Understanding the value of heritage in placemaking

29 Aug 23

When building communities around places, it’s important to truly understand what makes a place, acknowledging its purpose, potential, the existing buildings, spaces, people and also its past.

.

The relationship between people and their environment plays a strong role in their sense of belonging and identity. A government report, People, Place, Culture, explored this relationship at length, highlighting the important role developers can play to nurture and grow the level of belonging communities have with their space – “identity is strongly tied in with a persons’ sense of engagement, belonging, understanding and appreciation of their ‘place’.

When building communities around places, it’s important to truly understand what makes a place, acknowledging its purpose, potential, the existing buildings, spaces, people and also its past.

Iceni Place, launched this summer and seeks to bridge the gap between developers and local communities; to better understand the unique needs and characteristics of a specific geographic area and its community, resulting in more creative and impactful responses.

By working with local historians on large regeneration sites in London, Iceni Place has been drilling down into the very essence of place, reconnecting people to often derelict and forgotten sites, from former Gasworks to closed-down prisons. Over the last year, we have supported heritage tours, unlocking the historic value of places, helping to show local people how buildings and structures shaped British history and added value to their communities. We found celebrating a site’s history instilled a sense of pride for local residents and strengthened their community connections to these places.       

We have also worked with local artists, to explore the historic architectural details of a site through sketching. By giving people pencils, charcoal and paper we could appreciate places through many different perspectives: engineers bring their structural understanding and textile designers their love of pattern.

In addition, we have been lucky enough to interview residents, learning how places have and continue to shape their lives. By creating an archive of written and oral histories though interviews and community workshops, we have been able to preserve and celebrate the heritage of their place.

Our experience to date shows how re-connecting people to places through history brings places to life and helps foster a collective identity to place. Those with the power to shape the places we live, work and visit are increasingly recognising that celebrating heritage unlocks success. It creates value, tells the story of a places collective identity and is the starting point for building connected and healthy communities.

To learn more about Iceni Place and our experience working creatively with local communities, please contact Ruby.