Obsolete Romanticism and the Postmodern Transformation of Urban Cultures and Traditions in Mediterranean Medinas

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Anton Escher and Marie Karner Johannes Gutenberg University, Mainz

Cities are subject to constant transformation, because every society forms its own urbanity according to its value system, approach to life and principles of social organisation. Based on the conviction that the spatial identity of a community is manifested in its urban cultures and traditions, several normative guidelines and preservation principles have evolved to conserve the urban heritage and character of historic towns. Nevertheless, more recent urban transformations in North African and Middle Eastern old cities (medinas) often clash with romanticised preservation ideals and follow a strong desire for consumption, hedonistic pleasure, and an orientalised atmosphere. Since attempts to protect the urban fabric, restore buildings true to their original form and preserve former functions tend to neglect contemporary societal needs and contradict a future-oriented development of cities, they have to be reconsidered with respect to ecological, economic and social sustainability. The chapter argues that historic urban quarters should be reinvented by using advanced materials and by managing processes of gentrification, festivalisation, commodification, Disneyfication and digitalisation as new dimensions of participatory and integrated urban planning.