Ms Aslihan Caroupapoulle

Research project: Transforming Belper: Between Alteration and Preservation in World Heritage Sites


This practice-based research seeks to create a research-led design strategy encouraging future development and sustainable design within a UNESCO World Heritage Site. My focus is the town of Belper in the Derwent Valley, an area currently under pressure from diverse and conflicting socio-economic forces due to the post-industrial decline of the cotton manufacturing industry. My research aims to generate a coherent design model for Belper that fits into town's historical context, drawing from theoretical investigations of alternative urbanism and heritage studies, alongside extensive first-hand investigations of its architectural heritage and urban fabric.

As an example of the pioneering period of the Industrial Revolution, Belper's identity is defined by its overall form and its relationship to the industrial landscape and the broader agricultural landscape. It is essential that these relationships should be definite and recognisable. However, abandonment of large factory buildings and closure of many warehouses and garages have left behind vast, derelict land and a bizarre landscape that needs to be remediated. This is particularly evident in Meadows edge area, where major gaps disrupt the overall continuity of town's form. Recent proposals take a piecemeal design approach, focusing only on specific problem areas instead of generating an overarching strategy for the development of the town as an extension of Derwent Valley WHS.

 My hypothesis is that the new design can recognise, reinforce, and enhance the distinctive characteristics of the historic built environment while upgrading it for the 21st century. My innovative approach regards the site as a palimpsest, a concept based on alternative urban theories that seek to uncover the ‘deep structure' of a place as a foundation for place-specific design. This involves extensive and focused research of the existing layers of the historic built environment and its cultural significance, the natural environment, the social landscape, and the economic forces competing over the above. Knitting together the new and the existing, my research-led design proposal seeks to promote appropriate and viable mixed-use development that repair and upgrade Belper's existing urban grain while recognising the evolving nature of its historic character. It aims to set a vision and strategic framework to guide future development of Belper for the next 10-20 years and improve spatial and physical relationships between all parts of the town.

  • Research degree: Practice-based PhD
  • Title of project: Transforming Belper: Between Alteration and Preservation in World Heritage Sites
  • Research supervisor: Dr Alexandra Stara
  • Other research supervisor: Professor Andrew Clancy


I am an architect and a practice-based researcher with interests in architecture, urban design, heritage, and cultural studies.  Since 2004, I have been involved in a wide range of architectural projects internationally, looking at how to strengthen the links between heritage, identity, and place. I have lectured and served as a guest critic for design studios and my academic work has been published in numerous magazines and journals internationally.

For the last nine years, I have been undertaking research on UNESCO World Heritage Sites, investigating how design practice can be used as a tool to support and maintain the cultural history of WHS while improving their socio-economic potential.

My practice explores ways to reconsider the design through addressing questions of transformation and preservation and going beyond the commonly held view of heritage assets as untouchable relics.

Areas of research interest

  • Heritage design
  • Architecture
  • Urban design
  • Conservation
  • Cultural studies
  • Cartography
  • Heritage studies


  • MA in Architecture and Cultural Studies, Oxford Brookes University
  • PG Dip Architecture Professional Practice, Kingston University
  • Grad Dip in Architecture, Kingston University
  • BA(Hons) in Architecture, Karadeniz Technical University, Turkey

Funding or awards received

  • London Doctoral Design Centre [LDoc] PhD Studentship in Design Research, Funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council [AHRC]
  • Kingston University Graduate Research School Activity Support Fund, 2023-2021
  • London Doctoral Design Centre [LDoc] Student Development Fund, 2022 - 2017
  • London Doctoral Design Centre [LDoc] Cohort Development Fund, 2020, 2018
  • Paul Mellon Centre, Doctoral Research Network Activity Fund, 2022 - 2019


Caroupapoullé, Aslihan (2020) Creating Balance between Transformation and Preservation within UNESCO World Heritage Sites: A Case Study of Belper, UK. In: Sustainable City 2019: 13th International Conference on Urban Regeneration and Sustainability; 01-03 Oct 2019, Valencia, Spain.

'Middle England: A Counterproposal for Belper' in Dwelling on the Future: Architecture of the Seaside, Middle England and the Metropolis, ed. by d'Avoine, P. pp. 145-161

Conference papers

‘Restoring Architecture's Communicative Role for Continuity in the Heritage Sites', in ‘'The 1st International Conference, Relevance of Doctoral Research in Architecture', ArchiDOCT and ARU Cambridge Architecture and Planning, ARU Cambridge, Cambridge, 3-5 Jul 2023

'Belper in a Suitcase: Explorations on Communicative Space' PGR Exhibition in 'Design, Creative Practice, Research Conference [dcpr]³', the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), Design Museum, London, 25 Nov 2022

'A Holistic Approach to Conservation of the Industrial Heritage' in 'REGISTER lunchtime talk', Kingston University, London, 17 Feb 2022 (Online)

'Between Heritage and Development' in 'Emerging Spatial Exchanges PhD Symposium', The Faculty of Liberal Arts & Sciences (FLAS) and The Advanced Urban (AU) Research Group, University of Greenwich, London, 17 May 2021 (Online)

'Associative Thinking and Urban Design as an Interpretative Practice A New Way of Looking at Historic Urban Fabric' in 'The 11th International Conference on Constructed Environment: Building the Anthropocene', The Constructed Environment Research Network, University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada, 12-14 May 2021 (Online)

'Conservation of Architectural Heritage' in 'The 4th International Conference, International Experts for Research Enrichment and Knowledge Exchange (IEREK), Aswan-Luxor, Egypt, 31 Jan 2020-02 Feb 2020

'Creating Balance Between Transformation and Preservation within UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Belper as a Case Study' in Sustainable City 2019: 13th International Conference on Urban Regeneration and Sustainability, Wessex Institute and Polytechnic University of Valencia, Polytechnic University of Valencia, Valencia, Spain, 1-3 October 2019

'Memory as Landmark, Landmark as Memory: Mending the fabric of the Sites of Collective Memory' in Design Research for Change [DR4C] Showcase, London Design Festival, London, 19-22 September 2019

'Working with the Post-Industrial Legacy: The Case of Belper' in 3rd International Conference on Cities' Identity through Architecture and Arts, International Experts for Research Enrichment and Knowledge Exchange (IEREK), University of Pisa, Pisa, Italy, 11-13 September 2019

'Reading the Palimpsest' in International Conference on The Memory of Place and Place of Memory, London Centre for Interdisciplinary Research (LCIR), St Ann's College, University of Oxford, Oxford, 22-23 June 2019

'Responding the Context: Palimpsestuous Design' in International Conference on Urban Studies: Realities, Alternatives and Possibilities, London Centre for Interdisciplinary Research (LCIR), Birkbeck College, University of London, London, 11 May 2019

'(Re)constructed memory, Mnemonic landscape' in Living Research: The Urgency of Arts, National Association for Fine Arts Education (NAFAE), Royal College of Arts, London, 15 March 2019

'Transformation versus Preservation: The Case of Belper' in International Conference on Tangible – Intangible Heritage(s): An Interplay of Design, Social and Cultural Critiques of the Built Environment, Architecture Media Politics Society (AMPS), University of East London, London, 12-15 June 2018

'Belper: Urban Landscape and Memory' in Evolution Exhibition, London Doctoral Design Centre (LDoc), London Design Festival, London, 20-23 September 2018

PGR Poster event, Kingston University, London, 6- 7 April 2017

'Work in Progress' PGR exhibition, Kingston University, London, 3- 7 April 2017