Session at the European Association for Urban History Conference: Cities in Motion 2020

The session welcomes contributions that address the topic of railway heritage in relation to the challenges of urban development and transport improvement. Through historic and current examples, the aim is to build a debate on a crucial issue for the fate of rail infrastructures in large cities, where transport needs and technical constraints often put protection issues in the background.Session content: Railway heritage as a field of study has only relatively recently become fully integrated into European heritage policies, with significant differences between countries. From the pioneering British experiences that have protected numerous railway lines since the 1950s to the Italian law of 2017 defining eighteen tourist railways, there is a growing interest in this type of heritage, often promoted by volunteer associations which have always played a leading role in this field. Nevertheless, because of the specific nature of this type of heritage, where cultural values and transport needs are often closely linked, protection clearly takes second place to the technical constraints involved in adapting the structures that make up this complex heritage. Stations, warehouses, signal boxes, bridges, viaducts and signaling systems are all elements of a "system" that appears solid, but can prove very fragile when faced with the urgent need to modernize a line. This is particularly clear in the case of large cities, where urban development policies and projects, for entirely legitimate reasons, can threaten the heritage aspects of railway infrastructures. Think of the large stations where the extensive overhauls dictated by transport and commercial needs have led to compromise of their identity and in some cases, their disappearance. Even recent approaches to sustainable mobility and "Transit Oriented Development" (TOD), only very rarely take into account the cultural and heritage aspects of the railway sites involved.

The session welcomes contributions that highlight the complexity of these processes, whether historically or through current examples. The aim is to build as broad a debate as possible on a crucial issue for the fate of rail infrastructure in large cities, shedding light on their heritage dimension in relation to the many types of challenges that involve them.

  • Spokesperson: Andrea Pane, University of Naples Federico II
  • Co-organizer(s): Karen Bowie, Ecole Nationale Supérieure d'Architecture de Paris-La Villette
  • Keywords: Railway heritage | Urbanism | Transport
  • Time period: Contemporary period
  • Topic(s): Architecture and urbanism | Heritage
  • Study area: Europe