Universite de Liege

LEMA is a research group of the Urban & Environmental Engineering Research Unit of the University of Liège. It develops its researches in the domain of the local environment, in both its physical (urban quarters, housing, public spaces), cultural (cultural heritage, tourism), perceptive (townscape, visual and thermal comfort) and social (quality of life, urban cohesion) dimensions. The activities of the laboratory are mainly oriented towards sustainable architecture, energy and urban development, urban planning, governance, landscape and land use change, transport systems and mobility modelling.

Our research team has a strong experience in building collaborative research, associating academic partners, local authorities and community groups. It builds upon a co-design evolutionary framework, inspired by the actors-networks theory, so as to address both the material and cultural dimensions of everyday historic urban landscapes (HUL). LEMA was the coordinator of the SUIT FP5 RTD project, dedicated to the Sustainable development of Urban historical areas through active Integration within Towns. The main objective of the SUIT project was “to promote the use of Environmental Impact Assessment and Strategic Environmental Assessment procedures as a way to foster a long-term active conservation of urban fragments”. The SUIT project highlighted the importance of urban governance in the management of potential conflicts about heritage values and attributes. It delivered a guidance for Heritage Impact Assessment that can be used by local authorities and stakeholders.

LEMA further participated to the PETUS and APPEAR FP5 projects. APPEAR was dedicated to the enhancement of archaeological sites within an urban context. The method delivered as the main outcome of the project is based on the principles of strategic management adapted for the specific needs of the valorisation of urban archaeological sites within an urban environment. Its aim is to control the enhancement process through the combined efforts of partners and planning. It combines the requirements of preventive conservation, urban planning and visitor studies. The role of the LEMA in this project was centred on the issues related to the urban and architectural integration of protective shelters for archaeological remains.

LEMA has been coordinating the PICTURE (FP6) project. PICTURE (Pro-active management of the impacts of cultural tourism upon urban resources and economies) aims to develop a strategic urban governance framework for the sustainable management of cultural tourism within small and medium-sized European cities. This framework will help to establish, evaluate and benchmark integrated tourism policies at the local level with a view to maximising the benefits of tourism upon the conservation and enhancement of built heritage diversity and urban quality of life.
LEMA was involved in three major Interreg IV project, the first one (SUN) addressing Sustainable development in existing, deprived neighbourhoods and the other two ones (VALUE & ADDED value) dealing with the benefits of green networks for urban renewal.

The SUN project was dedicated to social innovation in deprived urban areas of EMR cities. The project relied on a collaborative action-research approach, developed simultaneously in five European cities, so as to involve inhabitants and local decision-makers in the coproduction of the research framework. End-users were hence involved in the definition of objectives, the selection of relevant indicators and ex-post evaluations. The overall research design was based on the Actors-Network theory, so as to acknowledge the influence of the urban space and the built environment in the development of ad hoc solutions at the local level.

LEMA has been involved in an important project dedicated to flood modelling (FloodLand) in collaboration with the HECE team. This project addressed the interactions between land use change and flood risks, considering the impact of climate change. LEMA was more specifically in charge of land use change modelling and evaluation of the resilience of cities. The project highlighted potential conflicts between urban sustainability and resilience consideration, especially through uncontrolled densification processes in flood prone areas.

LEMA is presently coordinating the N-POWER project (Interreg V A). The main objective of the N-POWER project is to support innovative ‘neighbourhood development policies’ enabling EMR cities to effectively reintegrate ‘excluded’ neighbourhoods and populations in a creative, inclusive and sustainable development pathway. The project will contribute to an economic revitalization of deprived neighbourhoods through the creation of new local activities and jobs. It will further aim at their social development, through a development of community learning, social integration, social cohesion and collective organizational capacity. The N-POWER project will jointly work on environmental, social and economic reintegration of excluded neighbourhoods and their inhabitants. The consortium is built up from a cross-border cooperation of 11 partners, 8 of which are responsible for neighbourhood development and 3 are of an academic nature.

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LEMA will focus on cultural, social and perceptive dimension of governance and ICT-Community interaction.within SHELTER project. It has been involved in different researches regarding these this dimension of governance. The SUIT research project, coordinated by LEMA highlighted the importance of national and cultural differences as regard with the application of EIA. The SUIT project tested different visualisation techniques to be used in the decision-making about important transformation projects in historic urban areas.

The projects further tested the use of participation methods, through focus groups, at the scoping stage of the EIA/SEA. The SUIT project further helped the team to consolidate its experience in the use of landscape preference surveys amongst inhabitants. These perceptive methods were applied to analyse the preference of local inhabitants as regard with different urban landscapes in historic urban areas.

They were further applied to analyse the expectation of local inhabitants as regard with the transformation of brownfield sites. They were recently applied in Tripoli (Lebanon), which led to distinguish between preferred views and places considered as significant by the local population. In the case of Tripoli, this landscape preference study was completed by an analysis of data gathered through social media.

The use of Flickr allowed a quantitative analysis of places of interest in the city of Tripoli (Lebanon). Data mining techniques further helped to recover some of the attributes of these places, as expressed through tags by end-users. This study was completed by a content analysis of Facebook posts related to two controversial projects in the cities. It helped to document the main dimension of controversies related with project in heritage areas, and identify the network dynamic (people involved, arguments made etc.) of these controversies.

LEMA is presently involved in an important Interreg research dedicated to cross-border studies and is in charge of a task dedicated to the influence of “planning cultures” upon cross-border collaboration in strategic planning. The Greater Region is indeed at the cross road of Luxembourg, France, Belgium and Germany, four countries characterized by divergent practices in terms of planning, may it be as regard with the space left for negotiation in planning decision or the nature and role of planning documents.

Recognizing these differences is important at the time of building a cross-border planning strategy. Otherwise it may prove to be very difficult to implement as it has been demonstrated in other case studies, as for instance the Euregio Maas-Rhein.