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Continuity and transformation: a civic heart for Chester-le-Street

Borsi, Katharina; Hanks, Laura; Khoshkholghi, Solmaz


Katharina Borsi

Laura Hanks

Solmaz Khoshkholghi


Current urban policy approaches to town centres can be summarised through a cleaner, greener and safer approach. At the same time, the value of place and distinctiveness has been recognised as a cultural and economic asset. Public art is seen as helping to create memorable spaces and deliver additional value and greater connectivity with the local community, which in turn brings economic benefit and long-term sustainability (Open House / Art in the Open 2009). This paper seeks to identify how public art activates some of these generic descriptors. Chester-le-Street’s “Civic Heart,” the refurbished market square designed by public artist Jo Fairfax, serves to exemplify art’s formal, spatial, and symbolic contribution to the city. We interpret “Civic Heart” as what Aldo Rossi described as a primary element, that is, an urban artefact that is a receptacle of the site and its history but is also a catalytic element that contributes to the city’s pattern of change and transformation. Public art, in this reading, contributes to a dynamic understanding of place; one that bridges the site’s locale and history with the potential of the new and unexpected. The paper explores “Civic Heart” as an urban artefact through the facets of continuity and transformation.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Oct 10, 2014
Print ISSN 2326-9960
Electronic ISSN 2327-2104
Publisher Common Ground Research Networks
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 9
Issue 1
Pages 23-30
Publisher URL


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