Contextualising the periphery. New conceptions of urban heritage in Romeby Håkan Hökerberg

International Journal of Heritage Studies


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Contextualising the periphery. New conceptions of urban heritage in Rome

Håkan Hökerberg a a The Swedish Institute in Rome , Via Omero 14, 00197, Rome ,


Published online: 24 Feb 2012.

To cite this article: Håkan Hökerberg (2013) Contextualising the periphery. New conceptions of urban heritage in Rome, International Journal of Heritage Studies, 19:3, 243-258, DOI: 10.1080/13527258.2011.651739

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Contextualising the periphery. New conceptions of urban heritage in Rome

Håkan Hökerberg*

The Swedish Institute in Rome, Via Omero 14, 00197, Rome, Italy (Received 30 March 2011; final version received 13 December 2011)

The protection of cultural heritage and restrictions for interventions and renewal projects in the historic city centre of Rome have led to a ruthless exploitation of the peripheries of the city without much consideration of their heritage values and physical environment. The 2003 Urban Development Plan of Rome presents different strategies to enhance the urban qualities in the peripheries. A polycentric urban development will arguably bring a vitalisation to the outskirts of the city. The contextual concept ‘history in progress’ is introduced; it has a new methodological aim, an amalgamation of the earlier dialectic strategies conservation–transformation and history-project. Such an amalgamation integrates historical values with processes of transformation and rehabilitation; the dialectic perspective has often blocked this aspect in transformation activities. Heritage can now be regarded as an asset and not as an obstacle in urban development.

A considerable number of ancient remains have been destroyed because of the rapid urbanisation of Rome after the Second World War. Some of the Roman peripheries have qualities that could merit a nomination as modern urban heritage. However, an accelerating decay makes it difficult to distinguish such values.

Keywords: urban peripheries; Rome; urban development plan; heritage; history in progress

There is currently a growing interest in modern urban peripheries, which includes their existing and potential heritage. Such qualities have often been ignored in urban planning because of a hierarchic perspective where the periphery is subordinated to the city centre, symbolically and functionally. This perspective has lost its relevance today as the centres represent a continuously decreasing area of the urban landscape, and as the majority of inhabitants live in the outskirts of the cities. The hierarchic view depreciates the peripheries; it focuses on historic heritage of a kind which is usually found in city centres but do not exist in modern peripheries.

An interesting attempt to rehabilitate urban qualities and to emphasise heritage values in the Roman peripheries is now being made. This article will illustrate some innovative concepts and strategies that are introduced in the Urban Development

Plan of Rome (Piano Regolatore Generale di Roma), approved in 2003, for a new and more complex conception of modern peripheries and of urban heritage. These strategies will be discussed in relation to three case studies: Parco Acquedotto *Email:

International Journal of Heritage Studies, 2013

Vol. 19, No. 3, 243–258,  2013 Taylor & Francis

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Alessandrino, Settecamini and Tor Bella Monaca. The urban development of Rome is influenced by some particular circumstances that have made planning complicated. These particular conditions will be described, as they are essential for understanding both contemporary Rome and the aims of the 2003 Plan. Two examples from the Roman peripheries will show two different approaches to an integration of heritage in the urban context. The first case (Parco Acquedotto Alessandrino) demonstrates how ancient Rome can relate to, and interact with the surrounding modern neighbourhood, in accordance with the ambitions of the new plan. The second case study (Settecamini) discussed here illustrates a traditional and still dominant Italian policy, which is reluctant in promoting integration. Contemporary heritage discourse and practice no longer excludes modern architecture as urban heritage. The 2003