Sense of place: towards integrated conservation and sustainable urban development practice
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The historic place is the result of a uniqueness that characterises and differentiates it from other places. It holds both tangible and intangible features that creates its sense of place, which is a lifelong process whereby it gradually constitutes our historic city and its character. This study aligns with the growing recognition by the international heritage community to expand our understanding of cultural heritage to include tangible and intangible values, agenda of sustainability, the role of local culture, and sustainable development. It, thus, initiates a critical dialogue between heritage conservation and sustainable urban development, to examine the concept of sense of place and its implications for conservation theory and practice. By drawing on a variety of methodologies and sources, it seeks to understand how effectively sense of place can contribute to the management of historic urban areas in a globalised world. The theoretical phase of the research traces relevant literature and studies, presenting the latest debates on heritage management at the international level, and explores selected collaborative projects in Europe at regional level. While the practical phase, focuses on Edinburgh as an in-depth case study, exploring its policies and practice at a local level. The methodological approach adopted in this study has enabled combining literature from different disciplines, through categorising the main features of sense of place, to a grid of main goals for any development project: conserving the physical structure, the suitability of the use, and the development of local community and improving the quality of life. This takes us beyond issues of conservation and towards a recognition of the central role sense of place and local community have in (re)configuring shared values, practices, collective memory and identity in a specific cultural cluster. To illustrate the validity of the approach, the analytical framework was applied to selected development projects across Edinburgh to explore the sense of place, unpack the complexity of local values of various users, effectively engage more users and stakeholders, and redefine heritage management and the way it can be integrated within the planning system. This was possible by using various methods to acknowledge its multiplicity: exploring the evolution of Edinburgh’s historic place in history and the role of planning system and policies into shaping the present character; and conducting semi-structured interviews with stakeholders and focus groups in local communities.