Creating balance between transformation and preservation within UNESCO World Heritage Sites : a case study of Belper, UK

Caroupapoullé, Aslihan (2020) Creating balance between transformation and preservation within UNESCO World Heritage Sites : a case study of Belper, UK. In: Sustainable City 2019 : 13th International Conference on Urban Regeneration and Sustainability; 01-03 Oct 2019, Valencia, Spain.


This practice-based research seeks to create a design-led strategy encouraging future development and sustainable design within a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The focus is the town of Belper in the Derwent Valley Mills WHS, an area currently under pressure from diverse and conflicting socioeconomic forces, in need of a coherent regeneration plan. It aims to contribute to such a plan, drawing from theoretical investigations of alternative urbanism and heritage studies, alongside extensive firsthand investigations of Belper and its surrounding industrial landscape as both a heritage site and living community. As an example of the pioneering period of the Industrial Revolution, Belper’s identity is defined by its overall form and its relationship to the industrial landscape. It is essential that these relationships are definite and recognisable. However, abandonment of large factory buildings and closure of many warehouses and garages have left behind vast, derelict land and a bizarre landscape that needs to be remediated. Recent proposals take a piecemeal design approach, focusing only on specific problem areas instead of generating an overarching strategy for the development of the town as an extension of Derwent Valley WHS. This research proposes an innovative approach that regards the site as a palimpsest, a concept based on alternative urban theories, which recognises, reinforces, and enhances the distinctive characteristics of the historic environment while upgrading it for the 21st century. This is achieved through extensive and focused research of the existing layers of the historic built environment and its cultural significance, the natural environment, the social landscape, and the economic forces competing over the above. Knitting together the new and the existing, the researchled design proposal seeks to repair and upgrade Belper’s existing urban grain by promoting appropriate and viable mixed-use development to enhance the life of the local community while respecting and recognising the heritage listing and wider countryside setting.

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