The COST Action 18110 Underground4Value started on April 9th, 2019 and will end October 8th, 2023. Initially the action brought together experts from 23 countries, and now accounts for more than 200 members coming from 32 countries. The main Underground4value challenge is promoting Underground Built Heritage (UBH) as a valuable resource to celebrate and preserve and when sustainable, to re-use and valorise, realising its full potential to support local communities’ development. To achieve this overall challenge, Underground4Value’s main objectives are:
- Providing a balanced and sustainable methodology for supporting the conservation and re-use of the UBH
- Realising the potential of UBH for empowering local communities
- Managing and treasuring the wide-ranging participants’ competencies to identify key areas of scientific, technical, commercial, managerial, political, cultural, and social nature, which are currently deemed problematic for a sustainable use of the UBH.
- Setting up and coordinating small teams of participants to perform yearly four case-study assessments
- Interacting with local communities, disseminating innovative thinking, and supporting them to explore alternative social trajectories, such as establishing Living Labs, and experimenting transition management tools.
- Improving network openness by delivering presentations at regional and local conferences
- Developing new skills for planners, decision-makers, promoters, and local development facilitators
Underground4Value makes a relevant step forward with respect to the current state-of-the-art and provide a significant knowledge base for a sustainable use of the UBH by:
- Exploring new planning approaches, such as the Strategic Transition Practice (STP), and their use in the built heritage conservation and re-use, through the WG activities, the case-studies STSMs, and the training courses
- Creating a multi-disciplinary network on the sustainable use of the UBH
- Disseminating results of the methodological and knowledge advancement at international, regional, and local level
- Developing new training modules for planners, local community facilitators, promoters, and decision-makers
Underground4Value provides adequate cultural, scientific, and technical knowledge of the UBH with reference to different aspects (i.e., archaeology, geotechnics, history, urban planning, architecture, cultural anthropology, economics, tourism, sustainable development), as well as introduces new technologies and innovative approaches in a multi-disciplinary context. Knowledge is shared and developed in three thematic working groups:
- Underground Built Heritage conservation and monitoring (WG2)
- Underground Built Heritage reuse and valorisation strategies (WG3)
- Underground Built Heritage planning approaches (WG4)
To better share and disseminate this knowledge, the Action established other two methodological and organizational working groups:
- Knowledge Base Development (WG1)
- Dissemination and exploitation strategies (WG5).
Underground4Value represents a fundamental milestone for integrating underground space, cultural heritage studies and community-based planning.
Every year small teams of participants must perform four case-study assessments and help activating a living lab on a topic decided by the local stakeholders. Using the Short-Term Scientific Missions (STSMs) tool, one or more researchers, preferably selected among the training school participants, assess the case study and then, together with the local hosting institution, defines the needs of local stakeholders, maps/interviews stakeholders, contributes to developing a living lab on a specific UBH-based topic, and finally prepares a storytelling of her/his experience. The entire experience is finally analysed and discussed in the subsequent training school, with the research questions emerged in the living labs analysed by the trainees.
Thanks to the four yearly case-studies, the knowledge transmission and exchange reveals practices, imaginaries and local cultures associated with the UBH, renews their interpretation, and stimulates knowledge and the perspective vision of local communities. UBH landscape becomes a place of equilibrium for nature, identity, and attractiveness, by re-associating multiple uses and giving capacity for development at all levels (regional, local) and all temporalities (short, medium, and long term) while generating positive and self-sustaining “natural” interdependencies.
For implementing the UBH knowledge base, Underground4Value advances, on the one side, in the classification of UBH, by linking the typologies to their functions, and promotes archaeological and historical research for each case study. On the other side, it examines technological developments of UBH non-invasive diagnosis, innovative ICT tools systems for sensing and data collection, multiscale approaches, from landscape to archaeological sites or monuments, up to the single artefact, for detailed high-resolution visualization, and reconstruction of the more interesting items of the heritage.
The most innovative component is the new annual organization of the activities, which are less in number and less of pure and open networking nature, and increasingly like a structured project:
ONE YEAR SCHEME
Since the first meetings, the network has developed a shared definition of living lab, that is, innovative actions experimented and implemented in real communities (a neighbourhood, a city, a region), but sheltered by adequate scientific and technical knowledge, technological capabilities, and financial resources.
That approach paved the way to significant interactions with local communities, dissemination of innovative thinking and valid support to stakeholders to explore alter-native social trajectories in an adaptive, forward-looking manner, as promised. Results were discussed and analysed during workshops and, specifically, at the training school, where trainers and trainees work together on specific research topics, which became subject of a yearly publication, the Handbook.
The first-year case studies were Naples (IT), Postojna (SI), La Union in Murcia (ES), and Göreme (TR). In each site, the local supporting institution defined the study topic, such as a shared problem relevant for the community to solve with real stakeholders, also in view of potential conflicting interests.
Once the topic was defined, the local institution performed the study and analysis of the selected UBH site and mapped the stakeholders. Once this was accomplished, the living lab was initiated and meetings and activities were organized with the stakeholders’ engagement. In almost all case studies, a two-week long STSM was performed at that stage. The results of the living labs were unexpected, with an enthusiastic participation of local communities. That opened the way to a second group of case studies for the second and third grant period, with spontaneous candidatures also coming fro m institutions not previously involved in the network.
The interest demonstrated by local communities for this approach sparked the transformation of this network of experts into a structured and stable voluntary association for sharing research experience, best practices, and ideas on UBH.
To better promote and share information the Action is developing three main tools: A digital platform on UBH sites, a Toolbox for local communities, and a Learning Platform. In addition, expert groups have started to work on a specific wiki community about UBH and a database supporting the creation of a repository for new research, open and accessible to all parties interested in UBH.
All these tools would provide knowledge on main technical and organizational barriers to the UBH conservation and reuse. The resulting knowledge will be the basis for:
- Establishing new channels of communication among different disciplines, among academia, decision-makers, and private stakeholders to share knowledge and best practices
- Reducing the current strong disciplinary specialisation and sectionalism as well as the lack of communication between researchers and decision-makers
- Introducing technological innovation, by promoting 3D computer modelling of UBH, as a primary thrust for underground heritage research and development (e.g., ‘seeing through the ground’), as well as detailed high-resolution reconstructions with the integration of different sensing techniques.
- Increasing public awareness of the concrete opportunities of integrating culture and identity into the regional and local decision-making processes for preserving the UBH.
- Assisting local communities’ decision-making with cultural, scientific, and technical support fro m many aspects (i.e., archaeology, geo-technics, history, urban planning, cultural anthropology, economics, architecture, cultural tourism).