In the past years, the importance of the cultural economy has led urbanism to a new perspective. Simultaneously, the main international institutions have pointed out the need to shift the urban economy into a sustainable one, green and energy efficient. The confluence of both flows explains why the imaginaries of the urban future are related to the concept of creative cities. Hence, the new economic engine of the cities should be founded on art, creativity and culture, all of them understood as clean energies. This study aims to show the crucial role of cultural heritage as a propeller of a new kind of urban development, more flexible and democratic, based on the construction of the city as a communicational, collective and open effort. Therefore, the city is conceived as a cultural heritage platform where tangible and intangible, social and creative interactions happen. Within this context, urban narratives appear as a dynamic material drawn on the possibilities offered by the heritage received from the past as a resource to be used for re-thinking and re-shaping the future.Design/methodology/approachThe approach of this paper is based on a profound analysis of historical cities, mainly in the European context, supported by the work carried out within the H2020 ROCK project. The cities within the project are: Athens, Bologna, Cluj-Napoca, Eindhoven, Lisbon, Liverpool, Lyon, Torino, Skopje and Vilnius. A wide variety of case studies coming mainly from these cities have been considered to understand better the theoretical point of view on the role of heritage, urban development and city branding. The information about cultural heritage projects used as case studies has been collected and selected coming from the direct work made on the field and the communication open with institutions and cultural stakeholders in every city. Even more, parallel seminars on cultural heritage and city branding organized within the project have allowed the authors to gather very valuable, updated and fresh information on these issues in every particular case.FindingsThe study proves that cultural heritage has been traditionally underrated as a mechanism for developing the future of the city and its communicative strategy. Cultural heritage appears as a practical tool for constructing more cohesive urban communities based on the use of public space and shared memories as storytelling platforms. The capacity of resiliency and sustainability revealed by cultural heritage through the time is, as well, a clear reference to construct a potential sustainable city, socially, culturally and environmentally.Social implicationsCultural heritage projects are shown as a perfect way to build stronger communities. Through the engagement and participation of citizens, urban storytelling reinforces a more open, real and sustainable city able to face the challenges of contemporary life (gentrification, pollution, mobility, etc.). Like that, heritage appears as a feasible tool for including citizens coming from all ages and backgrounds in the construction of a collective narrative of the city, based on the past and looking at the foreseen.Originality/valueThis study tries to relate fields that traditionally have remained not well connected: urban development, city branding and cultural heritage. The study demonstrates that cultural heritage is crucial as an urban narrative tool and consequently, as a planning/branding mechanism. Moreover, cultural institutions and cultural projects are very relevant platforms for social interaction, inviting citizens to have a more active role in the construction of the city as a collective communicational effort based on a network of social and cultural relations. Storytelling turns up as a new key element for communicating the city from grassroots, in a sustainable, democratic and inclusive manner, far away from the traditional top-down official perspective. Crowdsourcing methods are very powerful for establishing a shared and cohesive city brand, now rooted in its cultural and social foundations and not the marketing campaign clichés. Finally, storytelling emerges as a creative resource that enhances the social, cultural and economic layout of the city, forcing urbanists to include a greener, fairer and more democratic perspective in the future of cities.
Journal of Cultural Heritage Management and Sustainable Development – Emerald Publishing
Published: Oct 16, 2020
Keywords: Storytelling; Urban development; Cultural heritage; Sustainability; Participation; Crowdsourcing