The Urban Heritage focus interview series introduces four urban professionals and participants of the Urban Heritage Strategies course, which takes place yearly at IHS. The current edition is tailored to four World Heritage Cities, designated by UNESCO: Willemstad (Curaçao), Paramaribo (Suriname), Salvador da Bahia (Brazil) and Sawahlunto (Indonesia). The countries in which the cities are located have a partnership on heritage conservation with the Netherlands. In this series, we invited one representative of each World Heritage City to answer a few questions.
Érica Diogo is an architect and urban planner, graduated from the Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism of the University of São Paulo, in 1994, where she has also done her post-graduation and worked with leading researchers on housing and inner cities rehabilitation. She lives in Brasilia, the Capital of Brazil, since 2004 and during this time, her professional experience has been concentrated on the preservation of urban heritage in cities all around the country. Currently, she is the General Coordinator of Regulation and Urban Management at the National Institute of Historical and Artistic Heritage – IPHAN. There, she is responsible for nationally coordinating the production of urban rules for federal heritage protected areas, including the Historic Centers of Salvador, Recife, Belém, Manaus, Rio de Janeiro, Florianópolis, among others.
What determined you to attend this course?
Firstly, my motivation is related to the close relationship between the course's theme and my current professional duties. These include the proposal of strategies that combine the preservation of cultural heritage within the local urban development, while always involving the local population. It's also a challenge to establish connections between local demands and expectations, whether from managers or the population, and the conditions for the conservation of assets.
Secondly, the opportunity to discuss and think about the case study of Salvador, where Iphan is implementing a strategic project in partnership with other levels of government and the Federal University of Bahia, for developing rules to guide interventions in the Historic Center of Salvador. The University team is working with residents and is conducting a dense and complex analysis of the area, identifying conflicts and problems for preservation, and indicating general and specific guidelines for local actions.
And, finally, the opportunity of sharing knowledge and experiences with professionals from other countries and discussing the challenges and alternatives for the management of urban cultural heritage.
Tell us more about your case study, the city you focused on and what you learned from it.
The Historic Center of Salvador combines a fascinating urban landscape facing the Todos os Santos Bay, divided between Upper and Lower City, with significant amounts of relevant colonial built heritage and an impressive diversity and rich intangible heritage which maintains its manifestations that can be experienced through lively festivities, music, artistic and religious expressions, culinary, language etc.
On the other hand, the same Historic Center of Salvador is a territory of segregation and social discrimination, marked by precarious infrastructure, public services and, particularly, the living conditions of low-income residents. This combination ends up feeding a general and ever-present expectation that this reality will be transformed, and local conditions will be better.
The Historic Center of Salvador is a very complex, diverse and attractive place to work, visit and live.
How is your case study city different from the city you live in if you look at urban heritage management?
Both cities, Salvador and Brasilia, are World Heritage Sites. However, the local contexts – urban, economic and social – and the institutional/administrative structure are completely different. Salvador is a coastal city of colonial heritage, one of the oldest in Brazil, and it is widely recognized for its rich cultural diversity. Brasília is a modern and planned city located in the Cerrado of the Brazilian Central Plateau, seat of the federal government, marked by a territorial social segregation in the area recognized as World Heritage, the Plano Piloto.
Another significant difference stems from the administrative structure of Brasília - being defined as the Federal District, with only two levels of government, while the rest of the country has three levels – municipal, state and federal - an aspect which also impacts the local management of cultural heritage.
A final point of difference is the extent of Brasilia's protected area, which has the largest urban area recognized as a world heritage site. Despite all the differences, the analysis and proposed approach presented in the UHS course can be applied to both realities.
How does what you learned in this course relate to your own work or to your professional interests?
It is extremely important to highlight and remember that many of the problems and challenges we face are common to other countries, despite the socioeconomic and cultural differences. As an example, I highlight the issues related to gentrification, which was a topic approached with great care throughout the course.
Furthermore, I would like to emphasize the satisfaction of knowing that the strategies and methodological guidelines adopted for the management of urban heritage in Brazil, at the federal level, are in line with the international approaches presented, especially that of the Historic Urban Landscape, even though there has not been a direct influence.
The last and perhaps the most relevant aspect to highlight is the urgency of incorporating issues related to climate change and integrating the SDGs into everyday urban heritage management practices.
What takeaways from this course would you use as inspiration further?
A special inspiration comes from the work with the Salvador team, formed by young professionals (Ariella Kreitlon, Edílson Borges, Henrique Rabelo, Marisa Novaes and Naiara Amorim) who are highly qualified, committed and very collaborative, making this remote practice during the crisis of the Covid 19 pandemic, a great stimulating and learning experience.
The exchange of knowledge with teams from other cities (Paramaribo - Suriname, Willemstad - Curaçao and Sawahlunto - Indonesia) has also been inspiring and has a high potential to remain in professional routines and practices, even after changes in the conditions of social isolation due to the pandemic.
And to close, the objective and dynamic way of bringing reflections, synthesizing and prioritizing information and leading to purposeful referrals.