22 April 2020

Circular governance: a new approach for urban cultural heritage adaptive-reuse projects

More and more people have become familiar with the concept of "circular economy" – an economic system that aims to eliminate physical waste by redesigning, reusing and redirecting materials and products in consumption and production processes. But can the same circular concepts be applied to something less material, like governance? And, more specifically, can this approach help save and support cities’ cultural heritage assets? Based on ICLEI Europe’s research as part of the CLIC project, it can – and should.

Working with ICLEI Members Tirana (Albania), Amman (Jordan), and Brussels (Belgium), as well as 13 other international cities, ICLEI has analysed the governance models used in 16 adaptive-reuse cultural heritage projects – in other words, projects that reuse existing cultural heritage for a new purpose. The case studies range from public markets to former industrial areas to UNESCO World Heritage neighbourhoods, and their analysis is part of helping to define a new, "circular" governance approach. 

This alternative approach requires transparency, openness, and circular processes that engage a broad range of stakeholders to foster inclusive decision-making and shared long-term responsibility for adaptively reusing cultural heritage assets.

ICLEI recently published the key findings and case studies in a practitioner-friendly Synthesis Report called, “Adaptive Reuse of Cultural Heritage: An Examination of Circular Governance Models in 16 International Case Studies.” The Synthesis Report defines the circular governance approach for adaptive-reuse projects and illustrates how this approach can be used to sustainably reuse, finance, and maintain cultural heritage assets in cities throughout Europe and the world.

For more information, download the Synthesis Report here.