Creat. Sp.

Regenerating Historic Urban Areas Through Sustainable Livelihoods - Problematizing Economy Within Historic Urban Areas

Niyati Jigyasu


Sustainability, Urban conservation, Cultural capital, Traditional crafts

PUBLISHER The Author(s) 2016. This article is published with open access at

In the historic core of Ahmedabad, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) r eported major encroachments, leading to destruction of the tomb of Darya Khan [5]. The encroachments were undertaken by the local community for residential purposes and by the informal sector for commercial purpose, for which the local administration as well as the community were blamed. Urban conservation, as the example indicates, is not limited to the preservation of buildings. It considers architecture of the built heritage as one of the elements of the overall urban setting that includes living expressions such as oral traditions, performing arts, social practices, rituals, festivals, and traditional skills implicitly embedded in the community. Heritage is, thus not only a legacy to be preserved for future generations, but also something for and abou,t the existing communities. This paper is based on the premise that today, the sustainability of historic areas rests on due consideration being given to the role of the communities and improvement of their quality of life through economic augmentation. There is a major shift in focus on the economic value of cultural heritage. But, merely considering the economic value of a historic site and its revenue options will not lead to a comprehensive solution for urban conservation. The aim of this paper is to understand the significance of traditional economy in historic urban areas, the current processes of transformation in this sector, and also its potential contribution for managing urban heritage and aiming towards larger goal of sustainability.


The historic urban areas are home to a wealth of tangible and intangible cultural assets that gives them a distinct identity and sets them apart from others. The urban heritage within them is representative of layers of social, cultural and economic assets and resources that have been created,interpreted and handed down by successive generations [13]. It is for this very reason that people are considered as the major stakeholders whose existence becomes very much dependent on their adaptation to the changes over the time. It is increasingly believed that the sustainability and survival of historic areas will only be possible if these can play a prominent role in improving the quality of life of people, including augmentation of their economic status (Fig. 1).

Heritage is thus not only a legacy to be preserved for future generations, but also something for and about the existing communities. Heritage conservation has always sought to protect cultural, aesthetic, educational, environmental, social and historic values. It is only of recent, that ‘economic value’ has been added to this list. In the past, discussion on the economic component was considered by heritage professionals as demeaning to the importance of heritage values and was thus kept out of the debate. But recently, experts and doctrines in the field of heritage conservation are getting more focused on considering urban heritage as a strong economic driver and, therefore, striving towards harnessing its potential for economic progress in historic areas. The World Bank, which also funds culture-based projects, also refers to cultural heritage as an asset in all its tangible and intangible forms. In the last 20 years, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) has funded US$ 670 million as loans for projects involving conservation and development projects in cultural heritage in Latin America [13]. With the UNESCO advocating the paradigm of the historic urban landscape, due recognition is given to the economic dimension of the tangible and intangible values of urban heritage.

Today, though there is an initiation of focus on economics in historic urban areas, urban conservation has largely failed to address the drivers of local economy in historic districts. Most of the initiatives are limited to employment and revenue generation through tourism, which is primarily measured in terms of the number of tourists and used to justify investments in the conservation of monuments, sites, museums and heritage festivals. Even though tourism is an important source for high employment generation possibilities, the cultural dimension of development requires recognition that far exceeds the tourism sector [16]. There is a vital need to bring into consideration the traditional economy associated with the community in these areas. This is also the subject of discussion of the concept of ‘creative economy’, theory of ‘creative cities’ and, also of discussions by various heritage-related organizations.

It must be noted that the intangible culture forms the background of tangible cultural property, including monuments and sites and, that sustainable development needs to consider both aspects. The aim of this paper is to understand the significance of traditional economy in historic urban areas, the current processes of transformation in this sector and, also its potential contribution for protecting and managing urban heritage and moving towards larger goal of sustainable development (Fig. 2).

Page(s) 49–66
ISSN Print : 2321-3892, Online : 2321-7154
DOI 10.15415/cs.2016.41003

The scope of urban conservation should not only be limited to historic buildings, but should also be sensitive to the social dimension implicit in the traditional practices, including local crafts. Conservation and development must be approached in a more complex and multidisciplinary way that will embrace planning and management to resolve the competing goals of conserving heritage values while integrating with inclusive social and economic development. Many non-governmental and public organizations as also private institutions are working in the field for craft revitalization, but their work is generally focused on a single craft, sometimes totally independent of the context of the place. However, it is important to address crafts as a component of local economy within the historic urban area and not as a single independent entity. Bringing linkages of economic component to traditional crafts to the fore is very critical to developing a new paradigm for urban regeneration and revitalization of heritage towns and cities. This will facilitate a robust economy founded on jobs that contributes towards local values and pride. This will have longer term impact on improving the quality of life of the inhabitants, which will also help in protecting the built heritage.

  • ABAKERLI, S. (2012) Crafting India’s Economic Growth and Development, Context , 9 (2), pp. 4–6.
  • BANDARIN, F. and OERS, R. (eds.) (2015). Reconnecting the City: The Historic Urban Landscape Approach and the Future of Urban Heritage . West Sussex: Wiley
  • HOSAGRAHAR, J. (2013) Background Note to Session on Culture’s Contribution to Achieving Sustainable Cities. In: Proceedings of the International Congress on Culture: Key to Sustainable Development, Hangzhou, 15–17 May 2013. Paris: UNESCO.
  • INDIAN NATIONAL TRUST FOR ART AND CULTURAL HERITAGE (2015) Urban Heritage in Indian Cities: Compendium of Good Practices . New Delhi: National Institute of Urban Affairs. Jigyasu, N 64
  • INTERNATIONAL COUNCIL ON MONUMENTS AND SITES (1987) Charter for the Conservation of Historic Towns and Urban Areas (Washington Charter 1987). Available from [Accessed: 27 February 2016]
  • MAHURKAR, U. (2013) Monumental neglect, Thwarting efforts to preserve history, residents misuse medieval structures. India Today 26th June. Available from ahmedabad-residents-misuse-medieval-structures/1/306074.html [Accessed: 30
  • MOON, B.K. (2013) Secretary-General’s remarks at General Assembly thematic debate on Culture and Sustainable Development . [Online] UN. Available from remarks-general-assembly-thematic-debate-culture [Accessed: 27 May 2016]
  • O’BRIEN, J. (2012) Livable Historic City Cores and Enabling Environment: A Successful Recipe to Attract Investment to Cities. In: LICCIARDI, G. and AMIRTAHMASEBI, R. (eds.) The Economics of Uniqueness: Investing in Historic Cores and Cultural Heritage Assets for Sustainable Development , 1st ed. Washington DC: World Bank,pp. 1–14.
  • PIPLANI, N. (2012) Challenges and Potentials for World Heritage Involving Communities Case Study: Taj Mahal, India. In: Proceedings of the International Conference on Involving Communities in World Heritage Conservation – Concepts and Actions in Asia,Buyeo, 10–12 September 2012. Paris: UNESCO, pp. 99–109.
  • SANTAGATA, W. (2004) Cultural Districts and Economic Development . EBLA Working Papers, 01/2004, Torino: University of Turin
  • TAYLOR, K. (2013) Cultural Mapping: Intangible Values and Engaging with Communities with Some Reference to Asia, The Historic Environment , 4 (1), pp. 50–61
  • THROSBY, D. (2010) The Economics of Cultural Policy . New York: Cambridge University Press
  • UNESCO INSTITUTE FOR STATISTICS (2009) The 2009 UNESCO Framework for Cultural Statistics . Montreal: UIS.
  • UN-HABITAT (2015) Habitat III Issue Papers – 4: Urban Culture and Heritage . Available from En.pdf [Accessed: 17 January 2016]
  • UNITED NATIONS EDUCATIONAL, SCIENTIFIC AND CULTURAL ORGANIZATION (2008) Historic Districts for All: A Social and Human Approach for Sustainable Revitalization . UNESCO Working Document, 09/2008, Paris: UNESCO
  • UNITED NATIONS EDUCATIONAL, SCIENTIFIC AND CULTURAL ORGANIZATION and UNITED NATIONS DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMME (2013) Creative Economy Report 2013 Special Edition: Widening Local Development Pathways. New York: UNDP
  • YANG, M. (2015) Culture in Moving the MDGs to the Post-2015 Development Agenda: Some Reflections on the Role of Living Heritage for Sustainable Development. In: ALBERT, M. (ed.) Perceptions of Sustainability in Heritage Studies – Volume 4 of Heritage Studies . 1st ed. Berlin:Walter De Gruyter, pp. 21–34.