Cultural Mega-Events: Opportunities and Risks for Heritage Cities

Mega-events have long been used by cities as a strategy to secure global recognition and attract future economic investment. However, while cultural mega-events like the European Capital of Culture have become increasingly popular, cities have begun questioning the traditional model of other events such as the Olympic Games with many candidate cities cancelling bids in recent years. This approach to planning and developing cities through mega-events introduces a broad range of physical effects and nuanced institutional changes for cities, particularly for the more sensitive heritage areas of cities. This book explores these issues by first examining the dynamics of cities’ attempts to reduce overall costs and increase the sustainability of these large events by further embedding them within the existing fabric of the city and second by studying in depth the impact on the heritage of host cities. This book investigates three World Heritage Cities: Genoa, Liverpool and Istanbul, each of which have hosted the European Capital of Culture and introduced a variety of opportunities and risks for their heritage. The book highlights the potential benefits and challenges of integrating event and heritage planning to provide lessons that can help future historic cities and heritage decision makers better prepare for such events.

Jones, Z.M. (2020) Cultural Mega-Events: Opportunities and Risks for Heritage Cities. London, Routledge

Authored by Zachary M. Jones

Available at Routledge

Mega-events and heritage: The experience of five European cities

n the past, many cities used mega-events as a strategy to boost development. The creation of new facilities and infrastructures for mega-events typically targeted areas of expansion outside of historic city fabric. Today, on the contrary, mega-event organizers are increasingly opting more for the re-use of existing facilities and areas. This paradigm shift represents both a potential opportunity and threat for heritage-rich cities in Europe. This book explores the relationships between the planning and implementation of mega-events and cultural heritage through the in-depth study of five cases: Genoa 2004 European Capital of Culture, Milan Expo 2015, Wrocław 2016 European Capital of Culture, Hull 2017 UK City of Culture, Pafos 2017 European Capital of Culture. The book draws on these case studies in order to spark further research and policy debate regarding the emerging opportunities and threats for context-specific policies and projects, for long-term urban development, for cooperation among actors and capacity building at different levels, for the multiple social and cultural identities that help heritage and cities to flourish

This publication includes the National Case Studies Reports and it corresponds to one key output of WP1 (activity A1.4 in particular) in the JPICH financed project “HOMEE – Heritage Opportunities/threats within Mega-Events in Europe”.

Ponzini D., Bianchini F., Georgi-Tzortzi J.N., Sanetra-Szeliga J. (Eds. 2020). Mega-events and Heritage: The Experience of Five European Cities. Krakow: International Cultural Centre. 

Edited by Davide Ponzini, Franco Bianchini, Julia Georgi-Nerantzia Tzortzi and Joanna Sanetra-Szeliga

Available here

The New Arab Urban: Gulf Cities of Wealth, Ambition and Distress

The fast-growing cities of the Persian Gulf are, whatever else they may be, indisputably sensational. The world’s tallest building is in Dubai; the 2022 World Cup in soccer will be played in fantastic Qatar facilities; Saudi Arabia is building five new cities from scratch; the Louvre, the Guggenheim and the Sorbonne, as well as many American and European universities, all have handsome outposts and campuses in the region. Such initiatives bespeak strategies to diversify economies and pursue grand ambitions across the Earth.

Shining special light on Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Doha—where the dynamics of extreme urbanization are so strongly evident—the authors of The New Arab Urban trace what happens when money is plentiful, regulation weak, and labor conditions severe. Just how do authorities in such settings reconcile goals of oft-claimed civic betterment with hyper-segregation and radical inequality?  How do they align cosmopolitan sensibilities with authoritarian rule? How do these elite custodians arrange tactical alliances to protect particular forms of social stratification and political control? What sense can be made of their massive investment for environmental breakthrough in the midst of world-class ecological mayhem?

To address such questions, this book’s contributors place the new Arab urban in wider contexts of trade, technology, and design. Drawn from across disciplines and diverse home countries, they investigate how these cities import projects, plans and structures from the outside, but also how, increasingly, Gulf-originated initiatives disseminate to cities far afield.

Brought together by noted scholars, sociologist Harvey Molotch and urban analyst Davide Ponzini, this timely volume adds to our understanding of the modern Arab metropolis—as well as of cities more generally. Gulf cities display development patterns that, however unanticipated in the standard paradigms of urban scholarship, now impact the world.

Molotch H., Ponzini D., (eds) (2020). The New Arab Urban: Gulf Cities of Wealth, Ambition and Distress, New York University Press

Edited by Harvey Molotch and Davide Ponzini

Available at NYU Press

Starchitecture. Scenes, Actors and Spectacles in Contemporary Cities [Second edition]

Internationally renowned architects are at centre stage in public debates, not only with reference to designing aesthetically striking artefacts, but also to urban regeneration programmes and urban branding. The narrative of the ‘Bilbao effect’ has been spreading worldwide, apparently leading cities to compete in collecting spectacular projects and buildings, sometimes with little regard for their urban context. Despite the fact that these forms of urban development have been changing the landscape in several cities, attention and explanations regarding the rationalities implied in such decision making and localization processes are today limited and sometimes misleading. The authors offer a critical reappraisal of oversimplified interpretations of star architecture and its many urban implications. Drawing on the study of relevant architectural decision-making processes in Bilbao, Abu Dhabi, Paris, New York City and the Vitra Campus and on an original photographic corpus, the book argues that these phenomena have high territorial variety, depending on local as well as more contingent factors. The book explains that architectural and urban spectacles are often used by urban policymakers in order to drive political consensus, maximize media exposure and eventually cover economic and real-estate interests, potentially inducing perverse or even paradoxical effects. It pragmatically outlines critical perspectives for interpreting architectural and urban projects as meaningful elements of contemporary urban landscapes.

Ponzini D., Nastasi M. (2016). Starchitecture. Scenes, Actors and Spectacles in Contemporary Cities, New York: Monacelli Press.

Authored by Davide Ponzini and Michele Nastasi

Available at Monacelli Press