Culture-led Regeneration: A Reflection upon Cultural Fundaments and the Act of Regeneration



‘Culture-led regeneration’ is a principle approach to the contemporary urban regeneration process. During last two decades, many of the European, American and even Asian cities, especially those subjected to the decline of deindustrialization have adopted the cultural approach as a way of rejuvenating their economical mechanisms and giving a better image to their global spectators. The idea that culture can be employed as a driver for urban economic growth has become part of the new attitude by which cities seek to enhance their competitive position. By letting a large number of economies, later renowned as creative industries, flourishing, cities all around the world, has gained a great deal of reputation all along with experiencing considerable economic prosperity. Such developments reflect not only the rise to prominence of the cultural sphere in the contemporary urban economy, but how the meaning of culture has been redefined to include new uses in order to meet social, economic and political objectives. In the literature from the late 1980s, from which the idea of ‘culture-led’ regeneration as a policy concept began to emerge, we find a bifurcation of the language of artistic value: one trajectory remains within the hermetic world of ‘the arts’, with its own historical and philosophical traditions; the other trajectory heads into a direct engagement with the socio-urban context. It is this latter trajectory this article is concerned with, and within this trajectory one would find a struggle to present ‘culture’ as a socially credible framework of validation. As the struggle between redevelopment and conservation has made a long history of confrontation and preference that incorporates the big city redevelopment plans and rapid vanishing of historical structures in cities, culture has led to a more appropriate solution and has presented a variety of activities that could find their place in the inner core and historical fabrics of cities and gain benefit while keeping the urban heritage viable and intact. Through the process of culture-led regeneration, newly made buildings and architectural structures may be added to the whole setting in a gradual and context-friendly manner. These structures would help the system accomplish its economic task more sufficiently as they show a better and more harmonious image of the previously abandoned and distressed areas, making a powerful identity for the city and the region. The fact that it could be possible to gain profit in a historical and conservative framework has convinced the market to make investments in new economies and creative industries. This article is a tentative to explore some basic concepts of culture-led regeneration and make the approach theoretically clear. The success of cultural approach in regeneration has been so immense that it seems absolutely inevitable to get more acquainted with this approach in the field of urban regeneration. The basics of culture-led regeneration have been listed and explained through the article and as a primary step it may be helpful to clarify the theoretical aspects which would be afterwards the keystones for the adaptation of this approach in a different and more indigenous context.