Scholarly article on topic 'Affordances of Historic Urban Landscapes: an Ecological Understanding of Human Interaction with the Past'

Affordances of Historic Urban Landscapes: an Ecological Understanding of Human Interaction with the Past Academic research paper on "Social and economic geography"

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European Spatial Research and Policy
OECD Field of science

Academic research paper on topic "Affordances of Historic Urban Landscapes: an Ecological Understanding of Human Interaction with the Past"



Volume 21

Number 2


invited articles

Susana ALVES*

affordances of historic urban landscapes: an ecological understanding of human interaction with the past

Abstract. Heritage has been defined differently in European contexts. Despite differences, a common challenge for historic urban landscape management is the integration of tangible and intangible heritage. Integration demands an active view of perception and human-landscape interaction where intangible values are linked to specific places and meanings are attached to particular cultural practices and socio-spatial organisation. Tangible and intangible values can be examined as part of a system of affordances (potentialities) a place, artefact or cultural practice has to offer. This paper discusses how an 'affordance analysis' may serve as a useful tool for the management of historic urban landscapes.

Key words: affordances, historic urban landscapes, place, culture, tangible and intangible heritage.

1. introduction

This paper addresses humans' interaction with historic urban landscapes (HUL) to explore how tangible and intangible dimensions can be integrated in the management and policy practices. Heritage has been defined differently in European and international contexts (Ahmad, 2006). Despite differences, a common tension in heritage definition is the consideration of tangible and intangible dimensions (Vecco, 2010; Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, 2004). Intangible cultural heritage, ignored for a long time, has now been acknowledged by UNESCO (adoption in October 2003) as heritage to be protected and safeguarded. Heritage is no longer defined

* Susana ALVES, Okan Üniversitesi, Faculty of Engineering and Architecture, Department of Architecture, Tuzla Kampüsü, 34959 Istanbul, Turkey, e-mail:

solely on the basis of its material goods transforming it in a more inclusive concept which considers a cyclic vision of history and the value attributed to oral and immaterial culture of many non-Western societies.

Parallel to an inclusive approach to heritage, the UNESCO selection of cultural heritage has advanced to account not only for historic and artistic tangibles but to include 'landscapes' and local practices. This advancement in heritage definition and management, however, seems still quite fragmented and in need of a conceptual framework and tools to integrate tangible-intangible dimensions and specify the role of different stakeholders in the management of cultural goods.

The first section of this paper introduces an ecological view of human perception. It states that heritage perception is an ecological process part of a person-environment system where humans perceive their everyday environment 'as a place of functionally meaningful objects and events' (Heft, 2003, 2013). My argument proceeds by describing the concept of 'affordances' or possibilities for action in the environment and in humans interplay with tangibles and intangibles (Gibson, 1979). The next step is to explain how tangible and intangible dimensions are entangled in human experience, especially through memory, images, and symbols and to point to a relational analysis of HUL (Heft and Kytta, 2006). The final argument is to show how an 'affordance analysis' can be a tool to support the management of HUL by uncovering its multiple potentialities.


An ecological view of human perception has been developed in the field of ecological psychology to show that humans perceive their surrounding environment in a dynamic and direct way (Heft, 2012, 2013; Gibson, 1979; Barker, 1968). An ecological approach is a systemic way of thinking that rejects the stimulus-response claim of human perception and holds the mutuality of human-environment relations. We perceive the world: 'with the eyes-in-the-head-on-the-body-resting-on-the-ground' (Gibson, 1979, p. 205). Humans perceive even what they cannot immediately see (the environment behind their head) as they perceive what surrounds or encloses them: their behavioural space which is composed of material and immaterial attributes.

For Gibson (1979, p. 8), the individual is at the same time 'a perceiver of the environment and a behaver in the environment'. Gibson coined a new word - affordances - to express the emergent properties, possibilities for action, and meaning which is derived in person-environment relationships. Affordances make the point that perception is 'not the achievement of a mind in a body, but of the organism as a whole in its environment' (Ingold, 2000, p. 3).

Some of the main tenants of an ecological view have been summarized by Heft (2013) and can be applied to the study of heritage: (a) Humans perceive their environments in a direct way. This is to say that humans perceive heritage affordances neither as a physical property nor as a human characteristic - but as a action possibility which emerges from the fusion of these two components; (b) Human-landscape interaction is embedded in nested systems over different time frames. Each species is related to a particular eco-niche which has a set of features that complement the behaviour of that specie. The unit of analysis is thus person-in-the-environment; (c) Because there is a nesting in micro-macro level processes, time can never been taken as static and linear. Past and present events are part of a continuum with particular events occurring at different time frames: phylo-genetic (species history), cultural-historical (socio-cultural context), ontogenetic (life history of the individual), and micro-genetic (time course of the action being performed) (Vygotsky, 1978). What is remembered and considered heritage needs to be approached within diverse historical time-frames; (d) Change requires both a biological structure and a certain condition to actionate it. By examining relational functional properties within a time-frame for a particular cultural group, we can discover environmental attributes and how they sustain change (evolutionary change or micro-based changes); (e) Human evolution was linked to the capability to discover new affordances and produce artefacts that supported the well-being and survival of the group. By selecting those features that supported behaviour, humans have revealed hidden possibilities which have led to the invention of new artefacts, and new socio-cultural practices in the landscape; (f) Human perception is not static but organized into ecological units. Ecological units are made up of 'invariants', the substances, medium, and the surfaces in which humans and non-humans evolved available in the ambient array and 'variants' (humans, their activities, and the objects they create) (Glotzbach and Heft, 1982). The interplay of variant/invariants with the diverse activities and the tempos they provide can give rise to different 'behaviour settings' and places with a specific ambiances, roles, and meanings (Sloterdijk, 2011; Thibaud, 2011; Rapoport, 1990; Barker, 1968).

How can this direct, non-mediated, and ecological way of perceiving be applied to the study of HUL?


The UNESCO World Heritage Convention for the Safeguarding of the Tangible and Intangible Cultural Heritage defines tangible heritage to include 'buildings and historic places, monuments, artefacts; and objects which bear signifi-

cance to the archaeology, architecture, science or technology of a specific culture' (UNESCO, 2014c) and intangible heritage as referring to 'traditions or living expressions inherited from our ancestors and passed on to our descendants, such as oral traditions, performing arts, social practices, rituals, festive events, knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe or the knowledge and skills to produce traditional crafts' (UNESCO, 2014b). This international classification of heritage has led to a dualistic view separating 'tangible heritage' as material artefacts and structures and the 'intangible heritage' linked to abstract concepts including that of cultural values, meanings, memories and feelings (Swensen et al., 2013; Smith, 2006). The tangible-intangible divide adheres to a dualistic mode of perception: it is as if cultural values and meanings could be separated from a physical locale, material culture and a community's mode de vie.

The affordance concept due to its intermediate realm between matter and mind frees us from such dualism (Gibson, 1979) and solves an old impasse: neither physical nor mental but both. Either as the spatial organisation of micro-sphere settings or macro-sphere settings, the activation of affordances demands the addressing of inter-laced time-space structures (Heft, 2012). Affordances make the point that heritage is rooted both in universal (relatedness that comes from being human), socio-cultural contexts, and individually-based values and rights (UNESCO, 2003).

3.1. Tangible Heritages and Their Affordances

Since 2005, the notion of HUL has gained prominence (Gábor, 2011) in the study of heritage. There have been various definitions of heritage (Ahmad, 2006) with the recent expansion of the concept to include tangible and intangible values and environments, however, there are important differences among countries to what constitutes heritage, what is an environment and its tangible and intangible aspects. From an ecological point of view, environments can be defined as systems of settings composed of systems of activities (Rapoport, 1982). The environment as such is considered a medium which contains substances, surfaces and their layout, enclosure, objects, places, events, and other organisms and human beings (Gibson, 1979; Glotzbach and Heft, 1982). Being part of every organism's lives, the environment is directly linked to that which takes place every day in the life of an organism.

These everyday happenings are structured as intra- and inter-individual realtime behaviour patterns (Barker, 1968; De Certeau, 1984). They are natural happenings which are social by nature, but also tangible as they necessitate a physical locale to take place. The physical locale and what it contains can be evaluated in terms of their affordances: what kinds of activities and interactions it invites and what types of meanings it sustains. Environment therefore is a broad term that can be operationalized in terms of ecological units called behaviour settings. What an

environment affords and what it means to people will depend on the action taking place together with the objects which make the action possible (Barker, 1968; Schoggen, 1989).

To clarify this point, let us consider an example from archaeology, a discipline that deals directly with material culture. Hodder (2012) has pointed out that things and objects are connected to other objects and to people and the entire network where they are situated. Tangibles are always entangled with intangibles in a dynamic way. Hodder has applied the notion of affordances to make contextualized claims about artefacts and how ancient dwellings and settlements were used in Catalhóyük, a 9000-year old archaeological site in central Turkey inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2012 as the 'most significant human settlement documenting early settled agricultural life of a Neolithic community' (UNESCO, 2014a). An affordance analysis of the house clusters of ^atalhóyük enquire about the actions they invited. If we consider how first of all, clay, the material from which mud brick and plaster residences were constructed, we may reveal the different aspects of behaviour settings which are at play in this first urban centre. Clay, a material surrounding £atalhóyük, had multiple interlinked uses and functions (Hodder, 2012). Clay was extensively used and afforded diverse entanglements: clay with houses; clay with skulls; and clay with burials, thus making clay a central element in everyday practices and creation of meaning. The houses in Catalhóyük were made of sun-baked bricks and placed close to each other without leaving space for streets. Because of that people could walk on the flat roofs and enter the houses from a hole placed in the roof. Walking on roofs was just one af-fordance provided by this spatial arrangement. It follows that skulls were used to support the posts and walls of the houses thus creating a close link between the dead and the living and between the past and the present. According to Hodder (2012, p. 132), 'the role of the ancestor skulls was to help support the posts and walls of the houses'. The houses, called history houses, had many burials with the dead buried beneath the floors, and the bodies divided and passed around. This procedure not only kept people in contact with their dead but generated a type of society that valued the social and the collective. Mud, which was available in the surrounding landscape, afforded re-plastering of the walls, an activity which not only brought people to cooperate but also gave form to a behaviour setting - a season or time for the plastering of the walls. The fact that the walls were plastered also allowed people to paint the walls, a very important activity which invited collective action. It has been found that in some cases, 120 layers of plaster were found on a single wall, thus leading Hodder to conclude that use of mud for re-plastering the walls was an important activity which shaped life but also had a symbolic value for humans at ^atalhóyük.

Plastering and re-plastering were important activities at ^atalhóyük and can be interpreted as a 'play' - a serious kind of play which gave coherence to other

spheres of life (Huizinga, 1955). Re-plastering may be called 'imaginative actualisations' directed to the plastering of human and animal heads to afford continuity beyond individual lives. The nature of being was transformed to integrate present and past and bind the living and the dead. For this continuity to survive, a repetition was necessary - a re-enactment of sequences of behaviour which could only be performed by linking that which was tangible (e.g., clay, houses, skulls, house posts) with that which was not tangible (e.g., connection with the dead and sense of collectivity). What lay in between, the action: smearing plaster, cutting and disassembling heads, installing walls, re-plastering the walls etc. was afforded (meaning a possibility was created) by the association and entanglement of tangible and non-tangible things.

Many types of entanglements in heritage literature can be cited but the point here is to show that they are open systems that constantly generate new phenomena. In £atalhóyük: 'a particular type of body and person was generated - one that could be refleshed to live again and one that could be divided up and passed between people' (Hodder, 2012, p. 135). A new form of agency emerged from the entanglement between things-humans related to new materialities - one that changed notions of self and personhood. It is clear that humans' link to clay and hearth in £atalhóyük shaped a particular type of settlement and at the same time, created a need for transcendent meaning. The burial practices to divide and pass the dead around, the work invested to hold the houses in place point to the investment given to build continuation and memory. Heritage, therefore, is not a modern concept as humans' relationship with the past and how they actively managed aspects of that past is a very ancient pursuit (Harvey, 2001).

Returning to the issue of what tangible heritage affords, we can argue that the value of tangibles needs the examination of the history of the thing itself in a longer time lapse and in a rich historical contextualisation. As shown in the example of £at-alhóyük, things have a social life and their materiality lie both in their physical attributes and their latent potentialities (Appadurai, 1986; Latour, 2004). Affordances of tangible heritage exist within behaviour settings therefore the processes of valuation which characterise UNESCO evaluations need to be analyzed in relation to the ongoing dynamics of action in which the 'tangible good' takes place.

3.2. Intangible heritages and their Affordances

According to UNESCO, intangible heritage involves: (1) past heritage but also contemporary rural and urban practices of diverse cultural groups; (2) inclusive-ness where heritage can be related to different communities and to the society at large; and (3) dependence on the community and its traditional knowledge, skills, and customs. One striking point in this intangible cultural heritage specification is 'vagueness' to how intangibles relate to both people and physical things. Af-

fordances as 'meaningful qualities of immediate experience embedded in the dynamic flow of perceiver-environment processes' (Heft, 2003, p. 177) can be easily related to tangible cultural heritage and immediate experience. However, how can we apply affordances in relation to non-tangible heritage?

Work by James Gibson and other scholars in ecological psychology have dealt primarily with physical attributes (Moore and Cosco, 2007; Clark and Uzzell, 2005; Heft, 2003; Kytta, 2002). Little has been written about the role of affordances to understand non-tangible heritage (e.g., Heft, 2014). A relevant question at this point becomes: are intangibles directly perceived? How can we deal with issues of collective memory, time, and symbolic activity in an ecological way? How can we affirm that the 'creation of images' in indigenous societies - including knowledge which comes in form of dreams or liminal states (e.g., shamans in South America) - are practices where these 'images' are directly perceived?

To propose an ecological understanding of non-tangible heritage, it is necessary to show that first, perceptual information is gathered by an active perceiver (humans) and second, that there is an 'invariant structure' which defines what could be perceived by an active organism. These invariant structures are present in light, in substances and in the textures of earth - our common and immediate environment (Gibson, 1979). These underlying structures Gibson (1979) called invariants while Jung (1959) named them archetypes to refer to the inherited arrangements and patterns that link the human psyche to nature and the legacy of ancestral life and archetypal images. For Gibson, these invariants are rich in affordances which can be picked up while for Jung, archetypes are also invariants materialized in archetypal images or motifs.

I approach Carl Jung's (1963/1983, 1964/1978) work with the pragmatic question of understanding how non-tangible heritage and its meanings (affordances) are ecologically perceived. As the affordance concept, archetype motifs are neither subjective nor objective but found in-between these two realms. As affor-dances, archetypes are unfilled patterns that acquire significance when actualized in immediate action when they are filled with meaning.

For example, the use of stone and the invention of core/flake technology by Oldowan hominids two-million years ago represented a significant evolutionary leap for humankind. The prima-materia of stone (i.e., archetype) was the medium through which a given combination of core(s) and flake(s) could generate an endless repertoire of activities. Core-flake afforded utilitarian (e.g., chopping, scraping, and cutting) and non-utilitarian possibilities as in Oldowan sites at Olduvai Gorge, artefacts with no utilisation wear and baboon-headed anvils have been found suggesting that these tools may have been produced for their own sake, aesthetic value, and symbolic meaning (Harrod, 2013). This illustration shows that the archetypal motif of core/flake is not a mental image imposed upon a substance but the name of an action (Harrod, 1992).

Given this need to be related to an action, affordances and archetypal motifs cannot be arbitrarily or universally interpreted - they must be empirically examined in relation to a life-situation. Jung (1959, p. 48) explains: 'there are many archetypes as there are typical situations in life. Endless repetition has engraved these experiences into our psychic constitution, not in the form of images filled with content, but at first only as forms without content, representing merely the possibility of a certain type of perception and action'. The point made by Jung (1959) that archetypes are similar to patterns of behaviour - is what makes archetypal motifs significant for our present discussion as archetypal motifs appear in images, symbols and myths, and non-verbal communication (Eliade, 1963); in sum in what is considered intangible heritage.

However, there remains the problem of intangible heritage being manifested in images as if of a private and subjective nature stored in the mind. And this supposition does not fit with an ecological approach to perception. For instance, rituals are filled with archetypal images and motifs; are they indirectly perceived? Let us take the example of the indigenous culture of Colombia's Yurupari jaguar shamans which has been added to the Intangible Cultural Heritage List by UNESCO in 2011. The Yurupari shamans see themselves as guardians of nature with the task of taking care of life in their land - the surrounding Pira Parana River and Amazon region in South America. The native interpretation is that they are transformers which turn into jaguars to acquire certain faculties that these animals have, such as aggressiveness, agility, and night vision. When they refer and 'talk to' these animals they are referring to an archetypal image and a metaphor but not exactly to the jaguars we may find in a zoo. The jaguar transformation is part of a ritual which aims for the protection of the community. These rituals are liminal states which afford a transformation and are used to overcome a crisis: 'it acts out a transition and induces a transition in the participants' (Reichel-Dolmatoff, 1987, p. 11).

The shamans' images and practices can only be 'preserved' if first, we acknowledge that these images are as real as the things of the physical world; and second, if then we can treat them as part of an ecological reality where their meanings can be discovered. An ecological reality is that which does not dissociate between tangible-intangible and which can give validity to the symbolic rites and mystical experiences of traditional societies, and of intangible heritage as a whole. Here we arrive at the important issue of politics of consciousness - the need to preserve and enrich imaginative consciousness (Csikszentmihalyi, 2014). For the politics of non-tangible heritage to be promoted, a change of perception is needed to broaden our view of what consciousness is and what it should contain.

Images and imaginary are words used to describe intangibles but as posed by French orientalist Henry Corbin (1964) these words in Western cultures are identified with 'fantasy', 'utopian', 'unreal' and 'imaginary'. Corbin proposed the Latin term mundus imaginalis to convey the idea of an intermediary and intermediate

world, which by its own faculty of perception, imaginative capacity, gives expression to the world of archetypal images proposed by Jung, and here I add - to the world of affordances as proposed by Gibson. Thus, for Corbin (1969, p. 7) 'active imagination is the mirror par excellence, the epiphanic place for the Images of the archetypal world'. Active imagination, in this respect, refers to Imaginatio Vera of the type practiced by the Yurupari shamans as exemplified before.

In this sense, the mundus imaginalis as used by Corbin, active imagination as used by Jung (1997) and affordances as proposed by Gibson provide us with link-concepts to integrate the personal and the collective, the tangible and intangible. Originated in different theories, these concepts are bound by the place given to the imaginative function and the space where it takes shape - in the intermediary world mundus imaginalis, the world of affordances, and the realm of the archetypes.


An affordance analysis considers both manifest and latent meanings in a relational manner and can be applied to heritage by drawing on past-human-thing entanglement (Hodder, 2012). As argued, intangible values can only exist in relation to material vectors, and the immaterial provides value to things as far as meaning is attached to it (Pasquinelli, 2010). In other words, symbolic practices, ceremonies, and rituals without their attached emotions are empty and meaningless (Jung, 1964/1983). Based on this rationale of entanglement, an affordance analysis is relevant to heritage planning as it (re)-joins and (re)-veals potentialities: in past, present, and future; individual and societal processes; and instrumental and symbolic meanings. The emergence of new forms of acting as well as new modes of valuation can be derived from this integration. A first step on an affordance analysis is to explore the diverse entanglements or contexts of heritage. We may ask: What is the activity in consideration? What are its physical and non-physical characteristics? What does it afford? How is the activity conducted? Where does it take place? What other things and people are associated with the activity? What feelings and meanings are related to it?

Let us consider the Samba de Roda of the Reconcavo of Bahia, a typical dance in the Northeast of Brazil which has been inscribed in 2008 on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity as an illustration of the entanglement of tangible and intangible heritage in a behaviour setting. The Samba de Roda of the Reconcavo of Bahia is a behaviour setting with specific affordances because: (1) it requires a specific group of people and a specific place to exist. It is a natural phenomenon with a space-time locus and a surrounding boundary; (2) it

is objective with sets of components, such as people, dance, talking, singing, playing instruments; (3) it has a spatial boundary as a circle ('roda' in Portuguese) that encloses the behaviour patterns (dance), the objects, and the people. The on-going behaviour and the physical objects within the 'roda' are easily discriminated from what is happening outside it; (4) there is a similarity in structure, form, and shape - a synomorphic relation - between the behaviour patterns in the 'roda de samba' and the characteristics and arrangement of the physical objects; (5) the presence of other people to dance are necessary to fit the dancing/playing/singing activity.

The behaviour patterns taking place in the 'roda de samba' are as much a part of a psychological and symbolic environment as are the physical and temporal components of the setting (Schoggen, 1989). This is an important aspect for heritage management as it shows that the traditional features of the streets of Bahia, the larger system of the samba-de-roda needs to be sustained over time in order for the 'authenticity' of this activity to continue (Zhu, 2012).

4.1. Affordance Analysis: Relating past-present-Future and Individual-Social Memories

As argued, an ecological view of perception considers different time scales (Vy-gotsky, 1978). When questioning heritage and its regimes of temporality, Hartog (2005, p. 15) has pointed that 'the itinerary of the concept has undoubtedly shown that heritage has never thrived on continuity but on the contrary from ruptures and questioning the order of time'. He continues to say that the concept of heritage has had several phases that were related with important moments of questioning the order of time.

When considered ecologically, remembering is viewed as a process that relates to an action in the present 'as a means of verifying that our concepts connect back to our experience of the world and as a way of uncovering new qualities of perceptual experience for investigation' (Heft, 2003, p. 149). An affordance analysis considers actual lived time related to the life cycles of humans, urban landscapes, things, and ecological processes. This view of time and space calls for the integration of past-present-future, and individual-social memorie in design and management practices. In dealing with the past, heritage practices may tend to hold on a static view but time itself is full of affordances: it allows coordination of working times, public and private service times, it can be exchanged for money and wasted in waiting in queues, metro and bus stops, and in the so called non-places of HUL (Augé, 1992).

In acknowledging the value of time in heritage, we are obliged to consider the categories of time people employ to make sense of their past (Ingold, 1993). Archetypal understandings can be imposed by cultures, such as the idea of time as linear. However, the analysis of time in social settings reveal that time is non-

linear and linked to actual everyday conditions (see Núñez and Sweetser, 2006 for the reverse concept of time of Aymara). An affordance analysis asks how heritage and the institutions governing it integrate the life-cycle time of humans and things. Within a linear and cumulative view of time much is lost in term of promoting heritage. Old age, for instance, has been associated with decline even though this is the life stage with the greatest amount of life experience. Older people themselves are great sources of heritage but their role in heritage management processes is seldom acknowledged. New possibilities for heritage may arise when unusual combinations are envisaged through abduction reasoning, such as asking about the potential of shrinking cities as green retirement cities (Nefs et al., 2013).

A dichotomic view of time in heritage separates traditional and modern societies and splits social and individual memories. To escape this trap, a new insight for memory is needed to acknowledge social frameworks (e.g., family); media technologies (e.g., internet); cultural institutions (e.g. museums); political situations (e.g. national and international conflicts) consistently overshadowed by an economic mode of thinking (Olick et al., 2011).

4.2. Affordance Analysis: Relating Instrumental and Symbolic Meanings

An affordance analysis asks what the functional possibilities of heritage are to enhance humans' well-being. Affordances, as a tool encourages professionals involved in HUL management to elucidate functional possibilities and psychological meanings in the context of specific stakeholders and local environments (Heft, 2012; Heft and Kytta, 2006). It should be noted that functional possibilities is used to express the need for integration in HUL and the use of urban design to create gradual transitions and to open up spaces for public use.

An affordance analysis examines the different layers of HUL to uncover symbolic significance beyond the limited notion of the historic centre (Bandarin and van Oers, 2012). Instead of reinforcing the separation of activities and segregation of spaces - which is the case when historic centres are disconnected from the rest of the city and targeted only to tourists - an ecological view of heritage stresses the existence of transitions to create integration between what is considered 'historical' from that which is 'not historical' and provide spaces for cultural diversity and place attachment (Lewicka, 2005). The qualities offered by transitional spaces (i.e., in between spaces) reside in the type of experience they can furnish to people. They can be used to change people's perceptions and patterns of activities to create flow and used to recognize the symbolic value of everyday spaces in addition to those landmarks of outstanding value. This evaluation has its merit as it appreciates the claims for ownership and heritage from other groups, including indigenous people and women.

The affordance analysis proposed here is mindful of the symbolic value of HUL and its role on humans' imaginative capability. As active imaginative agents, humans' well-being depends on the creation of symbolic meanings. There is a fundamental misunderstanding of equating symbolic activity with 'psycholo-gism' and 'subjectivism', but as previously expressed, I am referring here to a world which transcends fantasy called 'imaginatio vera' which is key to well-being (Corbin, 1964). We can affirm that the capacity for symbolic activity is the greatest heritage of all and that which can give continuity to human flourishing. In order to promote well-being, we need to address the creation of symbols and the communication of these symbols to others (Jones, 2001). The way heritage enhances humans' capabilities is a right to be acknowledged in the context of plural cultural identities (Logan, 2007; Hodder, 2010). Who controls access to heritage artefacts which are considered valuable? How can we design spaces that invite creative behaviour?


Commons refers to 'any natural or manmade resource that is or could be held and used in common' (Berge and van Laerhoven 2011, p. 161). Without a clear understanding of meanings given to things past and present, it will become unlikely that heritage will be well managed. Heritage as a 'commons' means to use heritage as a common resource for the betterment of people's lives and the continuation of their memory and identity. What common values does heritage generate?

To manage the different interpretations of the past, we need to consider the nature of what is shared as it characterises the specific nature of a community (Alonso Gonzalez, 2014). This will lead to a concrete understanding of people and their activities and behaviour settings.

An affordance analysis supports a 'living heritage' by defining who are the communities and groups involved, what are their practices and how they are physically located within the surrounding environment (Alonso Gonzales, 2014). In this regard, cultural heritage is not just about social relationships but is also profoundly spatial. To measure the values of heritage according to an affordance analysis means to act in the middle - be a mediator - between global and private interests. It is necessary to consider the implications of common property management in contexts of cultural preservation and sharing.

Agrawal (2001) has identified four relevant factors for the governance of the commons: heritage entities, user groups, such as communities, tourists, experts and entrepreneurs, national (e.g., UNESCO) and regional bodies, and macro-political factors (e.g., market functioning).

In terms of the management of change, we need to consider the relational interplay of territorial projects which are based on the territorial values of each area but also part of a process of competition to branding and marketing places (Magnaghi, 2005). The revival of historic quarters, for example, has implied the expulsion of communities and the marketing of areas for tourists. Affordances as a tool would ask what these areas mean for particular groups of people in terms of their interpretations and values. Other areas of commons management, such as restoration of historic buildings and redesign in the public realm require marketing. Social marketing can be derived from analysing what specific environmental attributes offer to cultural groups and different segments of the population, such as older people (Alves et al., 2008). Marketing a place needs a connection with its inhabitants. Whatever is the definition of heritage, community involvement will depend on methodologies, concepts, and documents that frame its implementation.

5.1. HuL Integration with open and In-between Spaces

How can we approach the past through the medium of the built environment? HUL's affordances and potential lie in their relationship with other urban spaces. According to UNESCO in its recommendation (adopted on November 2011), HUL should provide cultural diversity and enhance human creativity but this goal may be difficult to achieve if historic neighbourhoods continue to be shaped solely as 'themed environments' with fixed functions and schedules and little room for flexibility. An ecological approach to perception and planning proposes that historic neighbourhoods and new developments can intermingle, particularly through the means of open and in-between spaces.

Different terms have been used in the literature to denote intermediate/in-between spaces - loose spaces (Franck and Stevens, 2007), spatio-temporal transitions (Hofmeister, 2002), and terrain vague (Sola-Morales, 2013/1968) to name a few. What is important to note in all concepts is the feature of porosity - a connecting quality to promote place memory in the continuum of time-space. Hofmeister (2002, p. 114) poses, in-between spaces as 'spatiotemporal transitions acquire value by virtue of being unordered, "marking-free" zones beyond spa-tiotemporally fixed orders. This is where new things can take shape. In the In-Between - in the Already-Left-Behind and Not-Yet-Arrived - much is possible. Transitions contain the promise of possibilities not provided for, and they create options'.

Permeable boundaries give concrete shape to a conceptual integration between tight and loose space, public/private, past/present, and tangible/intangible. Symbolically speaking, porosity expresses a state of in-betweeness, a passage, the archetype of change and the temporal-spatial figure of transition and transformation (van Gennep, 1960).

The diverse layers which structure HUL, such as infrastructures, cultural practices, and built environment demand the use of integrative tools. An affordance analysis, interested in spaces for possibilities, approaches in-between spaces as 'commons' (e.g., open spaces, streets, urban gardens) to connect different groups of people and to provide a space for collective memory. For instance, consider urban gardening practices as carriers of collective memory and heritage and an efficient source of resilience for ecosystem management. However, in many cities, such as Istanbul, urban gardening has played a small role in branding and marketing the city. Nonetheless, these spaces are the repositories of thick familial and cultural ties which have been continually replaced by new developments. To be clear here: intermediate spaces, third places (Oldenburg and Brissett, 1982; Oldenburg, 1989), which may vary in their level of regulation can sustain HUL when seen in the broader ecological view of inter-connected systems.

5.2. HUL Management as a Playful Enterprise

As previously stated, HUL are transitional landscapes composed of behaviour settings. HUL's management is a spatial challenge which involves different scales, but at the bottom line, touches directly on settings that are public and of common use. To manage change effectively in the context of the current socio-economic and environmental crisis, a longer historical analysis that combines archaeological, anthropological and historical data is required.

In-between spaces and in-between roles are critical in the process of transition towards change (e.g., psychological, environmental or otherwise). The key characteristics of these transitional spaces need to be analyzed to reveal their positive qualities and potentialities (affordances). Some of the positive qualities of transitional landscapes are its opportunities for sustaining cultural ties, enhancing creativity, play and imaginatio vera, and providing a platform for innovation. Change - be it positive or negative in terms of human well-being is always tied to the mutual dependency between humans, landscapes, and things. Seizing opportunities for change that support well-being requires openness to the Homo Ludens (Humans as players) as it is in the realm of 'make-believe' that impossible things become possible. Homo Ludens can manifest themselves in spaces which invite and afford playful action (Huizinga, 1955). Playfulness requires play-grounds -that is, grounds for people to play; a ludic city (Stevens, 2007). Open spaces, green spaces, public spaces, and the spaces in-between all invite a kind of action which is open to creativity and making the 'impossible', possible (Franck, 1998).

Public spaces, urban streets and marginal spaces (e.g., terrain vague), alongside monuments and ancient architecture have an 'outstanding universal value' and their value as a commons needs to be re-thought (Mills, 2010; Carney and Miller, 2009; Ward Thompson, 2002). They are liminal, open, loose, and flex-

ible and can support greater creativity and diversity. These everyday places and the way they engender specific social relations, is what render them valuable to heritage. Intangible heritage in the form of festivals, storytelling, dances occur in public realms and in-between spaces. If we take Huizinga's Homo Ludens and Jung's active imagination into consideration, we can recognize their playful character and need for multi-cultural spaces to continue existing. HUL offer many affordances for creativity - that is, to support the creativity of individuals and communities in the form of cultural interfaces; new roles of universities; cluster policy; and creative platforms like 'ideas labs' (Héraud, 2011). As a creative asset and economic resource, heritage re-connect people to their past in the sense of devising inclusive management practices to integrate old and new uses (Cominelli and Greffe, 2012; Ashworth and Voogd, 1986).

6. conclusions

I aimed to integrate the tangible and non-tangible aspects of heritage through an ecological approach to heritage and the notion of affordances. Attention has been drawn to the entanglement between tangible-intangible heritages to show how these two aspects are part of a system of behaviour settings. What an affordance analysis offers is a relational way of approaching heritage. It welcomes active imagination as a legitimate way of reasoning to open up possibilities in HUL management. The affordances analysis is a tool relevant for a mediator discipline such as planning. It can be applied as an integrative tool in HUL management to acknowledge cultural practices and the values held by diverse stakeholders, such as experts, indigenous people, and those whose history is not readily acknowledged. As such, public spaces and in-between spaces become essential for the politics of cultural continuity. As affordances, archetypes, mundus imaginalis, and behaviour settings, these spaces occupy a third places and act as key mediators between the local and the global. Looking forward, novel conceptual advances and integrative management practices can be derived from an ecological approach to heritage and the application of an affordance analysis.

Acknowledgment. I would like to thank Professor Harun Batirbaygil and Dr. Axel Würz for their support and fruitful conversations during the development of this paper.


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