Urban heritage endangerment at the interface of future cities and past heritage: A spatial vulnerability assessment

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Uncontrolled urban growth has been an increasing concern in many regions throughout the world. Generated by a natural tendency of population growth in relation to unsustainable land use, city sprawl has led to complex spatial developments that are creating both benefits to, and challenges for decision makers. A major problem inherent in the uncontrolled growth of cities is the threat to the fragile cultural and ecological heritage, which may escalate to permanent and irreversible damage as a result of factors such as environmental depletion and landscape decay. Using modern geosciences and spatial information technologies as predictive tools to analyse and forecast urban growth, a regional spatial decision system may be useful in order to provide seemly and timely information on the risk of overburdening the carrying capacity regarding the historico-cultural heritage at local and regional levels.The present paper develops a predictive toolkit for urban heritage in relation to urban cultural endangerment. This common problem is shared through many regions of the world and is increasingly jeopardizing fragile archaeological landscape due to urban pressure. In this sense, and to forecast an example of this common pressure, the Algarve is exemplified as a laboratory for testing this novel methodology, relying on a combined analysis of urban growth potential and threats to the abundant presence of archaeological heritage in the area. Our appro ach supports the paradigm of city growth in the context of a common agenda emerging from the Valetta Treaty, in which preserving the archaeological heritage is recognized as a key element for sustainable development. The study provides novel empirical results from the above mentioned modelling approach, with important lessons for the developing world. This paper proposes as such, an integrative spatial analysis methodology on the issue of historico-cultural endangerment, which is a new approach to comparative spatial analysis for decision making on urban heritage endangerment at the regional scale. Later, the discussion extends to a more conceptual level of urban planning by considering the questions: Is urban sprawl influencing the way we perceive cities? If so, are there positive advantages in the paradigm of urban growth and urban sprawl which might help us to protect past heritage while ensuring sustainable and modern cities?

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)287-294
Number of pages8
JournalHabitat International
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2012


  • Geographic information systems
  • Heritage endangerment
  • Spatial decision- making
  • Spatial vulnerability
  • Urban growth


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