Urban conservation has been a successful policy and planning practice in Europe and other contexts in the past half a Century, as proven by many national urban conservation legislation, plans and projects that have been proposed and implemented all over the world.
Undoubtedly, the relationship with water has been at the core of the most significant urban conservation and regeneration processes.
Today new challenges have emerged for urban conservation, prompted by the social and economic change processes driven by globalization.
In emerging economies, the very traditional meaning of urban heritage is challenged by new urbanisation models.
As a consequence, urban heritage can no longer be conceived of as a separate reality, a walled precinct protected from the external forces of change by plans and regulations.
The 2011 UNESCO Recommendation on the Historic Urban Landscape opens new avenues to the conservation of urban heritage, by proposing a “landscape approach”, within which elements linked to water and hydraulics play necessarily a fundamental role.
Besides providing an innovative, forward-looking definition of what we should consider part of urban heritage, it also proposes an approach aimed at reconnecting the way in which we address and plan urban conservation and urban development, redevelopment and regeneration.
Urban heritage can, in this context, offer important models for sustainability and social inclusion, and represents a ‘resource’ for the future of the city.
A selected number of case studies of urban regeneration in relationship with water will be used to illustrate this position.