Historic cities: Heritage, innovation and social cohesion

This edition of the international seminar was addressed to the representatives of local administrations in the Mediterranean region and the Adriatic and was part of the MedCities Annual Conference 2015.

MedCities is willing to provide tools to its members and others policymakers and experts interested in the subject in order to achieve sustainable urban development and promote policies and practices that are adequate to the needs of citizens. Taking into consideration the importance of the historic centres of the cities members of MedCities and the current challenges that the historic centres represent for the city, in terms of urban planning, economic development, preservation of heritage, quality of life and social cohesion, this seminar focused on generating debate and exchanging experiences and good practices from all shores of the Mediterranean basin.

The aim was to present innovative interventions in the historic centres of the region regarding cross-cutting issues and discuss the challenges and risks faced by the municipalities.

The issues to be discussed were:

  • Economic activities, with special emphasis on those linked to tourism,
  • Cultural and heritage activities;
  • Social cohesion and improvement of quality of life in these areas;
  • Innovation in the development and management of historic centres: urban regeneration projects and the provision of public services, including new technologies (Smart Historic Cities)

The discussions led to some common thoughts among participants that were highlighted at the end of the seminar.

In reference to the integration of the historic cities in the territory where they belong, participants considered it as a multi-sector space that needs a comprehensive strategy. This comprehensive planning goes beyond the reform and cultural heritage management, and it must ensure welfare and quality of life of the inhabitants of old centers, facing social, cultural, economic and environmental challenges. 

Discussing about the regeneration of historic centres, all participants agreed on the importance of political leadership and the good governance, with the strong engagement of local stakeholders and civil society.

Concerning the tourism and the economic activities linked to it, they were considered as an opportunity but considering the risk of the possible adverse effects that may be causing the loss of identity and the expulsion of the local community.

Some practical experiences were shared as examples on this comprehensive point of view in urban planning. These were the Stari Grad Agency from Mostar, the Safeguarding Association for the Medina of Tunis and the experience of District planning in the Old City of Barcelona.

Participants also discussed on the opportunity posed by new technologies and the digital challenge that historical cities have to face, not in technological terms but as a political project. 

Below, you can consult the result of the seminar. The publication MedCities publication "Historic city centres : Heritage, innovation and social cohesion"  aims at synthetizing the reflections and conclusions shared by the participants. The document is available in English and French.