Answers on a Postcard: What kind of cities will future generations inherit?

Five months to go until Inheriting the City: Advancing Understandings of Urban Heritage and we’re looking forward to bringing together researchers, policy makers and practitioners to delve deeper into some of the fantastic themes that have emerged from the first Call for Papers. We’re so excited by the submissions that we’ve had so far that we want to start the conversation early.

So, we were wondering…What kind of city do you think that future generations will inherit?

To kick things off, Professor Mike Robinson, Director of the Ironbridge International Institute for Cultural Heritage has given us his thoughts:


What kind of cities will future generations inherit?

“As new Postcard 1the world’s mega cities continue to expand apace with their share of glass-fronted office blocks and iconic structures, it’s easy to imagine the whole destruction of what we would generally refer to as urban heritage. But such a thought is founded upon a notion of heritage that is fixed as something that locals and visitors connect with at that time. But tastes change don’t they? The meanings of the built environment shift in relation to changing populations and new generations. Are ‘our’ (whoever that refers to) aesthetic sensibilities really so locked into classical traditions that medieval streets or baroque facades will always be seen as attractive or indeed historically significant? To pursue the line that somehow future generations would be deprived of the historic urban fabric is surely to assume that values are immutable. What is the balance between the destruction or neglect of the urban heritage valued today and the on-going production of ‘new’ heritage that will be valued in the future? Critically who decides?

Is there not something of beauty in the idea of the post-apocalyptic city? The decaying mass-ness of vast urban sprawl speaks to the sublime – “look on my works, ye mighty, and despair.” Many of us inherited destruction and ruins in the bombed cities of post 1945 Europe. They held a beauty bound in their sheer abandonment, in their forbidden-ness and in their mystery. Should we be too concerned that others inherit the same?”

Professor Mike Robinson, IIICH.

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