Skip to main content

Two Perspectives: Heritage Conservation and Urban Development

Heritage conservation and urban development planning are two perspectives transforming industrial heritage sites. They differ in their concepts, objectives, and values. The protection and conservation of heritage sites include a focus on the uses of heritage, research and education, as well as establishing an effective management system for the long term. Urban development planning envisions new futures for the city and region in order to adapt to new challenges and to enhance the quality of the urban environment and prosperity for all. 
However, industrial heritage sites are located in cities and are therefore part of urban transformations and urban development planning. Consequently, one major task is to integrate the concerns of conserving a listed UNESCO World Heritage site with those of urban development planning. 

Good Practice for Industrial Heritage Sites

UNESCO pursues policies that respond to climate change — implementing sustainable development, and involving heritage communities as part of managing a heritage site. Good practice for industrial heritage sites means considering all criteria of this broad field in order to achieve exemplary practical implementation. 

Heritage Sites

First of all, the outstanding universal value of the UNESCO heritage site has to be protected. However, heritage sites need the management and planning of all relevant issues, comprising the processes of nomination of the heritage site, awareness-raising, protection, and communities engagement, to change management and monitoring. Protection, conservation, and development of heritage sites corresponds to legislation, planning law, and policies, and takes into consideration the charters, guidelines, and principles of UNESCO and its partner organisations such as ICOMOS and TICCIH. Frameworks, tools, and authorities are relevant.

Management System / Plan

A management system, including the obligatory management plan for UNESCO World Heritage sites, aims to balance the different interests of various stakeholders, and coordinates short-, medium-, and long-term processes. The management of heritage sites is a proactive and inter-disciplinary task. 


Planning is a dynamic concept that comprises variable and versatile practices. The significance of planning and its instruments are changing, due to upcoming economic, ecological, and social challenges. 


Cities face complex changes, such as climate change, migration, or shifts in local and global economies. Urban development planning corresponds to legislation and planning policies, and builds on local strengths with the aim of adapting and enhancing cities and regions towards prosperity and a lively, healthy, and secure environment. Urban development planning develops future visions, often taking into account the city’s historic development and urban heritage. Furthermore, it is a process of interaction, integrating multiple and heterogeneous actors.

Industrial Heritage Sites and Urban Planning

Industrial heritage sites are located in cities, and form part of urban development planning and its practices. The question is how the protection and conservation of industrial heritage sites can be placed, positioned, and implemented within the wider economic, ecological, and social agendas of urban planning.

The project

The two-year project (2017-2018) applies research knowledge to the practice of heritage management at the Zollverein Industrial Complex UNESCO World Heritage site, Germany. This knowledge-transfer project supports the definition and documentation of an exemplary industrial heritage management. The work process includes the definition of good practice criteria for industrial heritage management, and the identification and presentation of good practice examples. The project is run in cooperation with various stakeholders, mainly the Zollverein Foundation (Stiftung Zollverein), the city of Essen, conservation authorities, and international experts.

Team and Funding: DFG

The project was initiated by Prof. Dr. Harald A. Mieg (Department of Geography, HU Berlin) and Dr. Heike Oevermann (Georg Simmel Center for Metropolitan Studies, HU Berlin). Together with Luise Albrecht, Daniela Brose and Lena Plikat, they represent the team working at the Humboldt University. The project is based on research into industrial heritage sites in transformation, and the synchronic discourse analysis (research instrument) conducted by Dr. Oevermann and Prof. Dr. Mieg.
The research and knowledge-transfer project are funded by the German Research Foundation DFG (MI 788/5-1). Zollverein Foundation is a contractual partner in the knowledge-transfer project and provides the main input on the Zollverein case study. Sebastian Scholz (Location Development Department) was the main contact person for research and support in this project.