the waters of Band- e-Amir, where natural dams have created a string of vivid blue lakes set in the starkest of landscapes.

To travel here is to discover something of an older world inhabited by merchants, pilgrims and conquerors from half of Asia. . You will encounter the “heart” of Afghanistan, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and discover one of the safest, greatest and least known destinations of Asia, now opening up to the world once more.



The population of this city is estimated to be 100,000 in 2016. Hazaras make up almost entire population of Bamyan.






Treasures from Afghanistan – Bactrian Hoard

UNESCO document page 52
What are we trying to save?
Why are we trying to save it?
What are the forces threatening it?
For whom are we trying to save it?
How will we be able to save it?
“Saving urban heritage not only involves regulating desirable activities and banning destructive activities, but the entire communityliving in these surroundings. The community must value thechanges being introduced, from upgrading the infrastructure tothe adaptive reuse of various buildings. Approaches should not dislodge the inhabitants who in many cases are poor, in order to promote gentrification of the neighbourhoods”.
Tensions – accommodating a growing population in the case of Bamiyan and an impoverished population in the case of Tunis.
The proactive planning for Bamiyan to grow from 50,000 to 1 million is commendable – rather than saying it is all too hard and then do a “last-ditch” effort to save items in the decades to come. It must be so hard for the heritage professionals – I note in other parts of the UNESCO document Area 5 – that they refer to “acceptable damage to the city’s heritage.
I found this link interesting https://bamiyanculturalcentre.org/index.php

Afghanistan has been through so much conflict that it is amazing that so much has been saved or restored. I found this link interesting https://bamiyanculturalcentre.org/index.php
Once upon a time about 40 years ago I had hoped to travel in Afghanistan but that is a dream long given up. The proactive planning for Bamiyan to grow from 50,000 to 1 million is commendable – rather than saying it is all too hard and then do a “last-ditch” effort to save items in the decades to come. It must be so hard for the heritage professionals – I note in other parts of the UNESCO document Area 5 – that they refer to “acceptable damage to the city’s heritage.

In 2014 the Art Gallery of NSW Australia had an exhibition Afghanistan : Hidden Treasures – From the National Museum, Kabul” or “Afghanistan: Crossroads of the Ancient World” with the Bactrian Hoard – it was exquisite.

See also DK Eye Witness Guide Tunis – the section on Tunis and its Medina and Great Mosque indicates the main areas of heritage interest – but doesn’t cover the housing situation of local residents.



Key Points

The term gentrification has been used to describe the settlement of upper and middle class households in working class neighbourhoods. This process is often associated with the transition in housing tenure from renting to ownership. The rehabilitation of cities’ built heritage is often accused of contributing to the process of gentrification.

First of all, where does this notion come from? Gentrification is a process arising from the 1960s in Western European and American cities along with disinvestment or deindustrialisation of certain neighbourhoods. The term gentrification was coined by a British sociologist, Ruth Glass, as part of a study on the city of London:

“Once this process of ‘gentrification’ starts in a district it goes on rapidly until all or most of the original working class occupiers are displaced and the social character of the district is changed (Glass 1964, xix)”.

While this process enabled the renovation of old mews and cottages in inner London, Ruth Glass remains critical with regards to the changes it causes to the existing urban fabric. The intangible heritage that lies in the customs, habits, and everyday life of these neighbourhoods’ inhabitants may be at risk while built heritage is conserved.

The definition of gentrification has evolved. In the 1980s, the term was mostly related to a process of rehabilitation of 18th and 19th century inner neighbourhoods as well as the conversion of former factories and warehouses into lofts and apartments. Later on, at the turn of the 21st century, it expanded to include redevelopment projects in central areas. It also extended to the analysis of the changes in modes of consumption in inner neighbourhoods.

Gentrification represents, therefore, a key tension in heritage policy. Different visions of what heritage should be for compete: those who argue that heritage should be preserved to accelerate urban regeneration and attract tourists and those who defend the position that cultural heritage should mostly carry social and educational objectives. It is also a subject of tension between the advocates of the rehabilitation of built heritage and those who are also devoted to safeguarding intangible heritage.

Have you witnessed gentrification in a city where you have lived or been to?

What is your opinion on the impact it has on the city’s heritage?


GLASS, R. (1964) Introduction: aspects of change, in: CENTRE FOR URBAN STUDIES (Ed.) Aspects of Change, pp. xiii–xlii. London: MacGibbon and Kee


The role of civil society

When cultural heritage is at risk, urban citizens can rise up, take initiatives or protest in order to safeguard their heritage.


Key Points

Chiara de Cesari explains the article she wrote with Michael Herzfeld on heritage and social movements in Rome, Palestine, and Bangkok.

She argues that various groups, in a given urban setting, mobilize the concept of heritage in different ways, following different and sometimes conflicting goals and values, eg Israel – Palestine tensions, Rome redevelopment – residents seeking to avoid gentrification and eviction…. The heritagization of places (especially, but not exclusively, in nationalistic state practice) often induces radical shifts in the real estate value and social geography of heritagized neighborhoods…. The convergence of nationalist, colonialist, municipal, and financially speculative patterns of violence with community resistance provides an important explanatory backdrop to the various “Occupy” movements. These movements have in turn reappropriated the language of “invasion,” often used by authorities as an evocative metaphor for squatting….. In June 2013, media images of mostly youthful Turks confronting the police to defend a central city park from being built up threatened to undermine the new positive international image of Turkey, booming economically under the Islamic neoliberalism of former Istanbul mayor (and now national president) Tayyip Erdoğan. The protests, aimed at saving an urban heritage site, Gezi Park, escalated into a broadly based revolt against Erdoğan’s authoritarianism, exposing competing visions of both democracy and the past in Turkey

We have two examples in Australia – The Rocks in the 1960’s – 1970’s – this would have seen low income people displaced from this area
The Sirius was built in response to that earlier conflict. Now we have the Sirius conflict – the sale of Sirius as part of the sale of government assets that would follow the displacement of all public housing residents living in Millers Point, Dawes Point and The Rocks. https://millerspointcommunity.com.au/save-our-community/
The National Trust nominated Sirius to be listed on the State Heritage Register, but in August 2016 Mark Speakman, Minister for the Environment announced he was rejecting the advice of the NSW Heritage Council. The residents have been told the building is to be sold and replaced by luxury apartments, and they must leave.

Another group is Save Our Suburbs who are fighting medium density redevelopment of Sydney’s suburbs



Key Points

Chiara de Cesari discusses the case of the Gezi Park uprising in late spring 2013 to illustrate how heritage can be a factor in popular resistance.

In this interview, she explains how this protest movement denounced the heritage vision of the political party in power in Turkey (the AKP: Justice and Development Party). The Gezi Park movement emerged in opposition to a project aimed at wiping out a park to build a reconstitution of former Ottoman barracks.  Returning to the grandeur of the Ottoman empire, which was silenced during the era of Kemalism. Did the authorities overreact to a peaceful protest in Taksim Square ? A number of people died at Gezi Park and in 2019 some of the accused organisers have been brought before the courts.

I found some interesting links
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taksim_Gezi_Park … The construction of Taksim Gezi Park was completed in 1943, and it was opened under the name “İnönü Esplanade”[3] in honor of the second Turkish president İsmet İnönü (in office 1938–1950) by Lütfi Kırdar personally. The area of the park diminished in later years with the construction of big hotels in the outlying zone. Nevertheless, the park remained an important recreational area within the downtown of the city, and its appearance was improved after restoration


Key Points

All around the world, citizen movements have been increasingly rising up against urban transformation projects in order to protect their city’s heritage.

Firstly, some movements mobilize against the demolition of historical buildings. This is the case of civil society organisations such as Casamémoire in Casablanca, Morocco, which has conducted various actions to protect the 20th-century architecture of the city against the threat of urban renewal. Secondly, mobilizations can be directed against the instrumentalization of heritage aimed at increasing touristic attractiveness to the detriment of the local population. In 1998, the Singapore Tourism Board revealed a project for the city’s Chinatown hoping to transform this lively neighbourhood into a theme park: they proposed theme streets and a garden with references to Chinese mythology. But after a strong opposition of citizens to this “Orientalisation” of the local Chinese heritage, they had to review their plan to better address local populations.

The first case is Cairo in Egypt, where the consequences of the destructions that took place during the 2011 revolution pushed citizens to organise in order to protect the city’s heritage through several initiatives.  The ‘Save Cairo’ initiative, designed to protect the city’s urban heritage, organizes sit-ins in front of buildings threatened with destruction, as well as campaigning publicly. While it has not always been successful in averting destruction, it has drawn attention to the issue of conserving urban heritage. Other kinds of action are being taken on a neighbourhood scale. The Heliopolis heritage initiative is documenting the architectural heritage of the twentieth century through photography competitions, guided tours and campaigns directed at the authorities.

the City of George Town, on the Penang Island in Malaysia, where both grassroots mobilizations and civil society initiatives managed to block urban development projects threatening the city’s heritage.

“In 2008, George Town and Melaka were jointly inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List for their rich trading heritage. In George Town, the capital and largest city of the state of Penang in Malaysia, the local community plays a significant role in the conservation and protection of cultural heritage and the promotion of urban development. Faced with large-scale development threats that risk impacting the heritage values of the site, the local community has been active in driving several conservation processes forward. In 2007, a large-scale community protest, consisting of numerous demonstrations, campaigns and government lobbying successfully halted the Penang Global City Centre Development (PGCC) project, which aimed to transform 260 acres of green space into tower blocks. Similarly, the establishment of the Penang Heritage Trust has paved the way for other bottom-up conservation processes, including the George Town Transformation Programme established in 2009, which have resulted in cultural mapping, capacity-building, conservation and the development of shared spaces to address the issues of the city’s ageing population, poor public amenities and lack of investment.”

Do you think that in the city where you live, some heritage buildings could be under threat of demolition?

In my area, we still have some controversial demolitions and proposals –
there have been concerns about the role of private approvals

notwithstanding the following

a successful resident campaign where I was involved
here’s an adaptive reuse

Events and city identity

Different kinds of events have been integrated into the strategies of cities to promote heritage, from mega-events (Olympics, football World Cups, World Expositions), to smaller-scale events such as festivals, or carnivals.


Key Points

Mega-events such as the football world cup, the Olympic Games and World Expositions are highly mediatized and reach a global audience. They have become major tools for cities to display their singularity and to compete on the global stage.

Mega-events emerged in the 19th century, in the context of the industrial revolution and have been associated with the rise of modernity. The first World Exposition was the “Great Exhibition” of London in 1851. The first modern Olympic Games took place in Athens in 1896. On the one hand, mega-events aimed at celebrating universal values such as excellence, respect, and friendship for the Olympics or progress and innovation for the Universal Expositions. On the other hand, the nations organising them wished to demonstrate their economic and political power. This materialised through innovative buildings, which have remained important monuments, like the Eiffel Tower built for the Paris International Exposition in 1889. But, mega-events were also used to display imperialism such as the 1931 colonial exhibition in Paris that left a contested heritage and whose main building was turned into the National Museum of the History of Immigration in 2012.

Thus, until the second half of the 20th century, the city is rather a showcase of modernity than an actor in mega-events strategies. It is only later on that cities started to compete for organizing such events in order to increase their attractiveness. Numerous cities in the world have mobilized their energies to host mega-events.

Olympic projects are often criticized because of their high costs and also because they lead to the construction of oversized infrastructures that do not correspond to the actual needs of the population.

Are Olympic projects always desirable? Under which conditions?

Sydney Olympics 2000 impacts
Sporting venues continue to be used
Increased volunteerism & restoration of degraded land

Eco green event is possible
The eco-friendly Olympic village housing for athletes ends the myth that green technology is too expensive to use on a large-scale.

rapid growth of homelessness as the housing market saw prices climb astronomically from all the publicity of the Games. The Games may have created a national debt, which subsequently the taxpayers would have had to subsidise. Due to the government having to concentrate their budget on the Games, less money was put into hospitals and schools,




Key Points

Based on a study he conducted on festivals in Hungary, Peter Inkei tells us why such events are so important for cities.

  • 300- 400 cities & 300 – 400 festivals – not all cities have festivals – need to have festivals rooted in cities & regions
  • build on local traditions & pull together the community – builds community pride – enjoy local and national flavours – building local brands – also rock festivals engaging youth from across Europe
  • recruit volunteers – supporters

I really appreciated Peter Inkei’s video clip.
In my area in Australia we have the Illawarra Folk Festival – which uses volunteers and seeks to minimise waste from the event. Over 10,000 people attend the festival each year.
My husband and I have volunteered in various capacities & had performers stay with us

there is a link for festivals in Australia

Festivals are good for culture, heritage, music & communities. In Australia older retired people known as grey nomads travel around the country with their caravans. Some volunteer and others attend these festivals.
We are having with some youth festivals due to drug culture & there have been some deaths.
Also our festivals and events are finding that increasing insurance and security costs are stopping some of these being conducted. Traditional parades that were on the main streets of towns are being forced off the streets because of rules and regulations regarding the interruption to motor vehicle traffic. This is very sad.



Key Points

In contrast with mega-events, which have a global scale but are highly standardized, smaller scale events such as festivals, carnivals, or biennials, can be more rooted in the city’s identity.

Cities use festivals to create a lively and attractive urban environment, but they also view them as a way to differentiate and promote a specific identity. Famous examples include the Busan International Film Festival, in the second city of South Korea, which has become one of the leading film festivals in Asia, the Angoulême International Comics Festival in France, which attracts more than 20,000 visitors annually in a city of less than 50,000 inhabitants, but also the carnivals in Venice or Rio de Janeiro, which carry old traditions that made them famous worldwide.

In this step, we will look at two case studies in cities where the creation of a festival has had an impact in enhancing the city’s heritage. These cases will take us to Mali and Ghana.

The first case study is on the historic city of Segou in Mali, and emphasizes the economic impact of the creation of the Festival sur le Niger in 2005. With around 30,000 visitors per year on average, the festival has been a major catalyst for the local economy and has structured the arts and crafts and agricultural sectors. Over 150 local enterprises are involved, contributing to 140 direct and 2,000 indirect jobs. The tourism sector has boomed, increasing ten-fold between 2005 and 2010, which has fostered the gradual upgrading of tourist infrastructure.”

The second case study is a self-organized street festival located in a slum of Accra, the capital of Ghana. This example stresses the impact a festival can have on civic and social life.


European Capitals of Culture

Let’s look at the case of the European Capitals of Culture. This program designates a city every year and celebrates its heritage. A wide range of cities have used it as an instrument of urban development.
Every April – May we have the Heritage Festival across Australia – there is an online calendar of events which has these organised by date and location.


Key Points

Since 1985, every year, one European city or more is designated as the European Capital of Culture and given the opportunity to showcase its cultural vitality to the world.

During the first years, the event took place in the most recognized European cultural centres such as Athens, Florence, or Paris. It lasted only a few months and involved mainly the cultural sector to achieve mostly cultural goals.

Festivals can transform from traditional arts festival to complex programme tied to economic and social objectives

Lille has utilised volunteers.

In 1990, Glasgow played a pioneering role in using the event as a tool to transform the city’s image by extending it to a yearlong program and taking it as an opportunity to regenerate a city tarnished by the industrial crisis – stimulate economic development

3.18 image History of the European Capital of Culture - Cultural Heritage and the City - European University Institute (EUI)

3.18 Cities - Glasgow

To avoid a narrow focus on urban growth that may not benefit the whole city’s population, the scope and objectives were later expanded to include, for example, intercity cooperation as well as social impacts.
The European Capital of Culture programme was initially called the European City of Culture and was conceived in 1983, by Melina Mercouri, then serving as minister of culture in Greece. Mercouri believed that at the time, culture was not given the same attention as politics and economics and a project for promoting European cultures within the member states should be pursued. The European City of Culture programme was launched in the summer of 1985 with Athens being the first title-holder. During the German presidency of 1999, the European City of Culture programme was renamed to European Capital of Culture
When I’ve travelled in Europe I have seen plaques indicating a city has been the European Capital of Culture. I wasn’t sure what was involved so this section has been helpful.
Looking at the list from 1985 – 2024 – I have visited about 29 of the cities and I plan to visit about 5 of the cities in 2020. Cities of culture and heritge really have an appeal for me, rather than beach tourism destinations.


Key Points

The European Capital of Culture projects are often criticized for being too elitist and not rooted enough in their city. This step shows how a grassroots initiative was able to challenge the official discourse and set up an alternative project in a self-organized manner.

The City of Marseille in southern France has a strong legacy of social-oriented cultural policy. But by the early 2000, the Chamber of Commerce and Euroméditerranée (a public agency in charge of regenerating port areas), pushed forward initiatives aimed at using culture to change the city’s image to make it more attractive to high-skilled professionals. Marseille set up a great events strategy that started with a failed attempt to host the Americas Cup, but subsequently succeeded in winning the European Capital of Culture in 2013 and the European football cup in 2016.

Marseille’s cultural scene rose up to the reduction of culture to an urban marketing tool and created a parallel event to the European Capital of Culture, named, the “Off”. This initiative launched by three Marseille-based artists aimed “to put the Marseillais artist at the heart of the European Capital of Culture, by organizing off the wall and impertinent shows, based on paradoxes of the city”. They organized 30 events in 2011 and 2012, and one event every month during the year 2013.

In 2012, they set up a team and started by collecting ideas and references, as well as sharing ideas on their project. They attended the 2012 UN Habitat conference in Naples and began promoting the project by hosting stands during cultural events in Marseille.

This could have been seen as a risky strategy for a city like Marseille : “This initiative launched by three Marseille-based artists aimed “to put the Marseillais artist at the heart of the European Capital of Culture, by organizing off the wall and impertinent shows, based on paradoxes of the city”. They organized 30 events in 2011 and 2012, and one event every month during the year 2013.”



Key Points

Monica Sassatelli argues that the European Capital of Culture is “a primary example of EU attempts at awakening European consciousness by promoting its symbols, while respecting the content of national cultures” (2002: 435). Over the years, the European Commission has been trying to place the “European Dimension” as a central element in the European Capital of Culture programmes. But this notion has instead given ground to various interpretations.

According to the Palmer report published in 2004, the main ways in which European Capitals of Cultures reflected the European dimension were the engagement of European artists from other countries; European collaborations and coproductions; conferences, seminars, debates; promoting shared European artistic movements and styles; touring productions/exhibitions to other countries. The report showed that a large proportion of the cities preferred a focus on an international dimension, rather than on a European one.

what would define a European dimension?

Should a project of European Capital of Culture make specific efforts to display European identity?

How can the aim to promote a European dimension be implemented?


Palmer/Rae Associates, 2004. European Cities and Capitals of Culture. Palmer/Rae, Brussels.

Sassatelli M., 2002. Imagined Europe. The shaping of European cultural identity through EU cultural policy. European Journal of Social Theory 5/4, 435-451.

Note -Sassatelli link did not work
this worked
As an Australian this is an interesting question. I reflect on travelling through Europe by train in 1982 on a Eurail Pass – so many border crossings. Whereas today there is the Schengen Zone across much of Europe – a greater sense of geographic interconnectedness.

I’ve done the Danube Main Rhine River cruise – a great sense of connection across the countries we visited. Then there is the European Parliament, the Euro, the EU common set of standards for buildings & so many things – CE Marking.

There has been a lot of interconnections across Europe’s history. Politics, Military, Music, Economies, Fashion & Arts.

These frame my thinking about European identity & dimension as opposed to Africa, Asia, Australia, North Americas or South Americas.
I found this link helpful
https://www.ecb.europa.eu/press/key/date/2009/html/sp090316_1.en.html – this quote encapsulates the European Dimension & Identity. “I imagine this literary, artistic, linguistic, European cultural fabric as drawing its beauty, its unity and its solidity from the sheer number and diversity of its threads.”

Course wrap up

We have the reached the end of our course. Let’s review the main issues we have covered and the discussions we have had over the last three weeks.


Key Points

which components within the city could be considered cultural heritage.

We analysed three types of tensions between heritage and urban development – between archaelogists & urban planners – transport railway projects

We showed how events can be used as tools to accelerate urban change and to promote cities’ heritage – interaction between urban change and cultural heritage.

Some heritage policies could be detrimental to local populations – idological use of cultural heritage can lead to urban protest and activism

Mega events & Smaller events – also  festivals – create infrastructure – defining city’s own identity

This week has covered a lot of ground as detailed in the video clip. It’s a lot to reflect on – plus provide ideas for how to view my future activities & travels. There also the need to consider a range of stakeholders aka actors & their perspectives/motivations in these activities.



Key Points

Cultural heritage is central to how we identify cities.

people usually think about a few symbols like the Carnival of Rio, the Eiffel Tower, Bollywood, or the Sydney Opera that epitomize their cities, and beyond, their nation.

In this course, we went beyond the myths surrounding the artefacts, the monuments, and the ceremonies that constitute cultural heritage. We tried to understand the concrete conditions through which heritage is produced, constructed, and exploited.

But the way cities relate to their heritage can vary greatly: some become “museum cities” while others let bulldozers destroy millenary monuments.

In week 1, we discussed the issue of the definition of cultural heritage. You learned about the different categories of heritage that are used in the field. But we also stressed the subjective nature of this concept and its malleability depending on different cultural contexts. In the context of globalisation and urbanisation, cultural heritage has become increasingly important.

In week 2, we dived into the governance of heritage, from the international and national levels to the local level from public institutions and to self-organized citizens. You should now better understand the complex power dynamics and tensions that surround the definition, protection, promotion, and management of heritage. You should also have a better knowledge of the policy instruments that give life to cultural heritage, from the UNESCO World Heritage list to rehabilitation projects.

During this second week, you acquired the capacity to analyse the governance dynamics of heritage projects.

In week 3, you saw how functional components of cities like train stations could become recognized as heritage. But we also experienced the difficulties of protecting and promoting heritage in cities. We showed how the needs of urban development constrained the work of archaeologists, but could also accelerate the process of heritagization. You observed how citizens could mobilize in order to protect their heritage and raise awareness for the need for its preservation.

This last week enabled you to explain the different types of tensions between urban development and cultural heritage.

The summary above is excellent – I was familiar with concepts of cultural heritage and tensions between stakeholders aka actors involved in cultural heritage.

The course encouraged me to consider the views of the more vocal from middle and upper classes – but also the needs of the more economically and socially disadvantaged people – they need decent housing, transport, services such as clean water, power and waste management.

I have been part of heritage governance activities over the last 30 years. However Week 2 provided a different framework for me to consider the various stakeholders in Cultural Heritage. Also Cultural Heritage needs to be for locals notonly for privileged tourists.

The different course lecturers and case studies from across the globe really contributed to examining the academic concepts covered in the course.
Like Norman Sherwood I found the course encouraged me to think and reflect. I was also keen to discover more information and do critical evaluation of the subjects rather than merely use the material provided. The course also stimulated me to review related activities and concepts in my own country Australia and in my own local area in NSW.



Key Points

Further readings

If you want to dig deeper into some of the ideas and cases we have developed in the course, you can consult the following references, which we have referred to and drawn on during the last three weeks:

Bille, T., & Schulze, G. G. (2006). Culture in urban and regional development. Handbook of the Economics of Art and Culture, 1, 1051-1099.

De Cesari, C., & Herzfeld, M. (2015). Urban heritage and social movements. Blackwell readers in anthropology” :172-173

EENC Report (2015) Mapping of practices in the EU Member States on Participatory governance of cultural heritage

Glass, R. (1964). Introduction: aspects of change. In: Centre for Urban Studies (ed.) London: aspects of change. London: MacKibbon and Kee

Hayes, D., & MacLeod, N. (2008). Putting down routes: an examination of local government cultural policy shaping the development of heritage trails. Managing Leisure, 13(2), 57-73.

Hoyle, B. (2000). Global and local change on the port‐city waterfront. Geographical Review, 90(3), 395-417.

Palmer/Rae Associates, 2004. European Cities and Capitals of Culture. Palmer/Rae, Brussels.

Sassatelli M., 2002. Imagined Europe. The shaping of European cultural identity through EU cultural policy. European Journal of Social Theory 5/4, 435-451.

Shaw, K (2008) Gentrification: What It Is, Why It Is, and What Can Be Done about It Geography Compass 2/5 :1697–1728

UNESCO report on Culture and Sustainable Urban Development

I found the course encouraged me to think and reflect. I was also keen to discover more information and do critical evaluation of the subjects rather than merely use the material provided. The course also stimulated me to review related activities and concepts in my own country Australia and in my own local area in NSW.

I appreciated reading the comments of the other participants – ie their experiences and perspectives – thank you to everyone for sharing these.


About Kerrie Anne Christian

Interests - Travel, Photography, Developing Websites, Social Media, Writing, Local History, Researcher, Genealogy
This entry was posted in Education, Museums and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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