More Resilient Historic Areas: ARCH Draws to A Close

2 August 2022

More Resilient Historic Areas: ARCH Draws to A Close

Image by "Katherine Peinhardt"

What is the state of play for the resilience of historic areas?

This July marked the ARCH Final Event: More Resilient Historic Areas, the culmination of the ARCH project which has run for just over three years, starting in June of 2019. The event, which took place in the ARCH Foundation City of Hamburg, brought together more than 50 officials and stakeholders from cities from across Europe, including representatives from local government, universities, federal ministries, research organizations, city networks, as well as experts in heritage preservation.

The event raised the theme of resilience and cultural heritage, posing the question that has guided the ARCH project throughout its lifetime: What are the best and latest approaches to boosting the resilience of historic areas? 

To start the conversation, Dr. Carsten Brosda, Minister of Culture and Media for Hamburg opened the event with a remark upon the value of the ARCH project in the host city, noting that “the results from the ARCH project have helped us with digital analysis … and promoted interdisciplinary exchange, including within our city.” The event highlighted the frameworks and tools developed under the ARCH project, which range from updated disaster risk management frameworks to decision support systems and resilience assessment tools. Speakers also outlined the journey of the pilot cities involved in the project, called Foundation Cities – showing their contributions to the creation of ARCH tools, and how they have already been put to use in building resilience at the city scale. Lastly, the event provided the opportunity to touch base with other related projects, exchanging experiences and high-level takeaways among resilience- and cultural heritage-related projects. 

A Speedy Introduction to ARCH Tools

One of the central gaps that the ARCH project has addressed is the fact that existing paradigms for resilience, disaster risk management, and adaptation to climate change often leave cultural heritage and historic areas out of the picture. A quickfire pitch session for the various ARCH tools showed just how much progress has been made to bridge this gap: Partners on the ARCH project presented each of these, outlining the process of co-creating the tools and how each has been applied in one of the ARCH Foundation Cities.

To start, the ARCH HUB was introduced as the first place to look to find ARCH resilience-building strategies: The HUB is a one-stop-shop for guidance, tools, and other resources to build up the resilience of historic areas. The HUB’s resources page provides not only direct links to all ARCH tools, but a selection of resources that informed ARCH approaches and complement its results.

Next up were the Historic Areas Information System as well as theThreats and Hazards Information System (known as the ARCH HArIS and THIS), which are interconnected web-based geo-information systems that provide information on the conditions of historic areas and heritage assets as well as environmental and hazard information. To show how these systems are useful as cities protect their historic areas, partners from Hamburg described how the tools provided “very important technical data” to plan out preservation measures. More specifically, the tools have been used in tracking the movement of canal walls, which are at risk of collapse, and warehouse buildings. 

Meanwhile, another tool called the ARCH Decision Support System (or ARCH DSS) uses the information provided by HArIS and THIS for vulnerability and risk assessments under different scenarios (historic and artificial). To show the tool in action, partner Quintilio Piattoni from the ARCH Foundation City of Camerino detailed how the city has used it as part of an ongoing post-earthquake reconstruction process: “We used the impact scenarios to define priorities for collecting and saving artwork during an emergency.”

Once cities have this data and can chart out different scenarios, they often need support in finding next steps. To that end, ARCH partners showed the ARCH Resilience Measures Inventory (RMI), which is a collection of more than 250 measures to build local heritage resilience, both for urban built heritage and agricultural heritage. In Valencia, partners like Emilio Servera have noted that this tool has already proved vital, with local partners noting that: “with the RMI you don’t need to sort through long papers or reports for adaptation measures. You can easily see the measures and filter them based on the relevant hazards, for example fire and heatwaves.” Meanwhile, an additional tool, the Resilience Pathway Visualization Tool (RPVT), builds on the RMI to create graphical displays of resilience pathways. In Valencia, partners have used it to “plan a sequence of measures and easily create a visualization that I can use for adaptation plans and projects.” 

The ARCH Resilience Assessment Dashboard (RAD), meanwhile, helps cities to assess the resilience maturity of their historic areas, and monitor it over time. It is a self-assessment tool that can be taken in “quick” or “detailed” versions, depending on the amount of time and information available to users. The RAD has already been useful in cities like Bratislava, as they work on their Bratislava 2030 strategic document, which focuses on local development and climate change actions. Anna Gondova, a project partner from Bratislava noted that; “the RAD can be used for decision making processes… The RAD tackles many topics. So as a heritage expert, I like that I can focus on my area of expertise.

ARCH has also delved into Standardisation, composing a CEN Workshop Agreement (or “CWA”) on City Resilience Development – CWA 17727 on a Disaster Risk Management / Climate Change Adaptation Framework for historic areas. The CWA builds on the ARCH Disaster Risk Management Framework to define a more comprehensive vision of resilience; one that combines disaster risk management (DRM) and climate change adaptation (CCA) activities for historic areas in communities.

City Journeys and Checking In With Other Projects

After reviewing the results of the ARCH project, participants joined interactive breakout sessions to discuss the real-world impacts of ARCH in its pilot cities: Hamburg, Valencia, Bratislava, and Camerino. Participants discussed shared challenges and the local role of ARCH approaches and tools while grouped into three clusters: Rural Cultural Landscapes, Small-Town Historic Centers, and Urban and Industrial Heritage.  

Lastly, the event also provided an opportunity to check in with other resilience-related projects, including ARCH’s sister project SHELTER, as well as STRENCH, RESILOC, RESCult, KERES, and partnerships like the Urban Agenda Partnership on Culture and Cultural Heritage. Partners from each of these projects took part in a roundtable discussion to bring attendees up to speed about how the work of ARCH falls into the wider landscape of resilience-building efforts and cultural heritage protection. 

Altogether, ARCH has marked a significant step forward in ensuring that historic areas are part of the picture when we talk about the impacts of climate change and natural hazards. Thanks to ARCH, the still-evolving fields of climate change adaptation and disaster risk management increasingly recognize the role that historic areas must play for cities that are truly resilient.


See event photos here.