The Winter Olympics Milano-Cortina 2026, the Jubilee, the Expo, European Capitals of Culture: how can cities host mega-events without putting their cultural heritage at risk?
The first systematic documented answer to this question comes from the HOMEE – Heritage Opportunities/Threats within Mega-events in Europe – project coordinated by Davide Ponzini of the Department of Architecture and Urban Studies (DAStU), Politecnico di Milano.
Adapting and reusing infrastructures and existing venues to lower the costs of mega-events and improve the long-term effects, integrating structures into the city’s existing urban fabric, mobilising actors, resources and historic locations in a capillary way. These are some of the recommendations that emerged from the HOMEE project and are now included in a Charter, a valuable tool to aid cities like Rome and Milan that are getting ready to host, respectively, the 2025 Jubilee and the upcoming Winter Olympics in 2026.
Three years of work have included case studies of cultural mega-events throughout Europe (including the Expo 2015 in Milan and Matera- Basilicata 2019 European Capital of Culture) carried out by 4 research centres: Politecnico di Milano, University of Hull (UK), Neapolis University di Pafos (Cyprus), and the International Cultural Center (Poland), in collaboration with 16 associated partners, selected from public and no-profit institutions hroughout Europe. This research has led to delivering the “Charter for mega-events in heritage-rich cities”. This document, with its 4 general themes, 13 principles, 51 recommendations and various case histories, guides cities getting ready to host mega-events, which will be able to benefit from the opportunities offered without compromising their cultural heritage and local communities.
“The dissemination stage is achieving results way beyond the project’s highest expectations, with important scientific publications, and associations and organisations worldwide showing interest in and endorsing the Charter. This confirms the technical and political relevance of the Charter and of our research project”, comments HOMEE Project coordinator Davide Ponzini, associate professor at the Department of Architecture and Urban Studies.
The 4 themes cover, firstly, the context: mega-events must be selected, right-sized and integrated to respect their location, where plans should reuse and adapt existing facilities or design context-sensitive interventions. Then, planning legacies, useful for aligning plans and projects for mega-events with urban and spatial strategies. Thirdly, inclusive governance: involve cultural heritage experts, policy makers and operators in the bidding, planning and legacy phases. And finally, communities and identities: mobilise communities locally for a more equal, long-lasting urban legacy.
National interest in the Charter has come in the form of subscription by the National Association of Italian Municipalities, which represents over 7,000 municipalities.
Ponzini adds: “While the endorsements by Europa Nostra, and by the 2022 and 2023 European Capitals of Culture are definitely excellent signs at an international level. We welcome the endorsement by ANCI (National Association of Italian Municipalities) with great pleasure as it motivates us to do more to disseminate the Charter in Italy.”
The President of ANCI, Antonio Decaro, in signing the Charter explains that it provides “clear and useful principles and recommendations for cities and local administrations, supported by numerous and concrete examples in large, medium and small cities. It deserves the utmost attention from part of all the local and regional institutions of our country “.
From today, historic heritage-rich cities have a new tool to make choices that are suitable for their own context and sustainable development path.