Heritage Words: Exploring Port City Terms

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Maritime heritage structures, such as cranes or warehouses, are typical for historical port cities around the world and many of them have received recognition as having Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) and have been listed as UNESCO World Heritage sites. They have often been preserved and revitalized as expressions of former shipping networks and urban power after containerization in the 1960s when modern ports moved out of their historic inner-city locations to urban peripheries. To learn more about the conceptualization of port heritage as part of global flows and local urban systems, we manually checked 1121 abstracts of world heritage sites published on the UNESCO World Heritage Centre website 1, exploring a group of words describing the typology of buildings and structures associated with port functions and activities. We found 107 World Heritage Sites (out of 1121) related to port cities. By analysing the abstracts of the 107 sites, the authors established a series of findings. Firstly, the concepts of port city and port heritage reflected in the abstracts do not align with the definitions given by encyclopaedias or by people interested in port city research. The texts placed on the UNESCO World Heritage Centre website mainly focus on specific heritage types and values, rather than the bigger picture of maritime-related structures. Secondly, the listed port heritage sites appear to emphasize three port city functions: maritime trade, defence and colonial practices. Other functions that include housing, leisure or religion are rarely mentioned in the abstracts. Thirdly, since port cities are places where sea meets the land, nature meets human settlements, they should stress the nature-culture connection. Yet, the listed world heritage sites present a culture-nature dichotomy in the testified OUV.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)36-59
Number of pages24
JournalEuropean Journal of Creative Practices in Cities and Landscapes (CPCL)
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

Vol. 4 No. 2 (2021): Port City Cultures, Values, or Maritime Mindsets, Part 2: Studying and Shaping Cultures in Port City Territories / Main Section


  • Port City Culture
  • Port Heritage
  • Outstanding Universal Value
  • Heritage Word


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