All Roads Lead to Rome

Pula - Arena pictureIn the past three months, I have been working on a project for the city of Pula in Istria. The project is a feasibility study for the Pula Kulturring initiative, which aims to rehabilitate and promote the main cultural heritage of Pula within one innovative place brand, including the historic sites on the stretch between the Pula Arena, over Giardina, Hercules, Twin and the Golden Gate, Arch Street to the Forum with the Temple of Augustus and the Cathedral.

First-class cultural attractions can be developed where it is possible to walk through the city and experience all historically significant periods, from Roman beginnings, through the Austro-Hungarian Empire until the new, modern museum on the waterfront, the city on the lookout castle and then back again to the Roman theatre and archaeological Museum.

In AD 114 you could travel from Scotland to the Sahara desert and still be within the Roman limes (borders). The heritage from the Roman civilisation is visible in many places across Europe and there is something very attractive in stories of the great heroes, mythical and historical, from Aeneas and the founding of Rome to the fall of the Western Empire. My work in the project is very much about benchmarking and new ideas for place branding through cultural events and story telling and how to make the context of the human individuals in the past and present times come to life.

Whether we are thinking about travelling somewhere for a holiday, moving to a new place or applying for a job overseas, we rely on our perception of those places to make the decision-making process faster and easier. The reputation of a place may be internationally famous or unknown elsewhere. It is a matter of how people inside and outside think about that place. To develop a concept like Pula Kulturring is not only about the physical attractions, it is just as much about what is going on there.

Dancing cranes in Pula

The picture above links to a video of the shipyard cranes in Pula harbour. Though the cranes are prominent staples of the landscape, they were not often acknowledged for their beauty and elegance, but last summer they became the main attraction in an event that has to be seen. Artists positioned the metal giants to resemble folded paper cranes formed through the gentle art of origami, with their elongated shape and sleek angles. The performance titled “Lighting Giants”, shows the eternal grace of these most unwieldy metal beasts.

Places consist of a combination between social relationships and encounters between people and the visible environment such as cathedrals, forts, buildings, architecture and open spaces. The cultural distinction of a place evokes emotions and retains in the memory of a certain individual or a group of people. Each person can see the unique features of a place differently. It is a combination of personal experience and these features that makes the place perceived as special. Place Branding is about conveying the symbolic essence of a city to target audiences for strategic gain.

Below is a fascinating TED talk from 2008, where David Macaulay re-lives the winding and sometimes surreal journey toward the completion of Rome Antics, his illustrated homage to the historic city. In the talk he mixes the historic heritage with the present day Romans in fascinating story telling.

All Roads Lead to Rome Antics

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