Regeneration and Heritage: Considering Static Heritage Narratives in Housing-Led Regeneration

by

Hazel Cowie

Keywords

  • heritage
  • regeneration
  • housing
  • gentrification
  • representation
  • visual image

Housing and regeneration are regularly assumed to go hand-in-hand. The conventional economic argument goes that, as a means of repurposing land in order to intensify use and support wider uses, housing can act as a catalyst for investment in cities, and in theory, can support existing communities. I argue that the benefits are rarely spread evenly, and that the carefully constructed narratives around regeneration, particularly around heritage and history, act to exclude rather than invite communities to benefit from regeneration.

This article will explore the notion that conservation practices in housing-led regeneration projects can be an exclusionary practice. This is an opportunity to explore how the practice of housing-led regeneration frequently relies on a singular reading of place in order to generate a sense that contemporary works are simply enabling a site to be returned to a true or authentic state.

I will argue that narratives of repair and protection in conservation practice can be used as a means of excluding the contemporary, living practices of use in regeneration areas. Drawing on material culture approaches to reading a site adjacent to London’s 2012 Olympic Park, I will argue that the selective assignment of the term „heritage asset” to Victorian-era buildings, at the exclusion of more recent but otherwise occupied buildings, presents a narrative that excludes non-economically dominant groups. This study will draw on Samuel’s (2012) reading of material culture and conservationism, Waterton’s (2010) work on Authorized Heritage Discourse, and on Pétursdóttir’s (2012) and Pendlebury’s (2008, 2013) work into contested static heritage narratives.