Heritage Management Seminar focused on the Synagogue of Subotica held in Serbia

Adam Wilkinson, Council Member of Europa Nostra and Director of Edinburgh World Heritage, was invited by Europa Nostra Serbia to lecture at the Heritage Management Seminar held on 23 June at Gradski Muzej and at the Synagogue of Subotica, listed among the 7 Most Endangered heritage sites in Europe in 2014 by Europa Nostra and the European Investment Bank Institute. This seminar, which aimed to start public discussions and planning around the management of the extraordinary Synagogue, was part of the wider project Heritage Under the Loupe, organised by Europa Nostra Serbia and supported financially by the Headley Trust.

Subotica is a hidden gem in the plains of northern Serbia, with a remarkable Art Deco / Secessionist legacy and streets lined with 19th century vernacular classical buildings, many of which are badly neglected by owners seeking to redevelop them into much higher buildings. Where this has already happened, the gentle and pleasant atmosphere of the city has been rudely interrupted and the social fabric disturbed.

Synagogue in Subotica, SERBIA

The restoration of the Synagogue in Subotica is proceeding without either a defined end use or deep community engagement. The seminar aimed to help citizens, NGOs and the municipality to think about the Synagogue in its wider cultural landscape, and in the process, to consider whether a historic urban landscape approach to the planning of the city might result in more sustainable change. Examples of other cities where this has succeeded were discussed, most particularly Ballarat in Australia, which is similar in terms of size and structure. Through a participatory approach, Ballarat has developed a city planning strategy based on the themes of a “ten minute city” and “city in a landscape”.

Adam Wilkinson’s work with Europa Nostra Serbia was rounded off with a workshop, during which participants explored the ideas of a cultural landscape, discussed the different ways in which they value the city beyond the architectural and historical, and then designed thematic trails around the city.

A follow up with the city of Subotica over the coming months will reveal what initiatives have taken root. Most important, however, will be an acknowledgement by the city’s leadership of the importance of its heritage and moves to ensure it is protected from inappropriate development.

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