European Week of Regions and Cities
7-10 OCTOBER 2019 Brussels

How to ensure quality in EU-funded heritage and architectural projects?

Tue 9, October 2018
14:30 - 16:00

Quality architecture and well-preserved cultural heritage are major factors in defining Europe's identity and attractiveness. The EU regions and EU regional funding play a key role in keeping high the standards of quality of the built environment. As part of the European Year of Cultural Heritage and in line with the Davos Declaration "Towards a high-quality Baukultur" the workshop will present the outcomes of three working groups on how to ensure a balanced and quality-oriented approach to the contemporary transformation of the spatial environment in full respect of its cultural values. Experts will show how a quality process can lead to smart and sustainable development.

Erminia Sciacchitano, Policy Officer, Adviser For The European Year Of Cultural Heritage, European Commission - Dg Eac, Belgium.
Hughes Becquart, --, --, Belgium.
chantal Dassonville, --, --, Belgium.
Camila De Epalza Azqueta, --, --, Belgium.
Stefano Francesco Musso, Full Professor Of Architectural Restoration, University Of Genoa, Jamaica.
Education, culture and youth
European Commission - DG EAC
english (en)
Building SQUARE - Brussels Convention Centre, Room 313.
Address: Mont des Arts, 1000 Brussels

Session summary

The moderator, Erminia Sciacchitano, introduced the session by highlighting the recent paradigm shift in the field of heritage, which puts people back at the centre of the debate. Quality is no longer seen as a purely aesthetic category or experts' matter, but as part of a broader approach to sustainable development which should serve the needs of society. To avoid pitfalls (quick fix, popular will) knowledge needs to be shared with the people and the debate on quality must therefore be reopened.

Stefano Musso, chair of the ICOMOS expert group, explained that the objective was to produce a ‘guidance document’ on ‘Quality Principles’ for EU-funded interventions on cultural heritage, at the request of the Commission. He recalled quality is a “cultural” issue and not just a simply technical one, and explained that the document will focus on the main aspects that affect the ‘quality’ of an intervention on cultural heritage during its entire life-cycle. The document is being drafted and will be discussed at a conference on 22-23 November 2018 in Venice.

Hughes Becquart (DG EAC) presented the adaptive reuse perspective, which is at the intersection of heritage and contemporary architecture. He presented it as an opportunity not only to keep heritage alive, but also to contribute to sustainable development from a social, economic and environmental point of view. He called for an integrated place-bound approach to ensure compatibility of use values with the main heritage values. He insisted on the need for preliminary surveys and multidisciplinary teams to ensure a quality and inclusive process.

As a representative of the European Directors of Architecture, Chantal Dassonville (Wallonia-Brussels Federation) highlighted the Davos Declaration on high-quality Baukultur as a holistic approach to the environment shaped by man. She emphasised the need for two-stage procedures and multidisciplinary design teams in public procurement practices; she also called for participatory processes through a jury consisting of stakeholders and independent external experts, practitioners and/or professors.

Finally Camila de Epalza Azqueta from the Regional Initiative for Culture and Creativity (RICC) presented case studies from member regions in Spain, Italy and France. She insisted on the role of smart specialisation and on the governance dimension of quality. The territorial strategy based on an agreement between public authorities and citizens in the Basque country was highlighted as good practice (which goes beyond the so-called "Guggenheim effect" in Bilbao). She called for peer-learning activities among regions to promote quality in Europe.

Questions focused on the links with the EU Urban Agenda (which already covers reuse and will soon launch a Partnership on culture and cultural heritage) and on quality criteria in future EU Structural Funds (which, under the relevant Objective 5, propose an integrated and multi-disciplinary approach).

Take away message

The European Year of Cultural Heritage puts people at the heart of the quality of our built environment, thus contributing to sustainable development and serving the needs of society. Quality needs well-orchestrated efforts of many authorities and stakeholders, integrated place-bound approaches, inclusive and multidisciplinary processes, balancing contemporary needs with respect for heritage values and cultural diversity. Regions and cities play a key role in addressing quality in their long-term strategies.

Hughes Becquart

The adaptive reuse of built heritage is not only an opportunity to keep heritage alive but also to contribute to the sustainable development of our regions and cities by sparing resources and responding to citizens' evolving needs. An integrated and inclusive place-based approach is needed to ensure quality in the transformation of our cultural heritage.

Camila de Epalza Azqueta

To be successful a territorial strategy should start by an agreement between the citizens and the public authorities. It's only then that innovation and smart specialisation can lead to sustainable regional development. Governance is key to delivering quality in our built environment!

Stefano Musso

With this ‘guidance document’ on ‘Quality Principles’ for EU-funded interventions on cultural heritage we hope to help informed decision-making so that any major change in the historic environment carried out is based on proper and timely assessment of cultural heritage values and the need for long-term conservation.


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