Book Chapter

Urban conservation and regeneration


Historic buildings, urban quarters and even small remnants of past layers all contribute to the character, identity and diversity of the urban environment. The value of historic quarters as one of the defining elements of a city’s identity now enjoys global recognition (Bandarin and van Oers 2012). The walkability, mixed use and low-rise high density characteristics, particularly of preindustrial quarters, are part of the attraction that see them variously re-imagined as centres for creativity, as tourism magnets and more recently as templates for sustainable living. An historic quarter or urban area can be any number of things to include tight knit town centres with medieval or earlier origins, former villages now absorbed into urban conurbations, colonial settlements and planned neighbourhoods of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and former industrial clusters and waterfronts. Most importantly, they are integral components of a greater urban whole, markers of a city’s identity and lived-in places of community networks and economic activity. The fundamental shift from monument preservation to area-based conservation practices is based on the recognition of group value, whereby the collective whole achieves a higher value than each individual component (Pickard 1996). These components including layout, buildings, open spaces, landscape elements and how they interact with one another, and their static and temporal relationships combine to define the character and townscape values of a place (Rodwell 2007). Urban conservation is more complex than monument conservation as it is a ‘political, economic and social concern’ (Orbaşlı 2000a: 17); and as conservation theory shifts towards a more values-based approach, urban conservation and regeneration practices are also expanding to recognise the role of intangible values and meanings places hold beyond the attributes of the physical fabric. Regeneration practice today recognises the collective value of settlements as holistic and integrated systems that are characterised not only by their architecture, settlement morphology and setting, but also by the complex dynamic of intangible and communal values that shape them. Nonetheless, the ways in which historic urban areas are valued and exploited varies greatly. Although urban conservation and regeneration has become a recognised discipline and component of the conservation movement, the protection and management of historic urban environments remains highly contested and continuously exposed to new challenges. Rapid levels of urban growth that are now experienced in some parts of the world, implications of de-industrialisation, and in some cases urban shrinkage, all impact on how the historic environment is protected and regenerated. Urban conservation and regeneration practices are shaped by locational specificities, political agendas and drivers of regeneration, alongside any number of external factors that fall beyond the remit of local decision makers. The drivers and the outcomes of regeneration are discussed in this chapter. The first part starts with some definitions before setting the context by briefly considering the emergence of the urban conservation movement and how it has broadened its remit up to the political and economic context of the present day. The second part of the chapter examines a range of scenarios that have emerged as common narratives and experiences of urban conservation and regeneration. The chapter concludes with a review of the factors that influence successful urban conservation and regeneration practices that maintain the tangible and intangible character of an area whilst delivering social and economic benefits locally.

Attached files


Orbaşlı, Aylin

Oxford Brookes departments

School of Architecture


Year of publication: 2020
Date of RADAR deposit: 2020-01-24

All rights reserved.

Related resources

This RADAR resource is the Accepted Manuscript of Urban conservation and regeneration
This RADAR resource is Part of Architectural Regeneration [ISBN: 9781119340331] / edited by Aylin Orbasli, Marcel Vellinga (Wiley, 2020).


  • Owner: Joseph Ripp
  • Collection: Outputs
  • Version: 1 (show all)
  • Status: Live
  • Views (since Sept 2022): 86