16 December 2020

Cultural heritage at the core of urban transformation

Since 2017, European cities, universities and research institutes, city networks like ICLEI, small and medium enterprises, consultancies and more have come together to demonstrate how cultural heritage can be a unique and powerful engine of regeneration, sustainable development and economic growth for a whole city. With years of work coming to its conclusion, the project, called ROCK, is taking stock of the knowledge developed, project impact, and success stories. This reflection began at the ROCK Open Knowledge Week in October.

“The ROCK project proved heritage’s role as a catalyst for urban transformation; now let’s work together and scale up its ambition”, Giulia Facelli, Policy Officer, DG Research & Innovation, European Commission, noted at the ROCK Open Knowledge Week.

ROCK has put cultural heritage at the core of urban transformation processes, aiming to improve the urban environment and social cohesion through participatory processes and the testing of innovative technologies. Led by the City of Bologna, this EU-funded project brought together 33 organisations across 13 European countries. It engaged 10 European cities – supported by city networks, universities, research centres, business organisations and technology providers – in experimenting with innovative solutions to regenerate historic areas, while using cultural heritage as a driving force and catalyst for change.

Learn more about the ROCK methodology by revisiting the keynote speech by Prof. Giovanni Leoni from the University of Bologna. To dive into additional insights on the nexus between cultural heritage and urban transformation, watch the keynote interview with Lia Ghilardi, Founder of Noema Culture and Place Mapping.

Seven cities worked with ROCK as "Role Model cities", transferring their expertise through peer learning and exchange activities, while three additional cities acted as "Replicator cities", implementing experimental actions in select demonstration sites.

The three Replicator cities – ICLEI Members Bologna (Italy) and Lisbon (Portugal), alongside Skopje (North Macedonia) – all share similar challenges and needs in their delicate historic areas, like decay, social conflicts, cultural heritage not being sufficiently known and valorised, and areas of the city having lost their original character and thus requiring their memory to be preserved.

The recordings of Day 1 of the ROCK Open Knowledge Week (here and here) provide more details about innovative actions that ROCK Replicators have put in practice. For example, learn about the local participatory and co-design process in Bologna, greening and adaptive reuse of public space in the city centre, as well as the 'BOforall' app, which helps to explore the historic centre while addressing the needs of persons with disabilities. To learn about success stories in Lisbon, explore the Marvila/Beato Interpretative Centre, where the local community has been called to participate in the collection of experiences and testimonies about the cultural heritage of the area.

The seven ROCK Role Model cities – Athens, Cluj-Napoca, Eindhoven, Liverpool, Lyon, Turin and Vilnius – shared with Replicators their experiences in citizen engagement, using innovative technologies like augmented and virtual reality, and regenerating their cultural heritage through innovative partnerships and new governance models. Role Models scaled-up their practices, while also learning from the good practices of the Replicators. To learn more about their work on the ground, watch the recordings of Day 2 and Day 3.

Ultimately, the three Replicator cities have elaborated their Integrated Management Plans, focused around the three main pillars of the ROCK approach to cultural heritage – accessibility, sustainability and the promotion of innovative partnerships and collaborations. Learn more about these from the recordings of Day 4, the final day of the ROCK Open Knowledge Week.

Explore any of the recordings of the Open Knowledge Week, which are now available online. Find the session of your interest in the programme, click the 'play' button, and learn from the inspiring event atmosphere.

For more information, click here.