Heritage and City Commons
* Article/Chapter: Heritage and City Commons. Marta Botta. In the book: The City as Commons: a Policy Reader. Ed. by Jose Ramos. Commons Transition Coalition, Melbourne, Australia (2016)
"Radically changing city scapes of contemporary urban centres reflect rapid change in all sectors of our post-modern society. The 21st century brought with it techno-optimism in the wake of the Third Industrial Revolution, as predicted by Jeremy Rifkin.38 The majority of cities were transformed, with city centres characterised by high rise office blocks. As land in city centres increased in value, many of the original buildings were earmarked for demolition. This worldwide trend activated wide-spread civic movements, aimed at preserving local heritage.
The importance of heritage in civil society should not be underestimated. Human beings have an intrinsic need to maintain connection with their past, both collective and individual. Lately, genealogy is experiencing a revival, and there are plenty of examples of individuals desperate to trace their biological parents if they are adopted, or their sperm donors if there were conceived by artificial insemination. The emotional investment in cultural heritage is equally evident in bonds with the physical environment, representing past history."
"As the examples below testify, preserving heritage is not only creating civic pride and social cohesion, but by also attracting tourism, can significantly contribute to the local economy.
• Woombye, Queensland is adorned by extensive murals painted on public buildings of the village by local artist Brian Tinsdall and local school children. These murals create a sense of place, and help to preserve local history. The murals also became a source of pride and a tourist attraction.
• Jezzine Barracks/Kissing Point in Townsville, North Queensland is a 40 million dollar redeveloped of an army site, that was rescued from developers by dedicated local activists, and later converted by local council to an outdoor (and indoor) museum and native botanical gardens. Local native flora was reintroduced to the attractive hill top, and local and indigenous artists contributed artwork and created pavers throughout the complex, depicting thousands of years of local history with innovative interpretive elements.
• Torri Superiore, Italy is a sensitively restored 13th century medieval village. It was abandoned by its original inhabitants, and deteriorated until it was salvaged by a small group of dedicated individuals, who progressively converted it into an internationally recognised eco-community. The vision of pairing historical features with sustainable elements, such as recycling, solar power, and sustainable building materials, turned out to be a successful experiment. The three large buildings with over 160 vaulted rooms, linked by an intricate labyrinth of stairways and terraces became a popular destination for retreats, seminars, or for individual eco-tourism.
• Lijiang (Dayan Old Town, Baisha housing cluster and Shuhe housing cluster ) in China, have retained the original historic architectural style of the Ming and Qing dynasties, in spite of numerous earthquakes including a big earthquake on February 3, 1996. The 800 years of the unique Naxi culture of the area is acknowledged both by locals and internationally – by UNESCO, granting it world heritage status in 1997. After each earthquake careful rebuilding takes place, according to original architectural designs and materials. The intangible spiritual heritage of the ancient Dongba religion is also nourished, and the almost forgotten pictorial language of the Naxi was recently resurrected. Lijiang is extremely popular as a tourist destination, and is enriching the local economy."