Capital, authority, consumer and resident

I have just read a paper by Zhang et al. on the reproduction of consumer spaces as applied to the historic districts of Beijing city centre. It took its cue from theories around the social construction of space for touristic purposes, and further considered the historical development of that space over an extended period. Using some detailed property use analysis, the researchers considered statistically the differing concentrations which developed in the different historic districts of tourism-focused versus resident-focused businesses.

I will freely admit that some of the equations and graphs were beyond me, but the analytical commentary was clearly expressed, and the study showed the importance of looking at the intersection of different capital flows in urban historic districts with the influences of differing types of authority (i.e. control) on development. This in turn affects the agency of residents and behaviour of consumers which in a feedback loop affects the ongoing management and development (and indeed control) of those historic areas.

So what – all very obvious? Maybe, but having recently spent time over in workshops with colleagues thinking about climate vulnerability in Edinburgh’s World Heritage designated area, the paper got me thinking again about how different types of capital (beyond just money) ebbs and flows around the different and distinct historic ‘districts’ of Edinburgh’s WHS and where different types of authority and control are exerted, felt and influenced. Further, it got me wondering how does agency of resident and consumers change across those different districts as a result of those flows of capital, and what are the longer term implications for the city as a result?

Reference: Keer Zhang, Handuo Deng, Fang Wang & Ye Yuan (2021) Reproduction of consumer spaces and historic district touristification in Old Beijing City, Tourism Geographies, DOI: 10.1080/14616688.2021.1934724

The Parthenon marbles: paving “the path for modern democracy”

The Parthenon frieze © David Gill

As part of the bicentenary of the Greek War of Independence draws near, two US members of Congress have passed a resolution calling on the UK Government to return the architectural sculptures from the Parthenon to Greece (“Hellenic Caucus Co-Chairs Maloney & Bilirakis Reintroduce Resolution Calling on the U.K. to Return the Parthenon Marbles to Greece“, 18 March 2021).

Congressman Gus Bilirakis said:

“The Parthenon Marbles were made by the citizens of Athens under the direction of renowned artist Phidias to celebrate the pride and majesty of the City of Athens. To not house and view these citizen contributions in the city they were originally intended does a disservice not only to the people of Athens, but also to the civilization that paved the path for modern democracy and freedom.”

The appeal to the original intention of the sculptor is a strong one. These sculptures were an integral part of a building, incidentally now part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Athenian Akropolis.

Is now the time for these sculptures to be returned to Athens so that they can be displayed in line of sight of the Parthenon?

Heritage site in Wales to reopen

Laugharne Castle © David Gill

Properties in the care of Cadw will be re-opening from August following the COVID-19 lockdown (“Wales’ ancient monuments set to reopen in August“, BBC News 18 July 2020). The first to re-open will be the castle at Laugharne on 4 August 2020.

The properties will include UNESCO World Heritage sites such as the castles and town walls of King Edward in Gwynedd (Beaumaris, Caernarfon, Conwy, and Harlech) and Blaenavon Industrial Landscape.

Heritage tourism on Crete: Spinalonga

Spinalonga © David Gill

The Venetian fortress of Spinalonga is located on an island in the northern part of Mirabéllo Bay, Crete. It was built in 1579 and was taken over by the Ottomans in 1715.

Spinalonga © David Gill

In 1903 it became a colony for those with leprosy; the colony closed in 1955.

Visitor numbers to Spinalonga. Data: Hellenic Statistical Service. Chart © David Gill

The fortress attracts over 400,000 visitors a year, and since 2014 has been on the UNESCO tentative list for World Heritage status.

Hagia Sophia and UNESCO World Heritage

Hagia Sophia © David Gill

The historic area of Istanbul was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1985. One of the finest structures in this part of the city is the 6th century church of Hagia Sophia that was turned into a mosque following the fall of Constantinople in 1453. Under Kemal Atatürk the building was turned into a museum emphasising the secular nature of the republic.

It is now proposed to turn the structure back into a mosque (“Hagia Sophia: Turkey delays decision on turning site into mosque“, BBC News 2 July 2020). The topic has been widely discussed in Greece (e.g. “Museum or mosque? Turkey debates iconic Hagia Sophia’s status“, ekathimerini.com 1 July 2020). France has now added its voice to the debate (e.g. “France says Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia must remain open to all“, ekathimerini.com 2 July 2020).

Heritage Day 2019 (2020)

 

The postponed Heritage Day 2019, arranged by the Heritage Alliance, was held at The Tower of London in February 2020. The Parliamentary Undersecretary of State, Nigel Huddlestone MP, gave his first speech on heritage and tourism.

Lego heritage

As another trip to China draws to a close, I leave this time from Shanghai Pudong Airport. Apart from the excitement of a trip on the Maglev (finally, after three years my itinerary allowed it!), the real thrill was finding a Lego Architecture set in the Duty Free of one of the great World Heritage Sites: the Great Wall of China. What’s not to like (apart from the price, which is as steep as the climb up parts of the Wall)?

West Kennet Long Barrow: MPBW sign

west kennet-Edit
West Kennet Long Barrow © Patrick Taylor

The West Kennet long barrow was placed on the 1882 Schedule of Ancient Monuments. It now lies within the Avebury World Heritage Site. The scientific excavation took place in 1955–56.

Radiocarbon dates suggest that the monument was constructed in the period 3,700–3,600 BC, more than a millennium earlier than was thought in the 1960s.

The Tin Coast and Poldark

IMG_6114-Edit
The Crowns Engine Houses at Botallack © David Gill

The BBC Drama Series ‘Poldark‘ is set in Cornwall in what is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The ‘Tin Coast‘ includes the Crowns Engine Houses at Botallack in the care of the National Trust.

Heritage locations used in the filming of the series have been listed by Visit Cornwall.

The Lake District and UNESCO World Heritage Status

IMG_0196
Castlerigg Stone Circle © David Gill

The Lake District in north-west England was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2017 [UNESCO]. The listing notes, “a distinctive cultural landscape which is outstanding in its harmonious beauty, quality, integrity and on-going utility and its demonstration of human interaction with the environment”.

The Save the Lake District group wishes to protect this internationally recognised landscape from any further damage. The group is calling on the Lake District National Park to take steps to protect this fragile environment. The issue surrounds the use of the so-called ‘Green Roads‘.

The concerns are covered by the BBC: “Lake District authority ‘violating World Heritage status’“, BBC News 14 April 2018.