In the words of Italian architect Aldo Rossi, the city is a “locus of collective memory” – a dynamic living environment where people can exchange, create and innovate, but also a space for fostering collective identities, local traditions and cultural heritage. The integral role of culture and creativity in encouraging social inclusion and recognition of diverse cultural identites has been emphasised by the recent UNESCO report to the Habitat III Conference, which took place in Quito in October 2016. Culture is shown to lie at the heart of sustainable urban development.
We live in an increasingly urban age: today, for the first time in history, humanity is predominantly an urban species, with urban populations counting for 54% of the global population. This figure is set to increase, with a clear escalation especially in Africa and Asia: an estimated two out of three people will live in cities by 2050. As such, it is ever more important that we harness the power of culture for creating cities that are more inclusive, creative and sustainable; to improve city dwellers’ quality of life.
The report examines the contribution of culture to urban sustainability through key thematic insights and more than one hundred case studies from across the world, including Bologna’s decentralised model of governance (p.223). Building on these findings, the report presents new guidelines and recommendations to ensure that our future cities are safe, inclusive, resilient and sustainable.
The UNESCO report highlights the crucial role culture can play in in poverty reduction, gender equality, social justice, disaster risk reduction and quality of life. It stresses that creativity needs to be supported by public policies that value education, cultural expressions, experimentation and innovation. From the ancient cities of Mesopotamia to the city-states of the Italian Renaissance and the vibrant metropolises of today, the rich culture of cities, blooming from the diversity of shared urban space, has been one of the most powerful engines of human development. Today, we must once again place our hope in the culture of our cities.
This post is also available in: Italian