Cultural resilience and the Smart and Sustainable City

Exploring changing concepts on built heritage and urban redevelopment

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Abstract

Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to explore the conceptualisation of the Smart Sustainable City (SSC) with new concepts of resilience thinking in relation to urgent societal challenges facing the built environment. The paper aims to identify novel methodologies for smart reuse of heritage sites with a pluralist past as integral to inclusive urban development.

Design/methodology/approach – SSC concepts in the global literature are studied to define a new reference framework for integrated urban planning strategies in which cultural resilience and co-creation matter. This framework, augmented by UNESCO’s holistic recommendation on the Historic Urban Landscape (HUL), was tested in two investigative projects: the historic centre of South Africa’s capital Tshwane and the proximate former Westfort leprosy colony.

Findings – The research confirms that SSC concepts need enlargement to become more inclusive in acknowledging “cultural diversity” of communities and engaging “chrono-diversity” of extant fabric. A paradigm shift in the discourse on integrated urban (re)development and adaptive reuse of built heritage is identified, influenced by resilience and sustainability thinking. Both projects show that different architectural intervention strategies are required to modulate built fabric and its emergent qualities and to unlock embedded cultural energy.

Originality/value – Together with a critical review of SSC concepts and the HUL in relation to urban (re) development, this paper provides innovative methodologies on creative adaptation of urban heritage, reconciling “hard” and “soft” issues, tested in the highly resilient systems of Tshwane.