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Sinou, M.; Skalkou, K.; Perakaki, R.; Jacques, S.; Kanetaki, Z. Sustainable Coastal Design. Encyclopedia. Available online: (accessed on 20 June 2024).
Sinou M, Skalkou K, Perakaki R, Jacques S, Kanetaki Z. Sustainable Coastal Design. Encyclopedia. Available at: Accessed June 20, 2024.
Sinou, Maria, Katerina Skalkou, Roumpini Perakaki, Sébastien Jacques, Zoe Kanetaki. "Sustainable Coastal Design" Encyclopedia, (accessed June 20, 2024).
Sinou, M., Skalkou, K., Perakaki, R., Jacques, S., & Kanetaki, Z. (2023, June 28). Sustainable Coastal Design. In Encyclopedia.
Sinou, Maria, et al. "Sustainable Coastal Design." Encyclopedia. Web. 28 June, 2023.
Sustainable Coastal Design

Mediterranean coastal cities are mostly urban environments with a long history, hence the idea that the different aspects that form the identity and perception of the cities can be interconnected in a framework that can be useful for further understanding and improvement. There is a need to consider multiple scales, national boundaries, the intersection of land and water and different stakeholders, policies and sectors. The coastal zone is an interface between land and sea, composed of a continuum of coastal land, intertidal areas, aquatic systems including the network of rivers and estuaries, islands, transitional and intertidal areas, salt marshes, wetlands and beaches. Natural coastal systems and areas where human activities involve the use of coastal resources may, therefore, extend well beyond the limit of territorial waters, and several kilometers inland.

natural and cultural heritage sensory mapping sustainable coastal design

1. Natural and Cultural Heritage

Natural heritage and cultural heritage are key elements that characterize a city, region and place. The term “natural heritage” refers to all natural features, geological and morphological formations that provide habitats for natural species and plants, and natural sites of scientific, conservation or natural beauty value. The term “cultural heritage” refers to the history, legacy, cultural assets and attributes of a place inherited from the past. Cultural heritage is a concept that bridges the past and the future through the application of particular approaches in the present [1].
Natural heritage and cultural heritage have traditionally been considered as separate concepts, if not completely alien to each other. Indeed, it can be difficult to distinguish between nature and culture because, while culture contains only man-made aspects, nature can refer to anything that occurs naturally. In reality, heritage is a much more nuanced notion, in which the two notions are largely intertwined and interconnected. Europe’s natural and cultural heritages are now increasingly valued, not only for their intrinsic value but also for the significant contribution they can make to modern society and to the development of a more sustainable, equitable and environmentally friendly economy [2].
Early identification of the natural and heritage features of a place is the first step in the process and a very important milestone in the development of site strategies and sustainable visions. The issues are:
  • Investing in infrastructure that supports the sustainable use of natural and cultural heritage assets.
  • Developing strategies for the promotion and protection of natural and cultural heritage.
  • Improving the quality of sustainable development opportunities based on the region’s heritage.
  • Promoting the development of unique and distinctive natural and cultural heritage and related local resources.
  • Developing long-term heritage projects.
Coastal and marine cultural heritage (CMCH) is under pressure, especially in tourist destinations, due to dynamic processes in coastal areas and human activities in the coastal environment [3]. In [4], the researchers conducted topographic and geometric surveys of archaeological, historical and ethnographic sites in large coastal environments. In [5], the authors analyzed all coastal and nearshore sites documented to date and presented in more detail and concluded that, in addition to remote sensing, a field assessment should be conducted before proposing new strategies. In [6], the researchers reported a lack of spatial legibility in historic districts. They applied qualitative and quantitative methods to analyze the spatial pattern of the selected areas. The results showed that, from the users’ point of view, landmarks and navigational markers were selected as the most significant elements affecting legibility. In [7], the authors created a digital inventory of historical and architectural heritage features, with the aim of promoting the past and present of industrial heritage buildings. “Minor” cultural heritage was studied in [8] through explanatory qualitative research, aiming to establish their role in the cultural heritage of less important monuments and sites.
There is a need to develop a broader and more dynamic framework for managing CMCH that recognizes the departure from traditional preservation methods and takes into account the complexity of the socio-political contexts of heritage [9].

2. Urban Design and Environmental Design

Urban and environmental analysis is one of the most important components of urban planning. It focuses on the organization and differentiation of the social, demographic and economic processes that help to shape cities.
The importance of urban and environmental analysis is imperative to truly understand the meaning of places and to create dynamic, distinctive and sustainable new spaces based on local aspirations and driven by a commitment to collaboration, participation and empowerment. The main benefits of a customized urban and environmental analysis can be summarized in eight points:
  • Understand the local issues, opportunities, aspirations and physical characteristics of the study areas.
  • Create a high-quality urban design strategy with a focus on placemaking, safety and community.
  • Understand the social and economic context to create social value.
  • Define a resident and stakeholder engagement strategy that is inclusive, authentic and focused on active local input into the design.
  • Ensure a sustainable and innovative community identity through high-quality design.
  • Create user-centered pathways that integrate with surrounding networks—creating a network of permeable streets and a series of unique public open spaces.
  • Model and test ideas for a range of options to maximize site potential and optimize land use.
  • Assist in the implementation of a rigorous viability testing mechanism as a “health check” during the research.
Sociology and environmental psychology have been recognized as valuable sources of information in the fields of urban design and planning to inform design decisions [10]. In addition to the physical characteristics of a place, it is essential to understand how places and their layout affect people. This discussion highlights the need for designers to read the relationships between environmental, sensory and social factors and has led to interdisciplinary concepts that could serve as a link between different perspectives [11].
The first important concept is the green–blue network, which can refer to landscape elements at different levels of spatial scale: from simple rows of trees to complete valley systems. Examples of green landscape elements are hedges, groves, bushes, orchards, parks, etc. Blue landscape elements are related to water. They can be ponds, puddles and pond systems, wadis, man-made buffer basins or streams. Together, they form the green and blue infrastructure.
The second important concept to describe is green infrastructure, which represents a “strategically planned network of natural and semi-natural spaces designed to provide a wide range of ecosystem services”. Therefore, a green network that is accessible to all is important for enabling people to socialize and for creating permeable and rigid environments that promote health and well-being. The Milton Keynes Development Corporation shows how these greenways are connected to formal and informal open spaces along river valleys and hill ridges [12].
Ecological corridors or connections between urban forests, gardens or other green spaces are recognized as a way to limit the negative effects of fragmentation. The creation of green spaces and corridors can be applied to most urban areas. Specifically, greenways are networks of land and especially elongated open spaces of varying widths that are connected to other paths and, along their length, to many [13].
From this point of view, the elements of the natural environment in urban models could also be modeled and managed as networks, merging the results of natural and social sciences in a multidisciplinary approach. Therefore, the increasing attention to the different roles that green spaces could play in the sustainable development of urban areas, as well as the networking theories applied in urban studies, have led the scientific community to include the concept of green network in its vocabulary [14][15].

3. Understanding the City through the Senses

All spaces are key elements of the urban fabric and our cities as they create patterns that encourage social interaction. They also create a sense of security as people can have a clear sense of where they belong. According to current guidelines, urban areas are essential for satisfying the need for social interaction, creating a sense of place, increasing awareness of the urban fabric and helping to improve the urban microclimate. In recent years, and particularly during the recent avian flu pandemic, architects, designers and planners have paid particular attention to the quality of public spaces and the built environment.
Local sensory mapping can play an important role in improving the quality of the urban landscape and help to find the elements needed to improve user comfort and experience. Recent research focuses on the influence of the structured environment on memories, behaviors and senses and demonstrates the importance of the environment, the spatial messages the user receives and how the user can perceive and experience the space [16].

3.1. The Sense of Belonging: Sensory Landscapes or Sensescapes

The significance of the perception of space is clearly stated here. One of the main subjective indices of the quality of the urban environment is the emotional sense of the city area, which contributes significantly to subjective well-being [17][18]. Urban life includes a variety of spatial and temporal activities that offer different levels of human interaction [19]. Human perception of place develops on the basis of various stimuli, both tangible and intangible, associated with these interactions. People are generally perceived as assets, as the essential resource. The focus is, therefore, on the sensory landscape of the city and its emotional and psychological impact [20]. In [21], participatory digital emotion mapping is proposed as an appropriate technique to collect public evaluations of the emotional state of urban areas.
The perception of space is described by the authors of [14] as an ability or tacit knowledge of the structural relationship between the sensory environment and the activity taking place in it. The senses play an essential role in decoding urban space and support the experience of the urban landscape and public space. Sensory experience is, therefore, the deep multi-sensory understanding of the environment and landscape around us through our visual, acoustic, olfactory, tactile and mental perceptions. This paves the way for the search for an optimal and multidimensional mapping of the urban landscape, through which users’ senses contribute to the understanding of the concept of space, uses and possible negative indications of dysfunction and design flaws. In [22], the authors investigated whether the way the structured environment is represented somehow influences our knowledge and feeling of that environment. The question at this point is whether our ability to represent a place is shaped by what we know about it and thus what we think about it.
Therefore, this research must not only understand how people experience space but also how their senses affect their understanding and connection to that space. The concept of “sense of place” thus becomes an important criterion for understanding the built environment to which we belong. Sense of place represents the connection to the place where we live. In [23], Falahat states that this general feeling that is created in an individual after a crisis and the perception of specific environments is called “sense of place” and refers to the emotional connections that people feel or develop in a place. Sense of place also derives from the effects of the design of the environment, the activity that takes place in it and what these forms and activities mean to people [24]. Cities, public spaces and the urban landscape in general can create this sense of place when people visit that space often and return because they have developed a sense of attachment and belonging in some way. This deeper connection to a public space makes it a place where people return and interact in a positive way. It is, therefore, important to move from public “space” to public “place”.
A sense of place creates a personal identity, allowing the city to become more important to users and society. This last point is also suggested by Adams, who notes that “to walk through a place is to become involved in that place with sight, hearing, touch, smell and even taste[25]. The sensory landscape, also called urban sensescape [26], is the total experience of the city through all the senses, which also creates a sense of place for people, awakening memories, cultural connections and associations.
In [11], the authors studied “emotional reaction” as a construct of emotional experience using a ten-minute walking course. Walking experiences were also studied in [27]. The results showed that, in different spatial environments, the heat levels of the walkers were balanced between natural heat and light heat.
Sensory urbanism is an approach that explores people’s sensory experiences and understanding of their local environment. The rationale for this approach is the influential role of the senses in the development and influence of the experience of the urban environment. The assumption is that analyzing the urban environment through the senses will create more potential for the implementation of best practices in regeneration areas. A sensory city can include the needs and perceptions of people in the design of a network of public spaces. The city focuses on health, well-being and people, as well as the lived experience of cities, rather than infrastructure and buildings [26].

3.2. Sensory Mapping

Sensory mapping completes our understanding of the site and its experience through urban and environmental analysis and input from residents. The sensory maps are classified into visual maps, sound maps—soundscape, smell maps—scent landscape and tactile maps. The analysis through mapping of the different parameters related to the human senses has generated a more holistic approach that in turn will create a more comprehensive environmental strategy, including sustainable practices for each parameter that shapes the space and is related to the user’s comfort strategy. Visual maps are related to the parameters of visual comfort, namely preference for visual views and stimuli, appropriate lighting levels and elimination, where possible, of glare. Appropriate lighting levels should be defined [28][29], energy consumption should be minimized, light pollution should be avoided [30][31] and historic buildings should be lit accordingly to serve as landmarks [32][33][34]. Sound maps are digital maps that focus on the sound representation of a specific location. The term “soundscape” [19] refers to the sound environment of a specific location. It can also refer to real environments or abstract constructs, such as musical compositions and tape montages, especially when considered as an artificial environment. Sound research is also related to sound identity in the city and biocultural sound diversity [35]. Odor maps are developed based on the specific odors of cities that determine the relationship of people to their place of residence. The smell of a city can be a combination of street markets, restaurants and the types of food they offer, erosion of building materials, emissions from roads and transportation, waste odors and the smells of residents [36]. Texture maps are maps that identify the different materials and finishes that can be found in an urban environment. They can be related to thermal and visual comfort as well as embodied energy demand. These maps are directly related to the materials used in urban design [37].
The aforementioned mapping techniques will focus on recording man-made sounds, as well as documenting the specifics of the natural habitat, such as the sounds and smells of the sea, wind and seagulls, views of the horizon, etc. The selection of the specific area and the implementation of the sensory mapping occurred not only because of the richness of the place in heritage values but also because it is located in a residential area and because the coastal habitat activates the senses more intensely, i.e., intense light and reflections in the water, views, sounds of the sea and seabirds, smells of the sea and even the taste of salt brought to our faces by the wind.
Sensory mapping is being further studied as the most widely used method in combination with the various methods of urban analysis. It is believed that the combination of all the above methods and analysis techniques will provide a more holistic result in the form of a multi-indicator-based tool. In the following subsections, sensory mapping is briefly presented as well as the characteristics of the site in terms of the cultural and natural heritage elements that are present on the site and that distinguish it. In addition, this site was chosen because it is not only rich in such elements but also located in a residential area, which places people in a central position in this discussion focused on the relationship between humans and the tangible and intangible environment (see Figure 1.
Figure 1. Conceptual relationships between heritage and human experience.


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