Investing in cultural cohesion and preservation can help rebuild cities devastated by war or natural disasters, says a new World Bank report – March 12, 2019 CityLab article

A March 12, 2019 CityLab article is entitled: “After War or Disaster, Cities Need Culture to Recover.”

The subtitle reads: “Investing in cultural cohesion and preservation can help rebuild cities devastated by war or natural disasters, says a new World Bank report.”

The opening paragraphs of the CityLab article (I’ve included the original links, embedded in the text) read:

An oft-told urban success story is that of Medellín, Colombia. Under Pablo Escobar, the notorious drug lord that inspired the Netflix show Narcos, the city was one of the most violent places on earth in the 1980s and early 1990s. And then it became one of the most innovative – a “model city.” The reasons for that transformation are complicated. But one key driver was the local government’s focus on changing the socio-cultural narrative, which gave rise to the concept of cultura ciudadana or “citizen culture,” as a way foster a collective investment into the city’s future—especially among communities that were previously physically and socially excluded.

The city’s multi-pronged approach to planning in the decades since has centered culture: building libraries and parks, enabling art, and creating transportation access in the comunas in the hills above the city.

[End of excerpt]


I find this article most interesting and inspiring. Among other things, the message is clearly articulated and coherent. The parts adhere – they work together; they create a coherent message. The coherence is driven by insistence on effective use of robust citations, to back up assertions.

I often come across land-use commentaries that consist of flailing and fulminations – assertions of opinion, expressions of emotion that are not backed up by specific citations. Such an approach represents a low level of human agency. Such an approach lacks traction; it represents a ceaseless spinning of the wheels that gets us nowhere.

The reference, in the CityLab article, to the value – in the context of societally beneficial land-use decision making – of culture, and the value of social heritage (that is, heritage as distinct from, but in alignment with, building heritage and streetscape heritage) brings to mind a previous post entitled:

Changing the Narrative – State of Heritage Report 2019: This document from Heritage Toronto is well worth a close read

Changing the Narrative – State of Heritage Report 2019

Among other things, the 2019 Heritage Toronto report emphasizes that heritage has to do with social heritage as well as building heritage. We are, that is, talking about people – the people who live in a given place, anywhere in the world – as well as about the buildings themselves.

The narratives at play do not relate solely to physical structures. Culturally valuable heritage buildings warrant being preserved, in the interests of residents living in a given locality, anywhere in the world. It is strongly in the interests of the adjacent and surrounding communities, now and in the future, to preserve and reuse such buildings.

The Heritage Toronto 2019 report also underlines that extensive research supports the observation that heritage preservation strongly enhances the economic life of communities, where such preservation has occurred. This is a point that warrants emphasis: There is strong, measurable economic value, in ensuring that culturally valuable heritage buildings are preserved.


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