Moving towards a collective shaping of the city
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The focus of this thesis is the conversion of the Fondaco dei Tedeschi in Venice and its function as a trigger for unleashing activities in community engagement that were previously unseen. The sixteenth century former merchant quarter, which is currently under construction, will be converted into a luxury shopping mall by 2016. This thesis studies the change of function and reuse of the historically important structure. It concentrates on the impact of the alterations on the building and the city, as well as examines the inhabitant’s reactions. The aim of this study is to analyse the relation between the changes that are to happen to the ancient building, the public reactions and the developments concerning public engagement in heritage preservation. Public engagement hereby is defined as the contribution to public policy decisions in a meaningful, transparent and responsible manner. Community engagement addresses the need of the people outside the official decision-making to discuss the actions of public bodies. It should not be seen as a substitute for authorized decision-making but as a complement to it. In order to illustrate the importance of the Fondaco dei Tedeschi, this study will first outline the dimensions of its cultural significance. The impact on the structure will be analysed based on the examination of the plans for the new shopping mall. Further consideration will be given to the effects that the planning process and the decision-making had on the public discussion and protest. Additional case studies on community engagement will be included that reflect on events following the Fondaco dei Tedeschi ‘affair’. These case studies help to evaluate the impact of the public’s participation regarding heritage issues. Moreover, the problems these initiatives are facing will also be addressed. The essay concludes by suggesting ways to improve public participation in heritage questions as well as how to implement these changes into the administration.