Exploring the link between water and heritage in four port cities

In this interview, we asked participants Mohamed Gohar (Egypt), Anne Schopman (Netherlands), Imad Dahmani (Morocco) and Sena Kayasü (Turkey) about their experience with the first online part of the Urban Heritage Strategies short course. As the second part of the course will be held in person in Rotterdam, we are excited to welcome them at IHS soon!

Sena Kayasü

Sena is an architect with a master’s degree in Historic Preservation Planning from Istanbul, Turkey. She previously worked in various roles at cultural heritage-related organisations such as Koç University and TÜMAŞ. Currently, she is studying in the Architectural Design Computing program at Istanbul Technical University and is a researcher working on integrating computational methods into the conservation of urban fabric.

Mohamed Gohar

Mohamed is an architect and researcher coming from Alexandria, Egypt. He works between Alexandria and Marseille as an independent cultural consultant and advisor for cultural cooperation. His duties include conducting field research, and designing, developing, and implementing projects on urban heritage and social strategies.

Imad Dahmani

Imad is a Casablanca-based architect and professor from Morocco. He is a co-founder of the association MAMMA (Memory of Modern Moroccan Architects), which focuses on developing and protecting the post-independent Moroccan heritage. Recently, he opened his firm under the name of “ADA”, through which he works on projects such as public facilities, offices, housing, and restoration of buildings.

Anne Schopman

Anne is from Amsterdam, the Netherlands and works for the local water authority Amstel, Gooi en Vecht in the Amsterdam region. As a project manager, she maintains the cultural heritage still in use for daily water management, such as pumps, locks, mills and sluices. This heritage tells stories and teaches inhabitants more about water management and its history.

Cities are facing water-related challenges all around the world

Anne explains that Amsterdam has always been connected to water and used water management tools to protect itself from the sea. “Since the construction of the Oranje Locks, the city is no longer affected by the tides and therefore lost its adaptivity and connection to the sea. Looking at future water challenges, Amsterdam needs to be more adaptive again.”

When asked about Alexandria, Mohamed describes how the city faces shared challenges with other port cities.

“Environmental, economic, political, historical, and social points need to be tackled to plan for a sustainable future for my city. This course offers a guideline to start with and tailor a program that fits the city’s needs.”

Sena tells us that Istanbul has been a highly populous city since Antiquity as the Golden Horn provided a natural, protected port for the region. However, its location on a major seismic fault makes earthquakes and tsunamis potential dangers; other challenges include tourism, urban sprawl and pollution. “I hope this course will provide some strategies to help us relate the importance and urgency of such water-related problems for the city’s near future to authorities and institutions through scientific research and practice.”

Due to his city’s proximity to water and the various climatic challenges, Imad estimates the course is an effective way to understand and take advantage of these obstacles:

“This course will give me the tools to analyse and identify Casablanca’s heritage through its values and attributes to progress toward a clear vision and governance strategy.”

Key takeaways

Mohamad aims to develop his abilities to understand the ecosystem of port cities in general, including its common or shared threats and potentials: “acquiring sufficient theoretical and practical skills would help me reflect on my city.”

For Sena, many lessons can be adapted from other cities and countries.

“One of the reasons that I got excited by this course was that two of the other participating cities are from Northern Africa, which I, unfortunately, know very little about. I hope to have further opportunities to compare these cities regarding ecological sustainability, adaptive-reuse strategies, and the prevention of community displacement due to rapid development.”

According to Imad, the Urban Heritage Strategies short course will give him analytical expertise in terms of technological tools with graphic representation and help him acquire knowledge through the experiences of the various lecturers and participants.

When asked about her short course experience, Anne says:

“So far, I have learned to look at heritage from a different perspective and understand how it is rooted in our culture. The course has broadened my horizon, looking at the bigger picture about climate change and adaptation to future challenges.”

Blended learning

As the course takes place both online and in person, there are benefits that come with the format. Participants expressed positive impressions after the first online half of the course.

Mohamed points out that the online part was smartly tailored to introduce fundamental theoretical approaches. The content was well collected, enabling students to continue further readings and studies: "I am looking forward to the in-person classes in Rotterdam, hoping that I will learn more from the other professionals and academics about their diverse experiences and share mine with them."

Imad is keen to learn from the experiences in the field during the second part of the course and exchange knowledge with the instructors and participants in Rotterdam: "the online part was very enriching. The different lectures helped us better understand the different subjects and bibliographic sources. The question-and-answer sessions allowed us to have direct contact with the lecturers." 

"The online course was like a pressure cooker. We gathered a lot of knowledge on different topics in a very short period of time." - says Anne. "Learning about problems in different cities, Istanbul, Alexandria and Casablanca, was very interesting. I look forward to meeting everyone in person and getting familiar with action planning in the second part."

Sena describes the structure and flow of the online course as smooth, albeit more intense than expected. Consuming the content first and only asking pre-meditated questions during the live discussions was part of the success. "I was also blown away by the level of expertise and knowledge, as well as the willingness of the participants (and, of course, the instructors) to take that much time out of their busy days to contribute." She believes the second part of the course in Rotterdam will be even more effective since everyone will be able to dedicate themselves even more and get to know each other better. "I look forward to learning more about the other cities and examples from around the world. It will also be nice to communicate with the instructors more directly and have some workshops and field trips. See you there!"

Flo P

About the course

Explore the connection between urban development and heritage management in four port cities: Casablanca (Morocco), Alexandria (Egypt), Istanbul (Turkey) and Amsterdam (Netherlands).

Find out more
Alexandria, Egypt

Mohamed Gohar

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Anne Schopman

Casablanca, Morocco

Imad Dahmani

Istanbul, Turkey

Sena Kayasü

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