Posts Tagged ‘World Heritage’
Sesto San Giovanni, partner in NeT-TOPIC URBACT Project, is a city undergoing transformation: from the 20th century factory town to a new multi-functional city, with high quality housing, commercial space and offices, new green areas and public facilities.
The new urban development plan, called Piano di Governo del Territorio (P.G.T.), is the framework for this transformation and it governs regeneration projects on big abandoned industrial areas (over 2 million square metres), close to the city centre. The P.G.T. also promotes the reuse of industrial architecture.
In fact, the city is applying to have the industrial site of Sesto San Giovanni included on the World Heritage List in the “Organically Evolved Landscape” Category. Thus, industrial memory is central to urban development and the city’s new identity.
The URBACT Local Support Group (primarily comprising members of the UNESCO project support group, called Comitato di sostegno UNESCO) is reflecting on this complex transitional phase and trying to tackle three issues through the Local Action Plan:
- What is the role of industrial heritage in the new urban model promoted by the P.G.T.? How can the industrial heritage be a real strategic asset for urban development?
- Which functions have to be prioritised in reusing industrial architecture? Public facilities, public services, high functions (museum, library, university, exhibition centre,etc.)? And/or private functions (commercial, tertiary, etc.)?
- The reuse of industrial architectures is expensive, especially for cleaning areas: what kind of financing can be promoted? Public funds, public/private partnership, sponsorship, private investment, etc.?
On last 24-25 September, the City of Sesto San Giovanni held an International Symposium to promote the UNESCO Candidature: “Sesto San Giovanni: a History and a Future. Industrial Heritage for the Whole World”. The third section of the Symposium was dedicated to URBACT Local Support Group questions, mentioned above, and to some international experiences: Nord-Pas de
Calais in France, Gunma in Japan, Le-Chaux-de-Fonds in Switzerland, Soufli in Greece, Pachuca in Mexico, Ruhr-Emscher Park in Germany, and Piombino and Venice in Italy.
The Sesto S. Giovanni Local Action Plan will also study these contributions and international experiences in depth, trying to apply them to the reuse of local industrial heritage.
NeT-TOPIC local project coordinator in Sesto San Giovanni
The romanticism of John Ruskin apart, Bruges has long had a tradition of civic engagement around the question of conservation of its urban heritage. Particularly during the post war years the development of the city has been closely monitored by a series of motivated individuals, heritage pressure groups and politicians in opposition – who have often been successful in mobilising public opinion to influence city policy, championing conservation and preservation.
It is therefore no surprise that the designation of the city centre as UNESCO World Heritage Site some 10 years ago, was accompanied by the establishment of an umbrella group within the city. “SOS Brugge” has adopted the position as vociferous guardian of the urban heritage under the UNESCO banner and has recently reignited discussion by pressing forcefully on the alarm bell. Apparently independently, this watchdog organisation has mobilised UNESCO inspectors to visit the city and draw up a “state of play” report which mentions that “ there are signals appearing which demonstrate gradual erosion of the singular universal values of World Heritage in respect of the Historic Centre of Bruges”.
While it is not so clear how formal any UNESCO position may become as a result of this initiative, the topic is once more reignited in the public arena. Quite apart from political positioning, which undoubtedly plays some role, the polarised opinions once again remind us of the ongoing and challenging tensions in our most historic and also by definition contemporary cities.
Dries Van den Abeele of SOS Brugge:
“ The city authorities have underestimated the pre-conditions to be respected as World Heritage Site – you may not just build what you want, there are those who think that wind turbines can be built next to the city gates or modern offices constructed next to the railway station, or that a 19th century convent can be demolished to make way for new apartments. The conditions imposed to respect the historic urban landscape as a whole are not being met by policy makers who want to instigate change”
Patrick Moenaert, Mayor of Bruges:
“ To lose UNESCO classification would be terrible. Neither is it the objective to preserve the city like a picture postcard within which nothing can be altered. Bruges is not a shrine but a city which lives and must continue to live in the 21st century”
If, as is suggested, the situation in Bruges will be subject of discussion at the UNESCO end July congress in Brazil, it might be a debate worth following. Graz and Edinburgh revisited?
URBACT Pole Manager