Regeneration is a term which is in danger of becoming over-used, and even debased. Like sustainability, which is now defined so widely and used so liberally that it is often meaningless, regeneration needs defining in order for it to be properly understood and meaningful. Regeneration is too easily confused with property development, or construction, or investment, or the creation of jobs. It is true that regeneration might well incorporate all these things, but it will also embrace matters such as sense of place, collective memory and culture, as well as introducing the potential for a place to survive into the long term. Regeneration is, therefore, about economics, society and viability, rather than just headline numbers and construction jobs. It means changing the fortunes of a place and its inhabitants not just temporarily; it provides a momentum which should eventually prove self-sustaining.
Further, this issue of AD argues that there is a subtle difference between regeneration and generation. Some regeneration is so complete that every building, street and inhabitant is removed – a parcel of land is sealed off, scraped clean and effectively returned to year zero. This might not be regeneration at all, only generation, a new beginning. True regeneration will embrace a certain continuity and the notion of change emerging organically. This involves working with the site rather than against it; and perhaps leaving room for the unknown, rather than planning for a future which might never happen.