Europa Nostra co-organises webinar “Adaptive reuse of (industrial) buildings with a history” within the Cultural Heritage in Action Project

As part of the “Sharing Stories” webinar series, Europa Nostra, Architects’ Council of Europe and Eurocities, on behalf of the Cultural Heritage in Action consortium, hosted the webinar “Adaptive reuse of (industrial) buildings with a history” on 4 April. The webinar brought together more than 120 participants from all around Europe and offered a platform to exchange views, good practices and tackle main challenges related to adaptive reuse of (industrial) cultural heritage. This was the second of a series of webinars organised in the framework of the EU-funded Cultural Heritage in Action project, of which Europa Nostra is a partner, together with Eurocities, Architects Council of Europe, KEA and ERRIN.

Europe has a rich and multi-faceted built environment, incorporating strong spiritual, cultural, social and economic values. Due to evolutions in our economies and societies, many heritage sites, whether listed or not, are nowadays disused or have lost the functions for which they were originally built – notably industrial sites. As these buildings reflect the features of the era in which they were built, their demolition implies cutting the vital link between the past and the present. Adaptive re-use offers itself as a strategy to preserve the values of these structures, while at the same time adapting the place for new uses of our time and as a catalyst of local development. Through smart renovation and transformation, heritage sites can find new, mixed or extended uses. As a result, their social, environmental and economic value is increased, while their cultural significance is enhanced.

The webinar was an opportunity to explore, through concrete examples, the benefits of re-using heritage sites; the challenges inherent to adaptive re-use projects; the drivers of quality interventions on cultural heritage as well as the larger contribution of re-use of cultural heritage to current EU policy initiatives.

The opening remarks were delivered by the moderator Lorena Aldana, European Policy Coordinator at Europa Nostra, who set the topic of adaptive reuse in the wider sustainable development and green transformation policy discussions.

Selma Harrington, Board Member of Architects Council Europe, then placed adaptive reuse in the European context, underlining its social, economical and cultural benefits: “It generates new social dynamics in the cities and gives the possibility to engage citizens in the decision-making processes. I t saves construction materials and urban spaces for new needs, so that cities are more sustainable. It also leads to economic growth, creates jobs and strengthens the ties of the citizens with the local identity.’’ Referring to the 2018 Leeuwarden Declaration – which Europa Nostra endorsed – she emphasis ed the need for flexible and participatory approaches, interdisciplinary teams, financial sustainability, and good storytelling for smart and quality-based processes of adaptive reuse.

After the opening remarks, three case studies were presented to illustrate how adaptive reuse works in practice, focusing on do’s, don’ts and transferability tips.

The first case study was The Cukrarna’s Gallery in Ljubljana, Slovenia, a former sugar refinery from the 19th century which was transformed into a vibrant cultural hub. Blaž Peršin, Director of Museums and Galleries of Ljubljana, shared the operational details of this process, explaining the solutions implemented to overcome preservation challenges, namely preserving the authenticity and reinforcement of the structure. He recalled the need to work with a multidisciplinary team – from artists and architects to local organisations and urban planners.

The second good practice was Kumst Creative Hub in Brno, Czech Republic. This case was jointly presented by Zdeňka Hubáček Kujová, Director of Kumst, and Tomas Kozelsky, Founding Partner of KOGAA Architectural Studio, mostly working on adaptive reuse of buildings. The building, which dates back to the 1930s, functioned as the Faculty of Fine Arts and has been converted into a hub for creative professionals. Zdeňka Hubáček Kujová explained the present use of the building as a space where creative professionals can connect with people from different sectors and expand their networks, as well as a learning space where they can gain and share insights on their creative professions. She pointed out the adaptive reuse of the building as a bottom-up process. Indeed, ‘’The Creative Industries Mapping Research” carried out in 2014 revealed the need for a centre of this kind. Tomas Kozelsky recalled key topics to consider in adaptive reuse projects, namely evaluating convertibility, keeping architectural and historical values of the building as well as ensuring design flexibility.

The third good example was Galerías Va in Valladolid, Spain, an old municipal food market converted into a creation and exchange space. It was jointly presented by Guillaume Rousseau, Technical Adviser at the City Council of Valladolid, and Maria Mosso, the Project Manager of Galerías Va. Guillaume Rousseau identify the objectives of the project, namely “preserving local memory and regenerating public heritage for cultural purposes, revitalising and boosting cultural life by supporting emerging European artists and making local artists more visible, supporting urban culture and creating new local cultural policies.’’ Maria Mosso highlighted the importance of partnerships in projects of this kind. “Artists can use the space by applying to the open call for free and, in return, the artists need to provide free-of-charge activities to the public, which is a win-win’’.

The presentation of the case studies was followed by a Q&A session moderated by Pierre Obajtek, Senior Policy Officer at Architects’ Council of Europe and co-organiser of the webinar.

In his concluding remarks, Jimmy Jamar, Head of Europa Nostra’s Brussels Office, spoke on adaptive reuse as a key contribution of the heritage world to the New European Bauhaus (NEB) initiative launched by the European Commission. He pointed out “creativity, diversity and networking” as crucial elements of the NEB and applauded the three case studies presented for brilliantly illustrating these values. He recalled the significance of industrial heritage as a vital part of European shared history and memory. ‘’The presented good practices are an important contribution to the wellbeing and inclusion of both individuals and communities. What brings us together as Europeans? It is our culture, common heritage, common memory and common history, which also require sharing spaces where we can learn from each other,’’ he concluded.

About the “Sharing Stories” webinar series

This webinar series showcases leading cultural heritage initiatives which are driving sustainable urban and regional development in European cities and regions. These sessions have been designed to share good practices and insights on a range of topics relevant to cities, regions and cultural heritage stakeholders, including: cultural heritage policy, resilience and recovery, governance and participation, adaptive reuse, climate resilience and social inclusion. Each episode will clearly demonstrate the opportunities for cities and regions in contributing to innovative, impactful and sustainable cultural, environmental, social and economic territorial processes. Participants will hear from a range of inspirational examples and experienced speakers and have the opportunity to ask their questions and share their ideas.

Stay tuned for more information!

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