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Palermo: the City of Opportunities - Industrial Heritage Network Plan by Maurizio Carta



Cultural Heritage Policy: Principles and guidelines

The contemporaneous debate about the role of planning for a more sustainable urban growth, the local and European political reflections about the spatial development perspective and the framework about a more integrated development – not only ecologically sustainable, but also socially and culturally – it shows us that the reflections about the socio-economic development models must be more based on the cultural identity, formed by the history and the memory of the communities.

We (administrators, politicians and planners) assist at an increasing need of knowledge and participation in cities’ development: people need a sharper knowledge unable to produce and better interpretation and evaluation of spatial, social, economic and cultural perspectives.

This knowledge’s need could find its answer in the cultural heritage, considered as the identity’s source and as a planning tool. Cultural heritage gives to the people the consciousness of their common history and common future, and it perseveration is, therefore, a matter of vital importance.

Heritage conservation must be considered not as a marginal issue, but as a major objective of town and country planning. Local authorities, with whom most of the important planning decisions rest, have a special responsibility for the protection of the cultural heritage and should assist one another by the exchange of ideas and information able to reach a more effective heritage management.

The significance of the cultural heritage and the arguments for conserving must be more clearly recognized. It is accepted that historical continuity must be preserved in its spatial and social environment, if we are to maintain or to create surroundings which enable individuals to find their identity and to feel secure despite abrupt social changes. In modern town planning, an attempt is being made to bring back the human dimension, the enclosed spaces, the interactions of functions and the social and cultural diversity that characterized the urban fabric of old towns. But it is also being realized that the conservation of ancient buildings helps to economise on resources and to combat waste, one of the major preoccupations of present-day society. It has been shown that historical buildings can be given new functions related to the needs of contemporary life. The rehabilitator of existing buildings (residential, cultural or productive one) helps also to reduce the conflicts between conservation and innovation, between basic needs and cultural needs.

An integrated policy of a cultural heritage-based development must follow some principles, shared among administrators, planners and users:

  1. The political sustainability: the conservation of the architectural heritage must be one of the major objectives of urban planning.

The conservation of the architectural heritage would become an integral part of urban planning, instead of being treated as a secondary consideration or one requiring only incidental action. A permanent dialogue between conservationists and those responsible for planning is thus indispensable.

Planners should recognize that not all historical areas are the same and that they should therefore be dealt with according to their individual characteristics. The recognition of the claims of the historical, aesthetic and cultural values of the architectural heritage should lead to the adoption of specific aims and planning rules for old architectural complexes.

Local planning policy must take into account the rehabilitation of the urban architectural heritage and contribute to its “innovation with conservation.” In particular, it can induce new activities to establish themselves in economically declining parts of cities, in order to check depopulation and thereby prevent the deterioration of old buildings. In addition, decisions on the development of peripheral urban areas can be orientated in such a way as to reduce pressure on the older neighborhoods.

The full development of a permanent policy of conservation and rehabilitation requires a large measure of decentralization. This means that there must be people responsible for conservation at all levels (central, regional, local and sub-local) at which planning decisions or administrative decisions or financial decisions are taken. The conservation of the architectural heritage, however, should not merely be a matter of experts, but equally the support of public opinion is essential. The population, on the basis of full, objective and participatory knowledge, should take part in every step of the planning process.

The conservation of the architectural heritage (monumental or industrial) should become a feature of a new long-term approach which pays due attention to criteria of quality and just proportions and which should make it possible henceforth to reject options and aims which are too often governed by short-term considerations.

2. The administrative sustainability: integrated conservation must involve the responsibility of local authorities and call for citizens’ participation

Local authorities must acquire specific and extensive responsibilities in the protection of the urban architectural heritage in co-operation with the institutional authority for conservation. In applying the principles of integrated conservation, they should take account of the continuity of existing social and physical realities in urban communities. The future cannot and should not be built at the expense of the past, but the past should not be conserved at the expense of the future.

To implement such a policy, which respects the man-made environment intelligently, sensitively and with economy, local authorities would:

Local authorities should improve their techniques of consultation for ascertaining the opinions of interested parties on conservation plans and should take these opinions into account from the earliest stages of planning. The same architectural heritage could give some meeting places in order to enable members of the public to consult each other.

As part of this policy, methods such as public meetings, exhibitions, opinion polls, the use of the mass media and all other appropriate methods should become common practice.

The education of young people in environmental issues and their involvement with conservation tasks is one of the most important requirements. Complementary proposals or alternatives put forward by groups or individuals should be considered as an important contribution to planning. Local authorities should, therefore, establish a continuing exchange of information and ideas through all available channels.

3. The Social sustainability: the success of any policy of integrated conservation depends on taking social actors into consideration

A policy of conservation also means the integration of the cultural heritage into social life. The conservation effort to be made must be measured not only against the cultural value of the buildings but also against their use value. The social problems of integrated conservation can be resolved only by simultaneous reference to both these scales of values.

The rehabilitation of a complex forming part of the architectural heritage (like the disused industrial areas) is not necessarily more costly than new buildings for containing some urban services. When therefore comparing the cost of the solutions, whose social consequences are quite different, it is important not to overlook the social costs. These concern not only owners and tenants but also the craftsmen, trades people and contractors on the spot who keep the district alive and maintain it.

Financial interventions should aim to strike a balance between restoration grants to owners, combined with the fixing of maximum rents, and housing allowances to tenants to cover, in part or in whole, the difference between the old and new rents.

In order to enable the population to participate in the drawing up of programmes, they must be given the facts necessary to understand the situation, on the one hand through explaining the historic and architectural value of the buildings to be conserved, and on the other hand by being given full details about permanent and temporary re-housing. This participation is all the more important because it is no longer simply a matter of restoring a few privileged buildings but of rehabilitating whole areas, by a balance between conservation and innovation.

4. The institutional sustainability: integrated conservation necessitates the adaptation of legislative and administrative measures

Because the concept of the architectural heritage has been gradually extended from the individual historic building to urban architectural complexes, and to more recent architecture, far-reaching legislative reform, in conjunction with an increase in administrative resources, is a prerequisite to effective action.

In Italy, this reform is guided by the need to co-ordinate regional and local planning legislation with national legislation on the protection of architectural heritage.

In order to increase the operational capacity of the authorities, it is necessary to review the structure of the administration to ensure that Superintendence responsible for the cultural heritage are organized at the appropriate levels and that sufficient qualified personnel and essential scientific, technical and financial resources are put at their disposal.

The Superintendence would assist local authorities, co-operate with regional planning offices and keep in constant touch with public and private bodies.

5. The economic sustainability: integrated conservation necessitates appropriate financial means

In order to solve the economic problems of a conservation balanced between rehabilitation and renewal, it is important to draw up legislation subjecting new buildings to certain restrictions with regard to their volume and dimensions (height, coefficient of land use) that will make for harmony with the surroundings.

The conservation policy would tend to restore the social balance and the financial and fiscal advantages available for new buildings should be according in the same proportion for the upkeep and conservation of old buildings, less, of course, any compensation for extra costs that may have to be paid.

Local authorities should set up or encourage the establishment of revolving funds, by providing local authorities or non-profit associations with the necessary capital. This is particularly applicable to areas where such programmes can become self-financing in the short or the long term because of the rise in value accruing from the high demand for such attractive property. It is vital, however, to encourage all private sources of finance, particularly coming from industry, insurances and banks. Numerous private initiatives have shown the viable part that they can play in association with the authorities at either national or local level.

6. The Technical sustainability: integrated conservation requires promotion of methods, techniques and skills for restoration and rehabilitati

Methods and techniques of restoration and rehabilitation of historic complexes should be better exploited and their range developed. Specialised techniques which have been developed for the restoration of important historic complexes should be henceforth applied to the wide range of buildings and complexes of less outstanding artistic merit.

Steps should be taken to ensure that traditional building materials remain available and that traditional crafts and techniques continue to be used.

Permanent maintenance of the architectural heritage, will, in the long run obviate costly rehabilitation operations.

There is a fundamental need for better training programmes to produce qualified personnel. These programmes should be flexible, multidisciplinary and should include courses where on-site practical experience can be gained.

This should help to create the required pool of planners, architects, technicians and craftsmen to prepare conservation programmes and help to ensure that particular crafts for restoration work, that are in danger of dying out, will be fostered.

The opportunity for qualifications, conditions of work, salary, employment security and social status should be sufficiently attractive to induce young people to take up and stay in disciplines connected with restoration and rehabilitation work. Furthermore, the authorities responsible for educational programmes at all levels should endeavour to promote the the interest of young people in conservation disciplines.

The Importance of the Knowledge’s Opportunity

The movements of people, goods and information across the continent of Europe are marked by a tendency towards concentration and polarization. Liberalisation of the markets for transport and telecommunications and growing competition accentuate this process. Unless corrective measures are taken, owners of infrastructure and operators of information networks will be tempted to concentrate on the most profitable parts, thereby increasing the marginalization of regions with smaller requirements for mobility and communications. Such a development would undermine economic and social cohesion. But the problem cannot be solved exclusively by providing more infrastructural facilities.

Investing in cultural heritage, in cultural innovation and in intelligence is of the utmost importance: without it, even the best infrastructure will do more harm than good to disadvantaged regions. If is an essential condition for genuine competitiveness throughout Europe and can be achieved only by facing up to important challenges: the trend towards a more intangible economy as a consequence of the Knowledge Society, the capacity for rehabilitation of memory and for innovation as a critical factor for development, and the need for a substantial increase in the general level of education and skills of the working population.

What is required is a combination of better access to areas and a more efficient and sustainable use of infrastructure and info-structure linked with the broadest possible diffusion of knowledge and innovative capacities.

By a broader diffusion of knowledge and culture – writes the European Spatial Development Perspective Document – the disadvantaged regions (and Sicily is indubitable one) must be able to meet the challenge of the Information Society by increasing the capacity to innovate and to participate in new economic opportunities. People must increase their awareness of the opportunities presented, governments must seek to incorporate education, research and culture into the economic processes and to raise the general level of education and skills.

A more transactive, shared and intangible economy seems to be emerging in the economies of the most prosperous regions: a new international division of labor is emerging with a core labor-market of concentrated knowledge and skills. This market segment is relatively closed, not enabling lower skills to participate. The secondary market segment will be highly dependent on the performance of the high-skill international segment, and since it is characterized by lower added value goods and services, wages will be low. Such a division of labor would be a challenge to economic and social cohesion and makes imperative the need, especially for the peripheral regions, to invest in the culture economy, formed by information, education, technologies and loisir.

Where an insufficient contribution of institutional education system is being made to development of a region’s capacity to innovate, particular attention should be paid to strengthening their links with business and industry. Applied R&D and the development of knowledge and culture centers, technology centers, business incubators and other centers of innovation are examples of ways this could be done.

The dissemination of knowledge should not be restricted to a few favored centers. The economic attractiveness of regions depends on the quality of the whole work force. Lifelong learning and improved vocational qualifications have caught up considerably in this regard, particularly in combating illiteracy, but efforts to raise the general level of education of the labor force have to be continued and be unrelenting.

In order to achieve the objectives referred to above, we can utilize the policy options given by the ESDP:

  1. Increasing access to knowledge technologies and raising awareness of the challenges and potential benefits of the Information Society in regions where it has still not been established.
  2. Support the establishment of “knowledge poles” and techno poles and improvement of links between higher education, applied R & D, innovation centers, cultural centers, industry and business in regions whose development is lagging behind.
  3. Achievement of a minimum level of access to higher education, research and innovation centers.
  4. Improvement of the level of general education and vocational skills as a part of integrated development strategies in regions where this level is low.

Integrated Management and Development of the Cultural Heritage and of the Cultural Innovation

The ESDP writes that Europe’s cultural heritage is an expression of its identity, a world asset characterized by great richness and diversity. Rigorous protective measures, including schemes for designating sites and monuments, can cover only a small part of this heritage. For the remainder, the ideal of sustainable developments calls for a more creative approach capable of passing on to future generations a cultural heritage to which the achievements of the present age will be added. The need is for the “creative management” of urban landscapes, promoting their overall coherence and reversing the trend towards the dereliction, damage and destruction prevalent in many areas.

The cultural heritage is also an economic asset of growing importance, reinforcing the need for protection, careful management, development and innovation of use. In particular, it is recognized that the environmental quality of cities is increasingly a location factor in mobile investment. Decisions on the location of new economic activities (especially those employing highly skilled labor) are taking into account, with greater frequency, the quality of life and environment.

Moreover, attractions of cultural value have over the last decades become an important factor in the dynamic development of the heritage-tourism industry. There is now a shift towards more active ways of spending the holiday and leisure time.

Conservation and creative management of the urban cultural heritage

The urban heritage is a valuable asset in projecting European culture across the world, a symbolic value that represents a strategic tool for a global competition. Considerable investment needs to be made in safeguarding outstanding historical ensembles, while urban landscapes ought to be remodeled on the basis of a coherent strategy which is not dominated solely by the past, or by the future once a time.

Many of Europe’s cities possess extensive sites of historical heritage (monumental or industrial) of great value that are subject to a slow process of degradation. Despite substantial funds spent on maintenance and restoration, the trend has not been halted. To prevent irreparable losses, where this is still possible, proactive conservation programmes need to be started.

But Europe’s urban heritage does not only consist of outstanding ensembles: its cities represent places of intense social life and cultural events. The lifestyles of European cities must be considered in their entirety as a part of cultural heritage, and their identity and integrity needs to be preserved and used. Many cities in Europe are exposed to severe pressures of commercialization and cultural uniformity that remove individuality and identity, that erode memory and space. These include real estate speculation, the construction of over-large infrastructural projects, and adaptations to mass tourism. Often they have the effect of seriously disrupting the structure and social life of cities. An adequate response to these pressures needs to be found through development strategies that include, in particular, physical planning and land-use policy more careful to the interpretation of values.

For a more cultural-based urban planning, the policy options could be:

  1. Proactive strategies for integrated conservation in areas where the urban cultural heritage is at risk of becoming degraded, in particular in those areas which have disused their orginal functions
  2. Development of strategies to control the pressures on the urban cultural heritage generated by tourism, real-estate speculation and infrastructural provision
  3. Remodeling, in a creative way, coherent groups of buildings and factories situated in cities undergoing degradation of their urban landscape.
  4. The possibilities afforded by new technologies for identifying and recording the architectural heritage and combating the deterioration of materials as well as in the fields of scientific research, restoration work and methods of managing and promoting the heritage.
  5. Ways of promoting architectural creation as our age’s contribution to the European heritage.


Places, Actors and Actions

The Industrial Heritage Network is formed by a great number of disused areas (not only productive ones, but even those that contain public activities). We can synthesize the areas in 5 categories:

a)      coastal areas linked with sea activities

b)      inner areas linked with administrative activities

c)      railway areas that represent some mobility system

d)      large industrial areas unable to contain local and upper-local activities mixed

e)      unable to contain local administrative activities and socio-cultural activities small industrial areas.


coastal areas linked with sea activities

inner areas linked with administrative activities

railway areas that represent some mobility system

large industrial areas unable to contain local and upper-local activities mixed

unable to contain local administrative activities and socio-cultural activities small industrial areas.

Stazione di S. Erasmo

Industria Coalma

Stazione lolli


Cantiera guadagna

Manifattura Tabacchi

Industria Mag-Helg-Arpa

Stazione Sampolo

Mulino Virga

Conceria Guadagna

Ospizo Marino

Mobili Ducrot

Caserma de Maria


Mattoni Guadagna

Chimica Arenella

Mercato Ortofrutticolo

Stazione Notarbartolo


Alimenti per Strutt. Sanit

Ceramiche Puleo

Fiera del Mediterraneo

Stazione di S. Erasmo

Ospedale Pschiatrico

Arredi P. Sorima

Istituto Nautico



Mobili Ducrot

Fabbrica di Sego

Fondera Cala



Carcere ucciardone

Saponificio A. La Gumina

Vetreria Caruso



Mercato Ortofrutticolo





Fiera del Mediterraneo

Opifici Piazza Scaffa

Societa Anonima Agrumi



Stazione Lolli


Quinta Casa Della Compagnia di Gesu



Caserma Cascino

Molitura Frumento






Fabbrica Conserviera Contorno





Conceria Manno

Bagni Termali Pandolfo




Fonderia Randazzo

Soc. Anonima Tele Olone




Pastifici Riuniti





Catrame Politi





Fonderia Gallo















Alluminio Balsamo (M.O.A.)










Molitura Solmacco





Fonderia Papireto





Conceria Papireto





Edicola Dell’ Averinga





Industria Chimica Solvay





Fonderia F.lli Durante





Mulino Giglio





Instituto dei Ciechi


The actors unable to participate in the planning process and in the financial process are:

a)      State or Region (owners of the areas or responsible for the functions)

b)      Municipality of Palermo (owner of the areas)

c)      Private (owners of the areas or sponsor)

d)      Public institutions (interested in the new functions)

All the actors share some relations, characterised by various trends:




Consensus oriented

State or region

Cultural Services

Ministry of Cultural Heritage

Ministry of Treasure

Owners of the areas

National Politicians

Municipality of Palermo

Assessorship for the Culture

Owner of the areas

Assessorship of the Labour, Tourism

Local Politicians


Cutural Associations,


Non profit organizations

Cultural firms,




Public Institutions


Research Centres



For promoting an effective heritage policy, the actions that the Municipality of Palermo undertakes to foster can be divided into five categories:


  1. Institutional actions, based on:


  1. Social actions, based on:


  1. Cultural actions, based on:


  1. Economic actions, based on:


  1. Administrative actions, based on:


All these actions are unable to guarantee the previously defined system of sustainability:











Protect Local Cultural Heritage as an Institutional Must

Remove the causes of lack of social identity

Specify responsibilities in cultural actions

Simplification of administrative process

Individualise responsibilities and time schedule for project implementation


Link the institutional interests with social needs

Create cultural interest communities

Build an urban socio-cultural network

Create a network of proximity places where various social classes can relate

Improve the third sector of economy

Improve the non profit associations

Improve the cultural associations


Draw the cultural heritage plans

Individualise the cultural categories and not only the cultural catalogues

Improve the educational role of cultural actions

Create the cultural network

Interpret and explain the cultural values of the city

Rehabilitation of cultural heritage

Value the compatibility of rehabilitation


Fiscal facilities for private

Begin with public actions to improve the private ones

Create and improve of non profit associations

Improve the cultural firms

Involve the bank system

Use specific funds for cultural actions

Use international funds (EU, UNESCO etc.)

Create some poles of Economy of Culture

Improve the partnership of private sector in projects implementation


Create an authority for cultural heritage and innovation

Create cultural department

Create and improve cultural partnership

Improve private-public agreement

Individualise some priorities

Draw the action plan

Improve the project financing

Improve the public-private agreement


In summary, we could affirm that the organisation of a Industrial Heritage Network in Palermo is unable to give some sustainable dimensions to the development:

  1. The spatial dimension, that lives linking global and local actions and explain its actions in guaranteeing the auto-sustainability of the development. It offers the opportunity of actuating some “lillipu” strategies unable to link the various subjects that live, act and modify the space. Its function allow to identify the spatial value of the areas.
  2. The cultural dimension, that lives sharing conservation and innovation and explain its action in producing an useful knowledge, unable to drive more efficiently the decision. It offers the opportunity of an integrated development of all the elements. Its function is above all the knowledge of the identity.
  3. The administrative dimension, that lives between the rules and the scenarios and explain its action guaranteeing the effectiveness of the previsions. It offers the opportunity of producing some correct provisions, because they are formed by a correction information about the actors, the budget, the partners. Its function is above all the interpretation of the necessary steps.
  4. The social dimension, that lives linking participation and order and explain its action improving the participation to the choices of citizens, users, administrators and experts. It offers the opportunity of sharing the value of the industrial heritage rehabilitation. Its function is above all the communication of the planning process and of the planning decision.



Conflicts resolved





Global vs local


“lilliput” strategies



Conservation vs innovation

Useful knowledge

Integrated development



Rule vs scenario

Effectiveness of the indicators

Effectiveness of the provisions



Participation vs order

Citizens’ participation

Sharing of values


Concluding, we can use the Shakespeare words: “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy”, but perhaps we could say that many of these could be planned by a Cultural Network.


Maurizio Carta

Dept. of Town and Country Planning, University of Palermo

Piazza Bologni, 13

90138 Palermo, Italy

Tel. +39 091 6079210

Email: mcarta@unipa.it

Website: www.unipa.it/-mcarta




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