The image of a city is intricately linked with its heritage, which tells stories of its past and adds character and a human scale to it. The professional short course on Urban Heritage Strategies (UHS) aims to explore the complex relationship between urban development and heritage management. This year’s course is designed around the case study of the city of Nijmegen, one of the oldest cities in the Netherlands. We interviewed four of the participants, who shared with us the challenges they examined and key takeaways from the programme.
More about the case study of Nijmegen
Nijmegen, located in the eastern part of the Netherlands near the German border, is the oldest city in the country, with its roots dating back to the Roman era. The city's urban landscape is a reflection of its rich history, with notable landmarks such as the stunning Stevenskerk, the oldest 16th-century houses, and the 19th-century neighbourhoods located just outside the historic city centre. Additionally, the post-World War II reconstruction architecture is a testament to the city's resilience and ability to adapt to changing circumstances.
Meet the participants
This is Laura Thomashoff, a candidate architect hailing from South Africa. Her fascination with the layers of history that shape our cities led her to the UHS course. Laura found immense value in the programme as it introduced her to new and effective ways of connecting with people from various backgrounds and professions. Through this experience, Laura discovered the power of building connections that bridge boundaries and contribute to a more inclusive understanding of urban heritage.
"The course introduces new ways of communicating, especially among people with very different backgrounds and careers."
Dongwoo Yim is an architect and professor at Hongik University in Seoul, South Korea. For Dongwoo, the course brought two major insights. Firstly, he got to delve deeper into the intriguing aspects of Nijmegen. Additionally, he highlighted that the city's challenges are not unique and can be found in various corners of the world. What's more, the strategies discussed in the course have a universal potential for implementation, offering valuable lessons for urban areas globally.
Tetyana Oliynyk comes from Ukraine and works as a professor and cultural manager with a focus on heritage. She is also involved in reconstruction, post-work construction and recovery projects for Ukraine. Just like Laura, Tetyana was impressed by the diversity of the group and how the different perspectives unveiled different sides of the problems.
"This networking and exchange of ideas are enforced mainly by the structure of the course ". Besides the learning sessions, the participants also had site visits in different cities and communicated with municipality officials and residents.
"The course offers very practical tools and methodologies applicable in various contexts, which I will certainly use both in my work and teaching in Ukraine."
Nisar Khan came all the way from India. He teaches architecture at the University Jamia Millia Islamia in New Delhi. As he went through the online part of the course, Nisar's attention was drawn to the concept of a heritage landscape. When he arrived at IHS for the in-person phase, he found himself immersed in the historic cities of the Netherlands. These cities, standing resilient through time, fascinated him. Such cities present a lot of challenges hidden behind many archaeological layers. Together, the participants delved into unravelling these complexities and devising strategies to address them.
More about the thematic groups
From the array of challenges confronting this historic city, four primary ones have been chosen through extensive cooperation with the Nijmegen municipality. Each of these selected challenges is linked to a specific district within the historic city centre, aligning with the core themes of the Urban Heritage Strategies curriculum: economics, social dynamics, environment, and culture.
The participants of the course were divided into four thematic groups and worked on a strategic action plan that was presented to the municipality of Nijmegen at the end of the course.
Challenge 1: Densification, Location: City Centre
Laura's group were tasked with tackling the challenge of densification in public spaces. This involved finding ways for the city to accommodate a growing population without compromising its historical character. To achieve this, they focused on implementing effective bottom-line strategies.
Challenge 2: Industrial adaptation, Location: Waalfront neighbourhood
Dongwoo and his team tackled the challenge of repurposing former industrial sites, specifically those located along the riverfront. These sites have historically played a significant role in the local economy of the city. The group analysed the plans and strategies to determine if it was feasible to revitalise the cultural industries in the area.
Challenge 3: Climate Change, Location: Hengsdal neighbourhood
During the interview, Tetyana emphasized the urgency of addressing climate change as it poses significant challenges today. Her team conducted research on the effects of climate change in the Hengsdal neighbourhood, specifically on sites built on sandy grounds that are more vulnerable to extreme rainfall and drought during summers.
Challenge 4: Social Housing, Location: Wolfskuil neighbourhood
How can Nijmegen stay affordable for people from lower-income groups while many social housing homes are being sold for redevelopment? Nisar's group has tackled this issue by exploring the intersection of social housing and urban heritage, with the aim of improving the utilization of these spaces.