PORTICO: Towards future-proof historic cities


Cultural history is a driving force for the urban economy of many European cities. But it can also be a burden for economic development, as it poses restrictions on the opportunities for new developments. PORTICO considered this as a catalyst for innovation.


In the PORTICO project, the cities of Chester (United Kingdom), Gent (Belgium), Köln (Germany), Utrecht (the Netherlands) and the Initiatief Domplein foundation in Utrecht cooperated to get the best out of history. The project's goal was to make the partner cities' archaeological heritage visible by developing new methods, techniques and ways of thinking about urban development – above and below ground. PORTICO built on history as a competitive advantage, to tackle challenges for future development in North-West Europe (NWE).


To a great extent, North-West European countries have a common history. This is reflected in the structural and archaeological heritage. They all face the same challenges: how to protect this heritage while making the most of the assets and facilitating sustainable development.


The project ran from 2009-2014 and was supported through the INTERREG IV B programme for North-West Europe. It contributed to a more cohesive EU society as it derived from a cooperation of people from different countries working on common issues that touch the lives of EU-citizens.


The PORTICO partners jointly developed new knowledge and techniques that were tested in local investments in Chester, Cologne, Ghent and Utrecht. The project had 4 main objectives, all with several (joint) actions performed by the PORTICO partnership:




Cultural history represents a competitive advantage for cities and towns in NWE. To exploit these potentials to the full, protection of cultural heritage and archaeology should go hand in hand with economic development and the creation of profit zones. The PORTICO partners commonly developed and tested archaeology friendly building techniques – e.g. on ultra-light building and subsurface development - allowing further development of these sensitive places.




One of the attractions of visiting historic cities is the experience to actually feel the past and get in touch with past generations. Challenge is to offer such an experience – based on a combination of the really old, authentic and preserved heritage and virtual ‘real life’ impressions of life in the city in former times. PORTICO partners wanted to invest in the development of techniques which allow to “travel in time”, through the past and future of NWE.




For the PORTICO partners, the development and protection of cultural heritage is part of more encompassing regional and urban development strategies. The historic city is a stage for the public and businesses, offers quality of life (which attracts talent), a place to meet, debate and inspire. Portico aimed to strengthen the reprocity between urban heritage and urban development in social, economic and spatial terms.




Exposure and communication are closely linked to joint fact-finding, development and implementation of new techniques. Central to the project are three transnational Communities of Practice: “laboratories” in which local representatives and technicians from each of the partners, experts from knowledge institutes, representatives of European knowledge networks and others, will collaborate over an extended period, to share ideas, find solutions, build innovations and communicate the project results to their respective organizations and networks.

Video impression PORTICO final conference (26 Feb. 2014)

Introduction film Portico

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