In 2016, ENCATC interviewed Dr. Alessia Usai, 2015 ENCATC Research Award Winner

ENCATC: Since winning the 2nd ENCATC Research Award on Cultural Policy and Cultural Management what have you been doing?
Dr. Alessia Usai: In November 2015, after the Award, I presented my research on creative and cultural networks at the 9th Study Day “Green and Blue Infrastructures” of the Italian National Institute of Urban Planning. In 2016, I have published a monography in Italian on the advanced cultural districts (original title: “Il distretto culturale evoluto. Beni culturali e pianificazione del territorio nella sfida futura”).

Last year I continued working as a Research Fellow at the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Architecture, University of Cagliari in Italy. My research is now focused on landscape planning and historic building heritage. Particularly, I’m interested in the definition of a methodological framework and guidelines for the adaptation of Recovery Plans for historical centres to the Regional Landscape Plan in Sardinia region. In March 2016, I received the title of Assistant Conservator of cultural heritage / technician of restoration, issued by the Italian Ministry of Culture.

I’ve also been keen to keep in close contact with ENCATC and its activities. This has been important to internationalise my career since they have members in 40 countries in Europe and around the globe. In 2016, ENCATC invited me to be a presenter at its 24th Annual Conference in Valencia during the programme’s Transfer Knowledge Session. I was also selected by the 7th Annual ENCATC Research Session’s Scientific Committee to present a paper, “How cultural and creative industries are redefining policies for the historic urban landscape” which specifically takes interest in the Italian Capitals of Culture. This paper, written with my PhD Supervisor Anna Maria Colavitti, Associate Professor in Urban Planning, was then published in 2016 in the ENCATC Book “Cultural Management Education in Risk Societies – Towards a Paradigm and Policy Shift?!”.

Then, on 16 December of last year in Brussels, ENCATC organised the book launch of “The Creative City. Cultural Policies and urban regeneration between conservation and development”. In Brussels, this was an occasion for me to present the book to an international audience of academics, researchers, cultural managers, artists, and EU policy makers. To see my work published in the ENCATC Book Series on Cultural Management and Cultural Policy Education was an important milestone for me. This is the first time my work has been translated in English which will mean it’ll reach more audiences outside of Italy. Moreover, I am honoured to have the recognition that comes with publishing with a renowned international academic publishing house such as P.I.E. Peter Lang.

This year I began teaching a course entitled “Design with Nature: nature, environment and landscape in urban planning” for Bachelor’s and Master’s students at the University of Cagliari.

ENCATC: What were the main conclusions of your winning PhD thesis?
Dr. Alessia Usai: My PhD thesis focuses on the relationships between the creative city theories and the planning approach introduced by the European Landscape Convention in order to identify best practices for the development of innovative cultural policies and new urban regeneration tools.

The research is characterized by a cross-cutting approach to cultural heritage. It proposes a new model for the design of advanced cultural districts consisting of a benchmark methodology and a “toolbox” of spatial, economic and social indicators that can be used to build the necessary knowledge. Finally, having Sardinia Region (IT) as reference, the study offers a picture of programmes and plans to which the methodology and the toolbox can be applied outlining their potential impacts within cultural and spatial planning.

ENCATC: Where and how you do hope your research will have the greatest impact?
Dr. Alessia Usai: I hope my research will have the greatest impact on planning tools for the historical urban landscape and on the studies on creative and cultural networks in Sardinia (IT), the region where I work and live. I hope to use my knowledge and research to contribute to local and regional projects that can benefit from the findings of my PhD research.

In 2016, I was part of a research project “Landscape planning and historic building heritage: definition of a methodological framework and guidelines for the adaptation of Recovery Plans for historical centres to the Regional Landscape Plan in Sardinia”. This project offers me the chance to investigate the impacts of cultural networks and clusters on the historical urban landscape for their management in urban policies.

I hope my research will have an even wider European and international impact as it is disseminated in the second volume publication in the ENCATC Book Series on Cultural Management and Cultural Policy Education. I think the Sardinia region can provide best practice and be an interesting case for others working on historical urban landscapes.

ENCATC: How does as Award like this one helped to support the career of a young/early career researcher who has recently completed their PhD thesis?
The ENCATC Research Award has given an international breath to my research allowing me to reach a wider audience. It is also a fantastic opportunity to have my work translated and published in English which will also make it accessible to a wider audience outside of Italy. Moreover, thanks to ENCATC network, I have known researchers and practitioners interested in my research for future collaborations. Being part of the international community of researchers interested in cultural management and policy issues so early in my career has been a fantastic opportunity. I don’t know without the Award, I would have had invitations as early in my career to speak at international events such as the 24th ENCATC Annual Conference in Valencia and the 3rd ENCATC Research Award Ceremony.

The recognition of the ENCATC Research Award and the cultural policy and cultural management research community has been very beneficial. And ENCATC has continued to take interest in my career after having won the Award, not just with the honour to publish in its book series with Peter Lang and the 24th Annual Conference e-book, but also the speaking opportunities to raise my international profile. If the past 18 months since winning the Award are any indication, I’m looking forward to more opportunities to exchange and share knowledge with a network of scholars doing exciting research in cultural policy and cultural management.