Non-performing cultural heritage reactivation

Borgo Medievale, Borgo Castello and Fenestrelle Fortress

Definition of a recovery strategy of the three cultural sites nowadays underused, underexploited and in a different – but progressive – state of decay. The aim of this multidisciplinary research is twofold: (1) identify the intrinsic latent potential of these three Piedmonts’ cultural heritage; (2) design new strategy for the activation of the latent potential pursuing the preservation and the enhancement of the assets under investigation. The aim of the research project is to establish a link between the three sites and the resources of the territories, which are peripheral and affected by gradual tourist flows reduction. The project has three main objectives: (1) to improve the awareness and comprehension of the investigated cultural heritage; (2) to bring together heritage and landscape so as to offer new ways to benefit from their combined social, economic, cultural and environmental values; (3) to promote and diversify cultural tourism so as to balance the exploitation of the different cultural resources both in remote peripheral areas and high demand areas nowadays overexploited.



Scientific director

Research coordinator

Architectural project

Lucia Baima, Matteo Robiglio, Elena Vigliocco, in collaboration with Temirlan Nurpeissov, Riccardo Ronzani

Management project:

Giulio Zotteri, Roberta Taramino, in collaboration with Carlotta Reviglio

Operative coordinator


#Architecture #NonPerformingLegacies


Research project

Publication available here

Since the last two decades, the number of sites under protection has increased exponentially all over the world: as example, in 1973 the World Heritage List included only 12 sites; nowadays the number of sites is increased to 1092. While the number of cultural heritage sites is progressively increasing, the great economic recession has produced a significant contraction and redistribution of public investments. This contraction has serious repercussions on spending capacity at all levels: the contraction of the purchasing capacity – deflation – produces production and employment decrease generating the necessary redistribution of states investments that have to privilege the essential spending items such as health,infrastructure, school and social assistance. This explains because while in the ‘90s of the XX century the investments on cultural heritage were concentrated on few specific heritage lights – such as the Reggia of Venaria Reale –, today the public efforts support sustainable policies and inclusive projects that can involve private stakeholders. In this new and more eclectic scenario, the cultural tourism can play an important role for the development of those cultural sites and territories that include unknown and underused cultural resources, it can be the economic resource that completes the traditional public investment. Nowadays, each cultural itinerary is a territorial project, which is grounded in the virtuous circle between the strong related elements resource-project-territory. The cultural territories exist thank to the project which are developed considering their resources. In the same way, the project can generate new resources in the involved territories. Thanks to the development of new territorial projects and through marketing strategy the territories can increase their cultural tourism attractiveness.
The Borgo Medievale of Turin, the Fenestrelle Fortress and the Borgo Castello in Venaria Reale are three cultural heritage that belong to three different sites with different characters. They have in common three elements: firstly, they are classified as monuments because of their historical importance; secondly, nowadays are used for cultural purposes because they have lost their original vocation; thirdly, despite their cultural value, they suffer from the undertourism phenomenon.
Three are the main causes of undertourism: firstly, the cultural site is not easily accessible because isolated or not located along typical touristic routes; secondly, the number of surrounding destinations and the consequent increase in competition is decreasing the number of tourists per heritage site; thirdly, lack of attractiveness: a good destination management and marketing and a huge government attention and funding characterize an attractive site.
For these reasons these sites belong to the category of the non-performing Legacy (npL): (1) they live a condition of risk linked to abandonment; (2) because of their original vocation, their renovation to new uses is difficult and complex. In order to safeguard this npL, it is necessary to redefine its economic mechanism that nowadays cannot be anymore the simple cyclical injection of public money.

Borgo Medioevale in Turin

The Borgo Medievale is part of the museum circuit of Torino. The village is one of the most interesting projects of the Portuguese architect Alfredo d’Andrade. Built between 1882 and 1884, the project was designed for the Esposizione Generale Italiana. Through a collage of different selected existing medieval buildings spread in Piedmont, the Borgo is the reinterpreted reproduction of a medieval village. It was conceived as urban scenography to be demolished at the end of the exhibition. However it became public museum in 1942. Thanks to its location in the core of the Parco del Valentino and its high level of conservation, the Borgo Medievale is an open-air museum particularly appreciated. Nevertheless its current economic sustainability is put in crisis by the absence of marketing strategy. If the force of the Borgo Medievale is the free access of its open air spaces, the incomes related to the payment of the entrance ticket and of the rent of its spaces are insufficient for its maintenance.

Borgo Castello in Venaria Reale

What makes this case study particularly interesting is its proximity to the Reggia of Venaria Reale, one of the guiding lights of the investment policies on cultural heritage of the ‘90s and one of the most important royal residences that compose the Savoy corona di delizie surrounding Turin. From a geographical point of view, Borgo Castello is the core of the Parco La Mandria that borders the gardens of the Reggia. After the inclusion of the Reggia of Venaria Reale into the World Heritage List (1997), the great project of restoration and enhancement of the royal site begun. 250 millions euro were spent for the restoration and design of the Reggia and 80% of the allocated funds were from EU. While at the beginning the restoration project included the site of Borgo Castello, in 2005 the renovation of the site was abandoned for administrative and economical reason and all the funds were redirect to the Reggia. Since 2001, 60% of the buildings of Borgo Castello are now unfinished and unusable and are waiting for new funds. Nowadays only one third of the surfaces are used for cultural and administrative purposes. The unused and non-accessible parts are divided into two categories: those that are waiting for the completion of the works started and never completed; those that are waiting for a new intervention of restoration aimed at stopping their decline.

Fenestrelle Fortress

The Fenestrelle Fortress was erected from the XVIII century to the XIX century in Val Chisone. For its huge dimension it is called the great Piedmonts wall. In 2007, the World Monuments Fund has inserted the fortress into the list of 100 most important historical and archaeological sites of the world in danger. The Fenestrelle Fortress is made by three fortified complexes: the San Carlo, the Tre Denti and the Delle Valli, joined by a tunnel in which runs a covered staircase of 4,000 steps. The fortress has an area of 1,350,000
square meters and a length of 3 km spread over 650 m of elevation gain. After a long period of abandonment and decay, only in 1990 the fortress has reopen as touristic site visited by 20.000 people peryear. However the current tourist income is not sufficient for the maintenance of this huge fortify complex and a new strategic approach is needed.

The first results achieved from the three different tourist sites puts in evidence that it is necessary to: (1) establish an alliance with the tourist and local operators so as to be able to choose the suitable target of tourists; (2) design a territorial marketing not focused only on one specific asset but including the different resources offered by the territories; (3) not consider the quantity as the only criteria but identify the correct balance between tourism positive and negative impacts. New projects of adaptive reuse have to propose to stakeholder and policy makers a holistic governance approach, where value co-creation processes emerge from creative interactions among multiple stakeholders. The project of adaptive reuse, that has at its centre a npL to be preserved, identifying a new place brand, must involve actors such as residents, politicians, government organisations, promotion agencies, cultural and sport entities, delineating complex relationships among them. Without betraying the preservation the cultural heritage, the architectural project must stop be hiding itself behind the “sanctity”of its procedures in order to adhere to reality as much as possible.


  • E. Vigliocco (editor), Riattivazione di beni culturali non performanti // Non-performing cultural heritage reactivation, Quaderni di FULL, n. 4, Politecnico di Torino 2020.

  • M. Robiglio, R. Taramino, E. Vigliocco, G. Zotteri, Overtourism or Undertourism: what is the biggest crisis for a tourist destination?, in Book of Abstract 1st International Conference PROCEED WITH CARE: LIVING WITH TOURISM, Sibenik, 2-5 May 2019, pp. 84-85.

  • E. Vigliocco, R. Taramino, Non-performing cultural heritage enhancement, in International Conference Sense of past and sense of place Designing Heritage Tourism, Venice, 14-16.09.2020 – under double blind peer review evaluation.

  • M. Robiglio, R. Taramino, E. Vigliocco, G. Zotteri, Overtourism or Undertourism: what is the biggest crisis for a tourist destination?, in Proceedings of the 1st International Conference PROCEED WITH CARE: LIVING WITH TOURISM, Sibenik, 2-5 May 2019, to press.

  • M. Robiglio, E. Vigliocco, Activation strategies for non-performing cultural legacy, in A. Conte, A. Guida (editors), Re-USO Matera. Patrimonio in divenire. Conoscere, valorizzare, abitare, Gangemi Editore International, Roma 2019, pp. 2115-2126.

  • E. Vigliocco, Beyond museum / new strategies of preservation applied to oversized architectures, in 35° Intenational Conference SCIENZA E BENI CULTURALI, Bressanone, 25 July 2019, Edizione Arcadia RicercheS.r.l., Marghera Venezia 2019, pp. 59-68.