Digital Engagement for Heritage-led Urban Regeneration

Lead Research Organisation: University of Sheffield
Department Name: Archaeology


This project will demonstrate the potential for heritage-led urban regeneration, using digital technologies, which has broad-ranging implications for architectural planning in a wide variety of contexts. The research project brings together academic researchers in Archaeology, Architecture and Computer Science from the University of Sheffield, an organisation from the city's creative industry sector (Human Studio Limited design agency), and a community heritage group (Friends of Sheffield Castle). It is intended to demonstrate the capacity of immersive technologies to harness the power of cultural heritage, community engagement and the transformative potential of the creative industries to inform urban regeneration strategies and drive economic growth. The project will focus on a Sheffield case-study - the Castlegate district - long ear-marked for regeneration, and this will be used to test the potential of immersive technologies to enable regeneration. Digital technologies will be used to generate ideas for development, drawing on the heritage of the site. This is intended to engage the public with their heritage and empower community groups to work with urban planners and local government to demand imaginative regeneration. This will help to ensure its successful integration into urban living, which will increase the likelihood of the economic sustainability of regeneration initiatives. Developments sympathetic to the local heritage help to mitigate against public disengagement from their communities and ensure the economic viability of the development. How to engage the public is a huge challenge. This project will prototype the use of digital technologies to present models of the past, present and future of a site identified for regeneration and show how this can be used to generate pubic interest in the regeneration. A 3D model of Sheffield's medieval castle will be produced, drawing on current research by the Department of Archaeology, along with a version of a 3D model of the Castlegate site as it currently appears. A third element of the model would be fully developed at a later stage, informed by architectural plans for development, but in this prototype will involve the incorporation of architectural designs for the Castlegate site created recently as part of a recent student project led by the University of Sheffield's School of Architecture, and run in collaboration with the Friends of Sheffield Castle.The models will be subject to user testing by the local community to explore its value in informing plans for regeneration. These activities will foster collaborative working between a range of stakeholders interested in the future development and prosperity of the city.

Planned Impact

This research will be of benefit to organisations in the creative industries sector, especially those developing immersive experience technologies. The ways in which organisations/individuals working in that sector can build on collaborations with academic researchers in Archaeology and Architecture will be articulated and demonstrated through the collaborative outputs. The value of the approach will appeal to local authorities/councils, by showing how immersive technologies can be utilised to engage with local communities, not only to value their heritage, but to inform plans for urban regeneration. Such bodies will also be introduced to the ways in which they may use such technologies to encourage architectural plans for urban regeneration that is sympathetic to local heritage. The research will also be of significance to architects engaged in developing plans for urban regeneration and will offer them a medium with which to incorporate the local heritage, specifically that deriving from archaeological evidence, into their designs. The research and the outputs will be of particular interest to heritage groups seeking to encourage such developments and who value their local heritage in the context of making communities. The research and its outputs will also provide a means of engaging with the wider public beyond those who are actively involved in community groups; their interest in local heritage may be high, but they may not have the time or the means to become involved in such more formal group activities. The research will also empower community heritage groups to reach out beyond their typical constituencies to effect wider engagement with local communities.


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