A study of the inter-relationship of identity and urban heritage in Chiang Mai Old City, Thailand

Phetsuriya, Natthakit (2023) A study of the inter-relationship of identity and urban heritage in Chiang Mai Old City, Thailand. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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The urban heritage identity of historical cities has received growing attention due to the weakening of their urban identity. For this reason, urban identity has been identified as a preliminary study of this research. Forty years ago, many researchers attempted to explain a broader understanding of urban heritage identity, which is relevant to human factors that affect urban, place, and built environment relationships. This involved the three interrelated concepts of identity: distinctiveness; urban heritage; and place attachment. These establish a balance between people and their identification with places.

Urban heritage identity is associated a place's physicality and heritage attributes that reflect socio-cultural values. It can be concluded that urban heritage identity becomes significant through concepts of environmental psychology. Distinctiveness theory, as a part of identity theory, has been used in this study to describe the genuine perception of local participants and is a fundamental part of defining place identity. Furthermore, the definition of place attachment has been used to explain the relationship of distinct places on time of residence, frequency of use, emotional, physical, social, and activities. The study also explores Chiang Mai Old City’s built environment, which especially analyses the façade and streetscape characteristics that reflect the city's socio-cultural value. The research concludes with suggestions for preserving the city's urban heritage characteristics.

Chiang Mai Old City has unprecedented diversity and cultural dynamics related to its intangible and tangible urban heritage. Moreover, the city is in the critical stage of being nominated as a new World Heritage Site by UNESCO, with the city's distinctiveness and place attachment being significant in supporting further heritage management strategies. The research mainly focuses on how local people interpret and understand the urban heritage identity of Chiang Mai Old City. This has been achieved through surveys of four hundred participants living in the Old City, two-way focus groups with five participants in each group, in-depth interviews with twenty-five participants, and ten architects drawing suggestions for further built environment management strategies. The results are described through seven aspects that explore the distinctiveness and place attachment theories of Chiang Mai Old City.

The findings can be described in seven aspects: historical value; cultural activities; a particular character; landmark; identity; community; and everyday life. The results reveal that there are five distinct places in the city: Pra Singha Temple; Chedi Luang Temple; Three Kings monument square; Tha-Pare gate square; and Chiang Mai Old City's Moat. The results can also be used to develop an assessment indicator for defining the distinctiveness of other historic cities through the engagement of local people.

The study repeatedly employs distinct places to describe in-place attachment theory. The results reveal positivity, emotion, and the spiritual anchor of place attached to local people in social engagement, explicitly divulging the rootedness of religion, culture, and community activities through the length of time. All five distinct places have an inseparable ability to display tangible heritage value and such a positive emotion to places is crucial in contributing to urban heritage characteristics. Moreover, the time or length of residency is a vital aspect to people’s perception of the city's distinctiveness; however, the value of the physical setting itself can increase the sense of belonging of newcomers.This research used a mixed methods approach in defining place identity process and socio-cultural values in distinctive streetscapes scenes in the city. This study strongly believes that the findings demonstrate that local people can help to develop the management of the city. The results presented suggest that the heritage value of streetscapes is related to historical attributes, natural objects, people, and cultural events in the scenes that explain the meanings ascribed to places associated with social and cultural values. The built environment characteristics and heritage value can be assumed from human experience. The study can be a new perspective for local authorities, urban designers, and heritage teams to determine whether projects will strengthen the existing urban heritage identity.

Most importantly, this research has revealed new perspectives on urban heritage identity and practical study methods whilst also contributing to management strategies. In addition, continuing research into urban heritage identity will significantly improve knowledge development, practical support, and collaboration with local people and architects to establish and maintain cherished distinct places and living environments for urban residents.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Heath, Tim
Keywords: Urban Heritage, Identity, Distinctiveness, Place attachment
Subjects: N Fine Arts > NA Architecture
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Engineering > Built Environment
Item ID: 74328
Date Deposited: 14 Dec 2023 04:40
Last Modified: 14 Dec 2023 04:40
URI: https://eprints.nottingham.ac.uk/id/eprint/74328

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