The Netherlands: Rehabilitation of Fort Kijkuit honoured

The conservation of Fort Kijkuit in Kortenhoef, winner of an EU Prize for Cultural Heritage / Europa Nostra Award 2016, was celebrated on the afternoon of 21 September 2016. Astrid Weij, Board Member of Europa Nostra, Maria Silvia Gatta, Head of Politics of the European Commission Representation in the Netherlands, and Koosje Spitz, Programme Coordinator of the Netherlands National Commission for UNESCO, acclaimed this outstanding heritage achievement from the country and presented the Awards plaque to Marc van den Tweel, General Manager of Natuurmonumenten, which carried out the rehabilitation project. During this festive event, the representative from Natuurmonumenten announced that the organisation will join forces with Europa Nostra to save and promote our common heritage.
Fort Kijkuit was used as a military defence building until the Second World War. Subsequently, the building had no obvious use and its condition worsened year after year. In 2013, Natuurmonumenten – The Society for the Protection of Natural Monuments in The Netherlands, took the initiative to preserve this UNESCO World Heritage Site. 2015 saw the completion of the renovation project which repurposed the site in a variety of ways: it is now home to a new office space for Natuurmonumenten, a tourist information centre, a lookout tower and several areas for passing cyclists and hikers to relax and enjoy the surrounding scenery.

Ceremony for Fort Kijkuit in Kortenhoef, The Netherlands, 21-09-2016The ceremony gathered some 70 people, including many professionals who contributed to the restoration of the Fort, and featured a guided tour of the site by Tony de Haan, Architect of Natuurmonumenten, who was in charge of the renovation project.

Marc van den Tweel, General Manager of Natuurmonumenten, expressed great pride in the rehabilitation of Fort Kijkuit. “The fort is now a state-of-the-art building, just as it was in the mid-19th century; a place alive, vibrant and relevant. Natuurmonumenten also worked hard to preserve the unique biodiversity of the site. This is reflected, for example, in the decision to leave the casemate unrestored and undisturbed, home to a large number of bats,” he emphasised.

On this occasion, Marc van den Tweel revealed that Natuurmonumenten has become a Member Organisation of Europa Nostra.

“We are delighted to welcome Natuurmonumenten to our pan-European network. We look forward to establishing close cooperation with our important new Member Organisation from the Netherlands,” stated the representative from Europa Nostra.

Astrid Weij congratulated all those involved in the rehabilitation of Fort Kijkuit and quoted the Awards’ Jury: “This is a successful reuse of a military building, which is so often a challenge to heritage and conservation professionals, setting an example for future projects in similar sites. The contemporary architecture complements the original structure perfectly by using imaginative techniques to allow daylight into what could otherwise be a very impenetrable building. These interventions do not affect the original character and are tactfully incorporated. The project has put this important UNESCO World Heritage listed building back to good use”.

Koosje Spitz, Programme Coordinator Culture & Heritage of the Netherlands National Commission for UNESCO, affirmed that the restoration of Fort Kijkuit increases the relevance of the Dutch Waterline, and therefore helps not only conservation of this important monument, but also the entire Waterline, possibly leading to UNESCO World Heritage status for the Waterline in the future.

Maria Silvia Gatta, Head of Politics of the EC Representation in the Netherlands, praised the partnership between the European Commission and Europa Nostra for the organisation of the European Heritage Awards scheme. She also highlighted the value of heritage and its positive impact on Europe’s economy, culture and society.

“Cultural heritage is an essential part of our common history and identity as Europeans. Its crucial importance is underlined in the European Commission’s recent proposal to hold a European Year of Cultural Heritage in 2018,” noted Maria Silvia Gatta.

The rehabilitation project of Fort Kijkuit – together with the 27 winners of the EU Prize for Cultural Heritage / Europa Nostra Awards 2016 – was honoured at the European Heritage Awards Ceremony held on 24 May at the Zarzuela Theatre in Madrid, Spain. This major event was co-hosted by Maestro Plácido Domingo, President of Europa Nostra, and Tibor Navracsics, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport.

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