Research Group Urban Heritage (UH)

Doctorate students were accepted to this research group from 2008-2012.

The research group Urban Heritage (UH) is integrated into the Doctorate Programme European Urban Studies (IPP-EU) at the Institute for European Urban Studies.

Researchers address cultural heritage in the context of contemporary and future urban development. Transcending historical preservation, the group uses an expanded concept of “heritage,” which includes the political and sociological constitution of the city as deserving conservation in regard to its capacity for social integration and local democracy. The intention is to search for strategies and  approaches that utilize the contemporary challenges society is confronted with (demographic development, mobility, globalisation, multiculturality) to further develop urban heritage.


Research Group Profile
Cultural heritage receives increased importance under the auspices of globalisation and placelessness/ubiquity, but also in the context of global competition between cities. However, since the emergence of the topic of cultural heritage and historic preservation within architecture and urban planning and design, a struggle takes place for its definition. Today, the definition of what is to be considered a memorial worth preserving or an expendable residual artifact of times long gone is determined within a field that is much more difficult or impossible to overview as during the times of unchallenged nation-state based institutions. The actors involved today are legion: the classic public institutions and professional associations, numerous private and private business stakeholders, heterogeneous ad-hoc alliances, but also worldwide active supranational institutions. At the same time, the legitimacy of public institutions responsible for historic preservation is increasingly subject to doubt.

Also, demands and goals for urban cultural heritage have expanded significantly: aside from tending to a particular history in the sense of local or political representation, image creation in regard to locational competition has received increased importance. However, urban heritage is mobilized both in connection to aspects of ecology and as instrument of social integration. In addition to this, new challenges emerge. The contrasting subjects of shrinking cities on the one hand and mega-cities on the other should find brief mention in this context.

Yet also the object of research itself, matching the definition of cultural heritage of the city or memorial, is expanded in a way that was unthinkable only a few years ago. This applies to the inclusion of the built heritage of the post war era. Thus, products of late modernism receive increased attention within the debate. This also applies to the criterion of authenticity, which has been diluted to such a degree that even identical reconstructions are regarded as maintaining the cultural heritage of the city.

Finally, the topic of heritage is expanded from singular memorial to memorial of urban design to a position that postulates the European city itself as heritage requiring protection due to economic, social state based, and ecological concerns, yet still demanding closer definition.

Urban Heritage was financially supported by the DAAD as a PhD-Net Project from 2008-2010 as part of a research cooperation with Universitá di Roma Tre, Dipartimento di Studi Urbani, Italy