I do research in urban and regional planning. A central theme is the study of urban regeneration projects and the impacts they have on the local population, on the local real estate market and on city aesthetics and efficiency . Simultaneously, studies on Marine Protected Areas play a key role in my research. Much current work involves the formulation of appropriate regulation for the management and control of the Marine Protected Areas named “Tavolara – Punta Coda Cavallo” and “Capo Carbonara” located in northern-eastern and southern-eastern Sardinia,
Cultural policies have assumed increasing importance in urban regeneration processes. However, the contemporary academic debate makes a clear distinction between “urban Regeneration” and “urban Renaissance” on the basis that interventions really solve social and urban inequalities or rather exacerbate them by fostering gentrification.
The aim of this study is to contribute to this debate. For this reason, three case studies are analysed. The first one is the Bankside programme, developed between the XX and XXI Century in the ward of Cathedrals in the London Borough of Southwark. The second one is the Local Centre for the Arts and Culture La Vetreria realised during the first decade of the XXI Century in the neighbourhood of Is Bingias in Cagliari. The third one is the Auditorium Parco della Musica constructed during the first decade of the XXI Century in the neighbourhood of Flaminio in Rome. All the three case studies are examples of cultural regeneration that tried to achieve the regeneration of whole neighbourhoods by combining the opening of an art centre with a series of activities addressed to the local community.
After identifying in the literature the difference between Regeneration and Renaissance, the parameters to conceptualise gentrification and the methodologies applied in previous studies, a methodological framework is specifically tailored for this study. Accordingly, the analysis is organised in two complementary parts. The first one focuses on the tangible (hard) effects of the opening of the three cultural centres through visual, quantitative and qualitative analysis. The second one focuses on the intangible (soft) part and enquires about the activities of the regeneration programmes through qualitative research.
It shows that the construction of new cultural infrastructure and the related urban beautification are not able, on their own, to determine economic development, social upward mobility, social mix and public engagement. On the contrary, they are part of a complex set of factors that, as a whole, contribute either to accelerate the already existing patterns or collaborate in promoting local strategies within a set of congruent actions. Consistently, the Tate Modern Gallery, being realised in a vibrant and very popular touristic area in London, which is already interested by a gentrification process at an advanced stage, where many other initiatives are promoted to ameliorate the area, collaborates to determine the improvement of the area in many respects, but it also contributes to worsen socio-economic conditions of the local population by encouraging gentrification. Conversely, the Local Centre for the Arts and Culture La Vetreria in Cagliari, being located in an area, which is not a touristic destination and it is characterised by depressed real estate market and unpretentious social-economic conditions, where no other significant collateral initiatives have been promoted, does not improve either the neighbourhood conditions or the socio-economic status of the local community. Coherently, the Auditorium Parco della Musica, being located in an area in Rome, which is not subject to either extreme real estate pressure or real estate depression, which is a touristic destination, but, at the same time, it is not overrun with tourists, where various public interventions cooperate to improve the area conditions, both physically and socio-economically, contributes to ameliorate the area without determining any major negative consequences.
By studying the impacts of complex multifaceted regeneration projects on the respective local population and by enquiring whether cultural policies are able to determine genuine urban regeneration, this study provides a threefold cognitive contribution, of which the constituents are illustrated below.
(i) Methodological aspect: it develops a comprehensive multi-method approach that assembles visual, quantitative and qualitative analysis, explicitly drawing from the epistemological analysis of literature both in terms of conceptualisations and methodological frameworks, and by distinguishing between tangible and intangible effects.
(ii) Empirical aspect: it is a pioneering work structured around a rigorous longitudinal, comparative ward level analysis, never done before in none of the studied contexts, based on the process of raw data from a variety of sources and the building of a multi-factor analysis that interprets relationships and patterns of change over two decades, complemented by visual and qualitative analysis; applied to the three case studies of Bankside, Pirri and Flaminio, which are considered as examples to reflect on the contribution of cultural policies to stimulate genuine Regeneration as widely discussed in the current academic debate.
(iii) Theoretical aspect: it critically bridges between theoretical and methodological debates ongoing in the international arena on the subject matter. While the empirical findings contribute to this wide debate, the study also challenges the effectiveness of cultural Regeneration by critically opposing state-led gentrification versus social upward mobility, and records a case of supergentrification, thus contributing to an additional theoretical phenomenon that has recently emerged.