Perceptions Mapping in CLIC cities

ICHEC’s framework for cultural mapping through perceptions

A cultural capital is an asset that embodies or yields economic values, together or in addition to cultural values. Economic values of heritage are embedded in a dynamic process related to changes in its lifetime. Thus, heritage conservation is considered as the process of investing new resources in cultural capital to keep it (re)generating cultural and economic values in the future.

We assume that the economic process in the conservation of cultural heritage is not a common linear one (from inputs to outputs). On the contrary, it is an implicit process of circular economy within which we reuse past resources in the conservation process, and we adapt reuse of a building to new, sustainable, and inclusive needs and urban uses.


To better analyze and understand the economic values, with the help of our CLIC cities/Region: Rijeka, Salerno, and Vastra Gotaland Region, we collected relevant data for mapping the existing cultural, natural and human assets and their spatial integration with social and economic resources. Data collection was very relevant to understanding the context and mapping use values. However, it lacked the community’s viewpoint. Thus, we opted for mapping the recognition of values through a participatory process, namely: the perceptions mapping.

Perceptions mapping

The perceptions mapping was deemed necessary to probe the relationship between the everyday maker and the built environment. It thus, positions the human preferences, reflections and daily interactions with the cultural capital in terms of hearing, touching, seeing, tasting and smelling at the center of its empirical research. The process of perceptions mapping is a sense-making process during which people map their cultural, natural and human assets; express their opinions, ideas, needs and aspirations but also; raise concerns and highlight conflicts related to the management, conservation and preservation of the cultural capital for future generations. The mapping was carried out through the five senses and with the help of a physical map. Departing from the perceptions, the collective memory of what a place was to the community arises. Likewise, diverging and/or converging perspectives emerge in reference to what it is today and above all, how the community would like it to be tomorrow. Moreover, perceptions mapping demonstrated to be a very useful tool not only to map tangible cultural heritage but also to resuscitate and reinstate on the map the intangible heritage assets.


Perceptions mapping was carried out in Amsterdam, Rijeka, Salerno and Vastra Gotaland. The case of Amsterdam was special since our partner, Pakhuis de Zwijger is a cultural organisation and not a local authority as in the case of the other three partners. Thus, the perceptions mapping in Amsterdam revolved around the building itself, an industrial heritage, and not on a specific area as in the other cases. In the four partner cities/Region, peoples’ perceptions were mapped in two phases.

Phase I

Thanks to the meticulous work of four interns, phase one consisted of collecting individual reflections through random and selected interviews in Rijeka (15 interviews), Salerno (18 interviews) and Four locations in Vastra Gotaland Region (13 interviews).

In the case of Pakhuis de Zwijger phase I was carried out inJune 2018, during the festival WeMakeTheCity at Pakhuis de Zwijger. This mapping focused on people’s perception about the building. For this purpose, a citizen dialogue kit was used. This smart toolkit which is developed by Research[x]Design, Department of Architecture of KU Leuven university, was used for polling. This first step helped understanding people’s perceptions about the heritage building and its relationship with the surrounding area. The visitors had to answer a number of questions according to three their use and knowledge of the building: frequent visitors, Amsterdam citizens, first-time visitors.

Phase II

In Rijeka, Salerno and Vastra Gotaland Region, phase two was carried out as a group interaction through a participatory workshop based on active listening, feedback, and reflection. The workshops had the duration of three hours and were conducted in the local language.

Phase one helped understanding the urban texture in reference to people’s perceptions. More importantly, it facilitated the introducing of contextualized examples during the interactive workshop. While phase two helped identify the cultural assets; threats and risks; and future opportunities in terms of potential adaptive reuse opportunities. Hence, the perceptions mapping process embraced the paradigm shift (demand driven instead of market driven) and it thus, it departed from and investigated the urban sustainable needs identified by the everyday makers.

In the case of Pakhuis de Zwijger, phase two consisted of mapping people’s perceptions regarding the impact of Pakhuis de Zwijger as a cultural heritage organisation on the community/ies. Especially, the perception of its role as catalyst for participative urban innovation development. For this reason, 25 interviews were carried out with emphasis on the years 1935, 1980 and 2006. Needless to say that people’s perceptions changed in each of these turning points of the building’s history. A number of interviewees from the local authorities, academics and professional experts, expressed their perceptions in relation to Pakhuis de Zwijger governance module; its impact on the local community; and its future vision. Moreover, the local community was interviewed as well to map perceptions in relation to the role of Pakhuis de Zwijger and its relationship with the surrounding area and the community/ies.