Reconnecting the City: Historic Urban Landscape and the role of geology…by Deodato Tapete

In 2011 UNESCO issued the Recommendation on the Historic Urban Landscape (HUL), an approach to the management of heritage resources in dynamic and constantly changing urban environments. The book 'Reconnecting the City' edited by F. Bandarin & R. van Oers offers the opportunity to understand how HUL can be put into practice.  In his book review, Deodato Tapete, Applied Urban Geologist at the British Geological Survey, examines the current challenges and opportunities for HUL in future cities …

With more people moving to live in cities, urban environments are under increasing pressure as new houses and infrastructure are built and the cityscape is transformed. If the transition to the future city does not include measures to integrate harmoniously historic urban heritage with new developments, loss of local distinctiveness and spatial fragmentation are among the risks that historic cities can face.

Effective use of the local bedrock in ancient Pafos to place housing utilities (Photo credit: D. Tapete)
Seeing and interpreting cities as continuum in time and space may help to find viable solutions. In practice, along horizontal directions, design of future cities should prevent isolation and abrupt separation of historic centres from new quarters and modern fabric.

Interactions between the ancient city, local geology and modern
development in Pafos (Photo credit: D. Tapete)
Along the city verticality building construction should account more for the local ground conditions, but also for the wealth of resources which are preserved in the subsurface including the archaeological layers of the city, underground space used in the past and the artificial ground as a result of the human impact on geological materials and local bedrock.

Geology has always played a central role in how cities take shape and interact with the natural environment as they develop. Several examples can be found across the world. The most recent I have visited is Pafos in Cyprus which, in 2017, will be European Capital of Culture.

The Greek and Roman settlements adapted to the local limestone geology and exploited the rock outcrops to set the building foundations, design and place the housing utilities (Figure 1), dug burial chambers and erect the most monumental public spaces such as the theatre and the Odeon.
Since then Pafos has seen phases of redevelopment and urban sprawl. The modern city still interacts with the vestiges of its history. Geological influence on city form and geological local distinctiveness are visible everywhere (Figure 2). But, in HUL perspective, what could it be done more to improve the physical connectivity between these two souls of the city?

This is the type of the questions that the book by Bandarin & van Oers attempts to answer and I believe that geology can help with that!

The full book review is accessible at