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Making Place for Citizen Voices in Urban Heritage Management: The Social Production of Heritage at Post-Industrial Contexts

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This paper argues that practice of urban heritage management seems insufficiently developed for capturing the distinctiveness of a place, including its social and experiential values, as well as concerning its functional dimensions (Taylor, 2016). A problem of adaptation and re-use is of particular concern if we address heritage future of post-industrial sites. Despite a recent call for an improvement of informal tools of design governance, within the integrated urban design and management apparatus (e.g. Carmona 2018), capturing socio-cultural meanings that citizens ascribe to post-industrial sites in urban contexts remains a significant challenge. 

The social production of heritage is manifested through citizens’ active participation in valuing and preservation of their historic urban landscapes. Over the last decades, we witnessed an accelerated growth of participatory approaches, citizen activism, and arts-based methods that informed people-cantered ways of problematizing heritage as emergent and dynamic phenomenon, produced through multiple discourses, practices, performativity and rituals. Yet, these approaches seem to advance conceptualisation of heritage that is more fluid and context-dependent than definitions produced by architectural and urban practices and the archaeological and scientific methods used in heritage management and conservation. 

In this paper, we will discuss the new research in heritage activation that expands the urban conservation agenda, taking a more holistic approach by incorporating production of values associated with sites’ local histories and the ways people experience, appropriate as well as redefine its heritage in post-industrial sites. Drawing on the examples of the bottom-up, participative process of the co-creation of the socially shared knowledge, concerning the cultural heritage futures of the former Gdansk Shipyard site in Gdansk, Poland (Kosmala and Sebastyanski, 2013), the citizen-led engagement in this process will be analysed. We will examine how community activism, volunteerism and socially engaged art have all contributed to the overall understanding of its neglected sites, vernacular spaces and industrial ruins. We will also reflect on how these bottom up processes might enhance an overall understanding of the challenges facing urban conservation, reducing the effects of major cultural disconnection that threatens urban futures, and thus, contributing to the cultural resilience building. The paper will conclude with some critically reflections on how arts-based methods can be accommodated and adopted alongside existing praxis of heritage management studies concerning industrial heritage sites.

A paper by Professor Katarzyna Kosmala (University of the West of Scotland, UK) and Dr Tomasz Jelenski (Cracow University of Technology and INTBAU, Poland).

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