To give you a bit more insight on what we are doing, you’ll find summaries and maps of the first case studies in Italy and the UK below. These are of course just short overviews presenting some of the issues discussed in these case studies. Later on in the project, we will be publishing more detailed reports and papers. We’ll keep you posted!
Case Study I in Italy, IUAV: Piazza del Mercato, Marghera
Piazza del Mercato is the central square in Marghera, one of the main towns in the heartland of Venice. Close to such a landmark of the world’s cultural heritage, Marghera was planned in the 1920s to accommodate the numerous workers of the industrial area and harbour which bears the same name, “Porto Marghera”. Although the urban district of Marghera and its fabric have undergone important change, its original garden city design has largely survived to this day: wide streets planted with trees converging in round squares, small multifamily houses surrounded by gardens, and a general man-scale dimension. Framed by the town hall on one side, and the building hosting both the covered market and library on the other, piazza del Mercato is open along the two remaining sides on two parallel streets, occupied by cafés and shops. Its central position and role have been confirmed by the recent works it underwent, during which it was extended, the market-library was built and urban furniture was renewed. Although it is one of the less preserved environments within the garden city area, it plays a key role in fostering local identity, hosting civic initiatives as much within the town hall and library as in the square itself between them, and being a frequented public space. As the rest of the borough of Marghera, it has undergone a process of planning restriction and listing as urban heritage between the 1990s and early 2000s; it thus constitutes a very recent case in that sense and offers a case in point to study the mechanisms and meaning of the historic urban landscape.
Case study I in the UK, Newcastle University: Bigg Market, Newcastle upon Tyne
While Newcastle is maybe not known as a historic city, it is – at least nationally – known for its heritage- and culture- led regeneration efforts. Projects such as the Quayside, Grainger Town (pdf), and Ouseburn have been inspiring English urban conservation practices. The ongoing redevelopment of the Bigg Market area could well be the next project in this series.
Together with the castle and the cathedral, the Bigg Market area forms the medieval heart of Newcastle. Today, the area remains important in the city’s retailing and office provision and is also one of the main spots in the local nightlife industry – though a shadow of what it once was. The area is also positioned within the central conservation area and a significant number of the buildings are listed. In the various regeneration schemes in the city centre, the Bigg Market area has largely been bypassed. The neighbouring Grainger Town (1999) project did not lead to increased development on the Bigg Market. Neither did more recent projects such as the redevelopment of the Station Area and the Old Newcastle project. The local authority’s Core Strategy (NCC & Gateshead Council, 2014) neither considers the Bigg Market to be part of the primary shopping area, nor does it designate it as a key site for development. It does however indicate it as a public open space to be improved. But in a context of reduced capacity and ongoing austerity, priorities for the local authority lie elsewhere. The area is conseidered to be in a deteriorating state (pdf), and vacancy rates are high. With no direct local authority action for the area, the Business Improvement District (BID) Company NE1 decided to develop a conservation-led regeneration scheme. They successfully applied for £1.6m from the Heritage Lottery Fund’s (HLF) Townscape Heritage (TH) to take the scheme forward. This implies new roles and responsibilities for both parties. As such, NE1 is taking a leading role in the urban heritage management of the Bigg Market area. This implies new roles and responsibilities for both parties, for which mechanisms are not necessarily in place. What will this mean for the historic environment? and for the local identity, and for the experience of the Bigg Market?