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Waterfront regeneration has always been a major issue of urban design and planning since its decline during the industrial revolution in the late 20th century. Seeing the decline of the waterfront as an opportunity and not a threat, different cities started various regeneration programs to work towards these issues. In this blog, I am going to discuss how waterfront has transformed over the last few decades and hence created its connections with the city.

“The waterfront isn’t just something unto itself. It’s connected to everything else,” said Jane Jacobs, a prominent urbanist.

The major challenge in regenerating the urban waterfront was to create its connection with city life. On one hand, it has the potential to restore the identity of cities, reinforce a sense of place and satisfy the conditions of postmodernity but on the other hand, being on the edge of the city creates a gap between two making it an alienated land. Successful waterfronts in Newcastle, Liverpool, and London have shown a great example of how land, cleaner water, historic preservation, and urban revitalization have integrated into the city and public life.

Figure 1 – Newcastle Quayside then and now

Before the industrial revolution, the waterfront had a great connection with port cities. But after the industrial revolution, there was a need for larger docks, quay, and shipyards for handling bigger machines which led to the decline of waterfront development. The development of railways and steamship separated the ports from the cities.

Due to the increased use of land for urban areas, there was a need for cities to develop their abandoned waterfronts. The first generation of the post-industrial waterfront revitalization was seen in Baltimore Inner Harbour Redevelopment where they constructed various large and small projects such as the museum, recreational, residential, business quarters, etc. and was ranked as top 10 waterfront project.

Figure 2 – Baltimore Inner Harbour Redevelopment

The second generation was led by the organisations that were mainly established to develop waterfronts. In1981, LLDC (London Docklands Development Corporation) started to develop East London Docklands, which had a market-led approach and became the most controversial project of that period.

Figure 3 – London Docklands

The third generation of waterfront development was seen in small cities such as Albert Dock in Liverpool, Cardiff Bay, and Berlin. This wave of development was mainly focused on the conservation of old buildings and developing according to the local context and heritage.

Figure 4 – Cardiff Bay

In conclusion to this, although the industrial revolution led to the decline of waterfront development but it also gave a reason to develop new ones. Recently I have also started my research to this topic as part of my dissertation which will also help me learn and develop new ideas for waterfront regeneration.



  • Hussein, M. (2015). Urban Regeneration and the Transformation of the Urban Waterfront. [online] Available at: %2C%20April%202015.pdf [Accessed 1 May 2019].
  • The social impacts of urban waterfront regeneration projects. [online] Available at: [Accessed 7 May 2019].
  • ROBERTS, P. 2000. The Evolution, Definition and Purpose of Urban Regeneration In: ROBERTS, P. & SYKES, H. (eds.) Urban Regeneration: A Handbook. London: SAGE.
  • C, 2010. “Early Modern Ports, 1500-1750”, European History Online (EGO), Institute of European History (IEG), Mainz. Available at:[Accessed 20 May 2019].
  • World Bank Blogs. (2019). Transforming urban waterfronts. [online] Available at: [Accessed 19 May 2019].


School of Architecture
Planning and Landscape
Newcastle upon Tyne
Tyne and Wear, NE1 7RU

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