Sustainable Cities

Istanbul, Bridge over the Bosporus. Photographer: Giuliana Riccio © UNESCO


Culture, encompassing both heritage (tangible and intangible) and creative industries, plays a critical role as a non-renewable resource that is a vital part of cities, integral to their identity and underpinning their dynamism as hubs of economic development.

Conserving and adaptively re-using the historic urban environment contributes to the quality of life of their inhabitants in many ways. In addition to strengthening their sense of belonging, social cohesion and providing a pleasant environment, it also mitigates excessive urbanization, attracts tourists and visitors as well as investments, while providing for green, locally-based, stable and decent jobs.

Cultural industries and creativity are also an essential factor of urban renewal, as they bolster a city’s image and contribute to its socio-economic development, thus improving the living standards of the inhabitants. Investments in cultural institutions and activities will support a creative economy and further promote sustainable urban development.

A heritage-driven urban development policy also contributes to mitigating and adapting to climate change, since conserving the existing fabric (built with traditional techniques and local materials and skills) is more environmentally friendly than demolishing and reconstructing. In the UK, for example, the energy embodied in the construction of a building is estimated at 15 to 30 times the annual energy use.

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