Europa Nostra

Philip de Nucheze Geoghegan

Chairman of the Jury of Europa Nostra Awards and the European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage Senior Partner in iCON Architecture | Urban Design | Conservation Ballymurrin House | Kilbride | Wicklow | County Wicklow | Ireland


Lange Voorhout 35, NL-2514, EC Den Haag, The Netherlands

Safeguarding our Cities, Towns and Villages by better acknowledging their urban and landscape context
1. Helping to Shape our Future through the Power of Example


"The Power of Example" is the title of a magnificent book, produced by Europa Nostra; revised and up dated in 2003 to celebrate 40 years of endeavour to bring to the public consciousness the best conservation projects in Europe. The Prince Consort of Denmark , as then President of Europa Nostra, described the title's intention as "quite explicit: it is a real force, a dynamism come from afar, which roots itself in the earth of restorations or successful rehabilitations aimed at shaping the future."
These words present an elegant, poetic description of what must be Europa Nostra's most compelling and effective campaign.
Europa Nostra is the Pan European Federation for the Heritage, bringing together over 500 non governmental heritage organisations, representing millions of European citizens. It has a large number, some 1500 individual members, who feel connected to the work of Europa Nostra and who wish to support the federation. It maintains a long standing fruitful relationship with the European Union, the Council of Europe, and UNESCO as a voice of the European civil society committed to the protection and enhancement of the built and natural heritage.

Europa Nostra campaigns for heritage at risk:
In cases of uncontrolled development,
in cases of neglect and dilapidation or imminent threat of demolition,
in cases of armed conflict which victimisies civilians and their cultural heritage.

The Heritage Awards
The awards are a central activity of Europa Nostra, They have evolved from the first awards in 1978 into a significant force for the promotion of conservation in a diversity of situations. Although the awards may have focused in earlier days on individual, monumental buildings, there is evidence from the book "The Power of Example" that it was never limited in that way. In 1982, for example; the district of Plaka in Athens was awarded a diploma for an extensive improvement plan, which was undertaken over a period of seven years; and in 1984, the Boutange fortress in the Netherlands, an extraordinary star shaped military monument and living village was awarded a diploma. In 1988 and 1989, the first awards for the natural environment were made to the Ghadira Natural Reserve in Malta, and to the National Trust in England for the restoration of an ancient packhorse route in the Lake District. Industrial archaeology makes an appearance in 1994 with the restoration of the Lobsterpark in Espevaer, Norway. The first piece of modern architecture to be given a medal was Boots building in Nottingham, UK. Ireland won its first medal in 1996 for the meticulous restoration of 19th century glasshouses in the Botanic Garden in Dublin.


The European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage was launched in 2002 by the European Commission as part of the implementation of the Culture Programme. Europa Nostra was selected to run this Awards Scheme on the basis of its long experience in publicly recognising at a European level individual or joint excellence in the field of Cultural Heritage.
The EU Prize for Cultural Heritage / Europa Nostra Awards are made annually to identify and promote best practices in the conservation of tangible cultural heritage, to stimulate the exchange of knowledge and experience throughout Europe, to enhance public awareness and appreciation of Europe''s cultural heritage, and to encourage further exemplary initiatives through the Power of Example.

Outstanding heritage achievements are awarded in the following categories:

  1. Conservation
  2. Research
  3. Dedicated Service by Individuals or Organisations
  4. Education, Training and Awareness Raising

Criteria for the assessment of entries include excellence in the work executed and preliminary research conducted, as well as respect for artistic, cultural and social value, setting, authenticity and integrity. Special attention is also be paid to sustainability, interpretation and presentation, educational work, funding and management, and social responsibility. Entries can be on a scale ranging from small to large, local to international, and should display a standard of work considered outstanding in a European context.

Outstanding achievements in the conservation and enhancement of cultural heritage in the following areas:
Single buildings or groups of buildings in rural or urban setting.
Industrial and engineering structures and sites.
Cultural landscapes: historic parks and gardens, larger areas of designed landscape, or areas of cultural, environmental and/or agricultural significance.
Archaeological sites, including underwater archaeology.
Works of art and collections: collections of artistic and historic significance or old works of art.

- Projects should have involved restoration, adaptation to new uses, building additions or alterations, or new design in conservation areas.
- The building / site / work(s) of art must be accessible to the public. Buildings or sites that are regularly used by large numbers of people, for instance schools or office premises, are considered accessible.
Private buildings or sites that are regularly open to visitors are considered accessible.
- The project may include an interpretive display for cultural or educational purposes.
- Completed phases of large scale projects are eligible. Entrants should state in the description how the phase relates to the project as a whole, and indicate the overall project's expected completion date.
- The project must have been completed within the past three years: September 2006 September 2009.

Category 2: RESEARCH
Outstanding research which leads to tangible effects in the conservation and enhancement of cultural heritage in Europe in any of the above mentioned Category 1 areas.

- Studies, results of research and/or scientific publications may be submitted. If the study is preliminary research carried out before a now completed intervention, submit the entry as a Category 1 project only.
- The project must have been completed within the past three years: September 2006 September 2009.

Open to individuals or organisations whose contributions over a long period of time demonstrate excellence in the protection, conservation and enhancement of cultural heritage (relating to the above mentioned Category 1 areas) in Europe. The contribution should be of a standard which would be considered outstanding in the European context.

- Entries must be nominated by a third party only.
- Entries must be supported by three letters of recommendation from persons other than the nominator.

Outstanding initiatives related to heritage education, training schemes in cultural heritage conservation, and programmes for raising awareness on cultural heritage.
This is a new category for the awards which was introduced after a number of submissions were made to other categories which seemed to call for further acknowledgement for these types of initiative.

2 Safeguarding our Cities, Towns and Villages by better acknowledging their urban and landscape context
hellip;Evidence of the Past reinforces and shapes our cultural identity into the future

This visual presentation sets out to illustrate the diversity of conservation projects, which come before the jury in Category 1, with an eye on what has already been described as ls"shaping the future'. It may seem a contradiction in terms to set such values on the past as one of the ways of shaping the future, yet the cultural heritage is the evidence of the past, which reinforces and shapes our cultural identity into the future. The selection of these examples by no means sets them above the hundreds of possible examples, which might have been used. Looking through the possibilities, the temptation to add other projects almost irresistiblehellip;but there must be a limit!

I hope too, that it will say something about the urgency with which we need to carry and protect the natural environment through a careful and sustainable approach to the way we build.

There is an inseparable link, a symbiotic relationship, between settlements and building, and those landscapes within which the built form has been created. Traditional landscapes make this link more easily apparent.

The Projects

Little bridges, BIG bridge. The power of infrastructure
The little bridges are both prizewinners, both are in Spain. They both have a strong presence in their landscapes. A bridge has after all a powerful job to do, arching over the water, and needing heavy foundations.
The first is a bridge, which has survived over 500 years of continuous use, and has been meticulously restored with the gentlest of interventions, presenting an enduring image of timelessness.
The second is a ruined bridge of similar age where restoration of use to cross the river was seen to be an intervention, using a rolled steel structure to accentuate the difference between old and new. They illustrate two profoundly different yet successful approaches.
My BIG bridge is well known to me as a way of walking across the River Tyne from one city, Newcastle to another, Gateshead. It also carries cars at the lower level, and railway trains at the upper. Designed by George Stephenson in 1850, this industrial revolution icon, along with the later, Tyne bridge, transforms the landscape by its scale and becomes the landscape...and now a great symbol of the railway age in England. The cost of this superb restoration was app.euro;45 million. (Prizewinner 2009).

Urban Landscape / Urban Space
My second group of entries is to do with urban space it is hardly appropriate to call it landscape; perhaps ls"urban landscape' is a good generic title. Kalmar Square in Sweden is a vast open market space reinterpreted with a very simple abstract subdivision, which does not challenge the macro scale. Lighting is focused on the buildings with high poles in the centre providing secondary, symbolic lighting within the space.
Newcastle upon Tyne, Grainger Town, has been a belated and concentrated effort to rescue the nineteenth century centre from erosion by a colossal scale shopping centre, which was demolishing all before it. It is only one of many town centres in European States, which have seen a renaissance in their use by the application of skilful conservation and renewal, and a commitment to make those centres accessible with innovative transport solutions. (prizewinner 2004).
My third example is of the extension of Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofiacute;a in Madrid, by architect Jean Nouvel. This is a beautiful extension, which ls"dialogues' with its antecedent as well as opening the building up to the public and establishing public space at the heart of the building. It has an iconic quality too, which adds to the rich street architecture of central Madrid.

Buildings as Urban Landmarks
The next group is of buildings, which are landmarks in the urban environment with a significance, which is to do with the creation of a cultural (urban) landscape as much as how the buildings themselves represent their occupants.
Českyacute; Krumlov State Castle, Prague. This restoration was universally admired by the Europa Nostra jury, because "This approach transfers conservation ethics and methodology previously only used in the field of works of art, to the scale of a whole faccedil;ade and even to that of an urban landscape in which the faccedil;ade is a highly important element" ( Prizewinner 2008).
The second building is the Van Nelle factory in Rotterdam (prizewinner 2008). An extraordinary modern movement 1920s building which has a presence, transforming the bleak urban landscape in which it is situated. At every level, the architecture counts and its restoration is a model for a building of such European and world importance.

Landscape setting is Integral to the heritage of towns and villages
This presentation uses three examples; to illustrate and emphasise the need to include the landscape setting, in most situations, as an integral part of the heritage of small towns and villages. The villages of Santo Stefano di Sessanio, Abruzzo Italy; Fore, Westmeath, Ireland and Exoghi, Ithaca, Greece; each show how they grew from the landscape and then created around them their particular, unique cultural landscape of managed agriculture a classic traditional interaction and inseparability between village and landscape, which is potentially threatened now by injudicious growth and change.

Santo Stefano di Sessanio, Abruzzo, Italy
The powerful simplicity of this traditional stone village, high in the uplands of Abruzzi, suggests a choice of place, which commands the surrounding countryside in a compact, defensible form. The immediate countryside is intensively cultivated, before the rugged rocky landscape takes over where its use was restricted to grazing. Thus it could be said that the village was placed in the landscape and the people who lived in the village in turn created the immediate, cultural landscape in a symbiotic relationship. (This village unfortunately suffered damage in the recent earthquake, which devastated L' Aquila and the surrounding region on April 6 2009)

Fore, County Westmeath, Ireland
St. Feichin founded a monastery here in about 630 AD. The monastic site and settlement has a diverse history spanning over 1,000 years. The village of Fore grew up beside the monastic site at a much later period, in the 18th and 19th centuries, acting as rural centre for a dispersed agricultural population. Today the site is a powerful memory of Ireland's history of ls"saints and scholars', linking the Benedictine priory to the town and Priory of Evreux in Northern France, and reaching back to the Celtic Christian times of St Patrick and St Feichin. The landscape bears witness to this history in remarkable archaeological remains as well as historic cultural landscape generated through centuries of agricultural labour. Their interdependence is evident. In a period where agriculture is declining the future vocation of the village, like San Staefano do Sessianio, is seen to lie in tourism development potential, whilst conserving carefully the heritage. The architectural approach to ensuring a successful outcome has been to suggest an inhabited boundary, a new town wall, which would define limits to expansion.

Exoghi, Ithaca, Ionian Sea, Greece
Another example of a traditional village, perched high on the hillside, and surrounded by a highly developed cultural landscape made from stone terraces and planted with olive and cypress trees. The village, although surviving in its physical form with second homes for visitors has only a handful of elderly residents. The terraces are mostly abandoned, notwithstanding their picturesque and very characterful structure in the landscape - a stunning visual impact in a remarkable Mediterranean landscape. A single landholding, close to the village maintains the terraces with vines growing there, but the question is unavoidable: What will happen to the terraces and how will they be maintained in a sustainable way?

Research and Awareness raising
My emphasis has been on the conservation category of the awards, but I should like to show you two examples from the research and the awareness raising categories which directly address some of the themes of this conference.

The Noah's Ark Project Global Climate Change Impact on Built Heritage and Ciultural Landscapes in Bologna, Italy.
The Jury's citation for this project ( Prizewinner 2009) was as follows : "The Jury commends this groundbreaking and high quality research for its ability to clearly demonstrate the risk that climate change poses to Europe's cultural heritage. The Jury hopes that a Grand prize awarded to this project will lead to efforts to conduct a pan European assessment that wil be constantly updated."

Sustainable Aegean Programme Athens
A model programme which aims to combat the threats of overbuilding and coastal irreparable damage through low grade tourism as well as offering a sustainable view of the future for all the inhabitants of the Aegean Islands and particularly their schoolchildren. It has a website at .

Some Conclusions

Focusing on this final, rural landscape group first, it would seem that Europa Nostra's special role could place increasing emphasis on conservation of the cultural landscape context of our small towns and village, considering the following issues:

It could be progressed by harnessing the dynamic energy of new development to act as a resource for protection with the surety of sustainable conservation.
It is vital to forestall the seemingly inexorable deterioration of the cultural landscape as traditional practices no longer act in management of the land.
It may also be productive to explore a new peopling of the countryside to help generate new cultural landscape patterns. Europa Nostra may emphasise and promote the historic network of small towns and villages throughout Europe as potential to provide a new response to perceived excessive urbanization, and to herald a new appreciation and stewardship of our historic towns, villages and countryside.

In the larger picture represented by such a diverse group of buildings, so many of which are previous award winners, my hope is that the focus for our recognition of th best should establish that future entries for the awards should be responsible and sustainable in their landscape. Whether we are dealing with urban or rural cultural landscapes, we need to recognize them as being integral to our cultural heritage.
In the larger picture represented by such a diverse group of buildings, so many of which are previous award winners, our hope is that the focus for our recognition of the best should establish that future entries for the awards should be responsible and sustainable in their landscape. Whether we are dealing with urban or rural cultural landscapes, we need to recognize them as being integral to our cultural heritage.

Finally, we have seen almost as an appendix, the exciting projects from Bologna and the Aegean. They represent a fresh and important recognition of the work to be undertaken, to bring the local messages of a global crisis to the communities of Europe.
Most of the awards and projects introduced in this presentation can be accessed in the publications and awards sections of the excellent Europa Nostra website publication.


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