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Last Update: 2018-03-27   Source: Research Headlines
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Capitalising on cultural heritage in historic city centres

EU-funded researchers in collaboration with historic city centres are developing new regeneration approaches, capitalising on the cities' heritage to transform their centres into creative and sustainable districts. The aim is to generate economic growth, create jobs and improve quality of life.

Photo of the Porticoes of Bologna

© GoneWithTheWind -

Many historic city centres are afflicted by physical decay, social conflict and low living standards. Focusing on their cultural heritage is an effective starting point for their regeneration as it enables conservation and development issues to be addressed simultaneously.

The EU-funded ROCK project is compiling a set of models to meet the needs of everyone involved in culture-led urban regeneration. These include policy recommendations for tapping into the potential of cultural heritage, regeneration measures and strategies to increase investment in cultural sites. Other elements aim to involve all societal groups in heritage management and green innovation.

The models are based on successful actions implemented in Athens, Cluj, Eindhoven, Liverpool, Lyon, Turin and Vilnius. The project aims to find out how they can be replicated by testing them in real-life conditions in Bologna, Lisbon and Skopje.

In this way, ROCK raises awareness of the regeneration potential of cultural heritage and encourages more efficient heritage management. It also highlights the role of local communities in urban development and shows how cultural heritage can foster inclusion.

“We see historic city centres as laboratories of creativity through which it becomes possible to demonstrate how cultural heritage can become an engine for sustainable development and inclusive growth,” says project manager Pamela Lama of the Municipality of Bologna, Italy. “Urban regeneration goes hand in hand with an environmentally friendly approach as cultural heritage is a non-renewable resource. This requires a long-term vision which considers how inhabitants and visitors can fully enjoy cultural elements, while addressing sustainable production and consumption.”

Living labs

During a monitoring phase, cultural heritage data is gathered and uploaded to the ROCK web platform. It is then interpreted and used to address challenges facing historic cities. This feeds into the development of regeneration models through actions such as creating living labs in the three cities, which bring together people from different backgrounds to share ideas for design of cultural services and shaping of the cities’ future development.

The cities also host workshops and seminars where students work on themes like eco-innovation and business incubation. Within all of these events, ROCK researchers organise training activities, including mentoring visits and webinars.

Socio-economic benefits

Aiming to produce both social and economic benefits, ROCK links the two closely. “ROCK is based on a conceptual framework in which every part – culture, creativity, environment, security, knowledge and regeneration – works as a kind of gear mechanism, creating the conditions to ensure safer, healthier and more suitable places for people to live and work,” Lama says. “This makes historic city centres more attractive to investors in cultural heritage, which is a growing sector that creates jobs.”

The methodology and results will be shared widely to provide a basis for further debate on new operational models for cultural heritage and ways of linking it with sustainability.

Within the project, the web platform ensures knowledge transfer between cities, industries and public bodies. Each result will also be disseminated through channels, including events during the 2018 European Year of Cultural Heritage, publications and existing fora, as well as during ROCK’s own activities.


Project details

  • Project acronym: ROCK
  • Participants: Italy (Coordinator), Belgium, Switzerland, Germany, Spain, France, Greece, Lithuania, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, the Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, United Kingdom
  • Project N°: 730280
  • Total costs: € 10 586 948
  • EU contribution: € 9 873 585
  • Duration: May 2017 to April 2020

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