Historic Urban Landscape

Pursuing a Historic Urban Landscape:
Approach to Heritage in Edmonton

A guiding document to the HUL approach in general and how it might apply to Edmonton

EVOLVING REPORT: As an area of evolving expertise for each of the partner organizations this report is presented as an evolving, or living, document. It is a work in progress that continues to help guide and capture the development of research in this area. Correspondingly, the reader would be cautioned against reading this document as either an analysis of current heritage planning in Edmonton, or as a roadmap to a new approach. It is rather aimed at supporting further learning, research development and engagement on themes including heritage, culture, city-building, urban sustainability and urban inclusion. Criticism, comments and further content suggestions are thus much appreciated, as is patience with our unpolished and emergent writing. Contact details for the research team are provided at the conclusion of this document.

This project explores approaches to innovating urban heritage planning. Specifically, it provides an introduction and overview of emerging Historic Urban Landscape (HUL) perspectives, and explores their potential application to advancing heritage planning in Edmonton, Alberta Canada. The HUL approach addresses heritage as made up of the complex layering of the histories of people, cultures, places and physical artefacts (O’Donnell and Turner, 2012; UNESCO, 2011). This is often contrasted against the more dominant concerns of preservation, conservation and commemoration associated with traditional planning practices, and the designation and protection of heritage buildings in particular. HUL is furthermore advanced as a response to global urbanization and the challenge of making heritage planning relevant in an era of widespread urban change, and where challenges of sustainable and prosperous city-building have risen as central concerns for planning today. Edmonton, experiencing a renewed wave of urbanization and interest in city-building, faces many of the challenges of finding a place for heritage planning within a rapidly changing city. Success, this report advances, will involve doing so in ways which acknowledge and make meaningful the complex heritage and the diversity of cultures, narratives and histories which make up the city.

This guiding document is the outcome of a graduate student internship between the University of Alberta’s City-Region Studies Centre, Edmonton Heritage Council and MITACS. It is based on a research project involving:

  1. A brief literature review of the history of HUL and its core themes and concepts.
  2. A selected overview of current heritage planning in Edmonton and a consideration of how HUL can identify areas of potential planning innovation.
  3. A scan of current areas of the city which could be conducive to supporting the incorporation of HUL concepts and practices.

The outcomes of this project suggest both opportunities and challenges for innovating heritage planning in Edmonton, and areas of potentially fruitful future research.