The purpose of this paper is to understand how future urban icons can effectively contribute to the development of an authentic city brand linked to local identity. Urban icons have been one of the main tools of city branding to promote a unique and distinctive image of the city. However, the rising of the globalization reflects a series of strong dilemmas regarding the contemporary urban icons because these have been reproduced in a standardized way around the world without any connection to the local context.
This exploratory study consisted of 30 in-depth interviews with visual aids of urban icons conducted with local residents of the city of Monterrey, Mexico.
The results demonstrate that the acceptance of a contemporary urban icon by local residents depends on their relationship with the most representative aspects of the local identity and their ability to generate positive experiences. The outcomes of the research suggest that future urban icons should favor the local identity and the free coexistence between local residents over the attractive visual design and the private space.
The article discusses the dynamics between urban icons and the city brand from a new theoretical approach supported by empirical evidence. The novelty of this approach consists of the vision of the urban icon as an element capable of linking the city brand with the values and ideals of local residents.
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