Re-Building the Past: The Reconstruction and Perception of Historic City Centers of Salvador (Brazil) and Nürnberg (Germany)

Heritage architecture plays an important role in the preservation of cultural values and the construction of cultural identity, often being strategically deployed by local businesses. In many urban centers around the world, old city centers are enjoying increasing attention from local authorities such as city planners, restoration authorities, and heritage preservation boards, not to mention from private investors (concerning historic city centers in Arab Islamic countries, cf. Escher 2001; Escher/Petermann 2003). Historic city centers count as symbols and emblems of regional identity and authenticity; they possess inestimable value for generating local tourism and above all for an emerging tourism industry. Protecting historic structures and infrastructure is currently a given on the political and economic agendas of many municipalities, as well as of regions and countries. The twentieth century saw countless heritage protection initiatives, from the urbanization conference in Athens in 1931 to the adoption of the UNESCO World Heritage Convention in 1972, as well as an increasing interest in the aesthetics and symbolic value of historic structures. Preservation efforts were not always sufficient to prevent the decay of historically valuable buildings—economic recession, social disintegration, wars, and natural disasters were and still are a constant latent threat to valuable cultural heritage. Unfortunately, it is clear that many historic sites have deteriorated or been neglected.

This intercultural research project shall comparatively study the historic city centers of two municipally and economically significant cities, namely Salvador and Nürnberg. The research focus will be, firstly, the different attitudes and approaches to historic cultural heritage, namely, reconstruction and/or preservation and restoration; secondly, the perception of cultural sites and the construction of images and identities as well as; thirdly, a conscious perception guided by restoration authorities and the tourism and entertainment industries. The proposed research project will be placed in a larger research context in which the following shall be incorporated: further cities (e.g., Paraty and Bamberg) will be studied along with “sites of consumption” ([“Konsumorte”] Franck 2000, Steinecke 2002) that draw attention to themselves through historicized elements (for example, the resort hotel Vila Paria, or the outlet center of Wertheim Village).

Term of Project: October 2007-Ongoing

Project Members:
Dr. Heike Schiener (Geography)
Dr. Maria da Gloria Lanci da Silva (Architecture, University of Salvador / UNIFACS)