Challenges and opportunities in the reuse of abandoned urban space

Cecilia Zecca*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


Contemporary cities have emerged as a result of diverse urban and architectural transformations, new interventions and redevelopment, as well as through a cycle of abandonment and regeneration. New categories of resulting spaces are generated through these processes. Simultaneously, generic spaces are becoming new urban centralities, arguably to the detriment of local identity. City centre malls, for instance, are flattening the uniqueness of the cities by re-proposing similar characters across various locations and contexts. Non-places, empty spaces and urban voids are cases in point that deserve and require further investigation. Nowadays, in a period of economic recession, developments based on demolitions and reconstructions are not always suitable. Against this context, areas of abandonment appear to offer potential for development that is at once both creative and sensitive to local contexts. This research explored the urban and architectural phenomenon of abandonment, and investigated the discrepancy between academic expected qualitative design of re-use and real solutions often adopted during projects of regeneration. The study took Aberdeen city as its concrete focus, exploring methods to connect more strongly the environment of cultural challenges (the academy), and the environment of the urban and social priorities (the local government), in an effort to define a network of reciprocal collaborations. Typo-morphology and rhythmic urban analysis, together with sites observation utilising mental maps, were the main methods used to investigate specific abandoned spaces in Aberdeen. Furthermore, through three urban workshops delivered in collaboration with Aberdeen City Council, Robert Gordon University, International College RGU and the University of South of Florida, the research explored collaborative ways to transform knowledge of urban and architectural re-use into actual practice. This work represents an original contribution to knowledge through the presentation of a conceptual system of mutual collaboration between the main authorities and institutions within the city of Aberdeen, and proposes a framework for delivering workshops in partnership. On the one hand, the academy may significantly influence the urban evolution through cultural and creative input. On the other, the city council may consider the cognitive process of academic analysis of the city, developing strategies to improve the quality of the city spaces in terms of liveability and valuable social environment.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Robert Gordon University
  • Laing, Richard, Supervisor
  • McClean, David , Supervisor, External person
  • Thorpe, Christopher, Supervisor, External person
  • Smith, Fiona, Supervisor, External person
Award date9 Sept 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Externally publishedYes

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