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Edinburgh World Heritage

Krzysztof Jan Chuchra, International Programme Project Manager with Edinburgh World Heritage, tells us how his organisation has used EU-funded programmes to develop its own capacity, and to establish productive partnerships across Europe.

Edinburgh World Heritage (EWH), as an organisation responsible for management of the Old and New Towns of Edinburgh World Heritage Site, has built an international reputation based on over 40 years of experience in heritage-led urban regeneration. This includes the work of the organisation’s honourable predecessors: the Old Town Renewal Trust and the New Town Conservation Committee. Since the 1970s these organisations have played a critical role in making Edinburgh one of the most distinctive and well managed historic cities in Europe. The Edinburgh model has attracted the attention internationally of professionals and scholars interested in ways of using World Heritage status to benefit the local community. Our engagement with the European Commission’s plans and tools provide opportunities to build capacity through transnational projects. In practice, international partnerships allow to look at local challenges from a wider perspective represented by specialists from other countries.  

In recent years EWH has taken an active approach to the development of an international programme focused on capacity building, and the promotion of Edinburgh abroad not only as a place to visit but also to learn and collaborate in the globally recognised spirit of the Scottish Enlightenment.

EWH’s first EU funded project startedSATURN project in 2012 in collaboration with the Warsaw School of Economics and CEIT Alanova from Vienna. The project, entitled SATURN and conducted under the Leonardo da Vinci programme, aimed to develop European standards for vocational training in urban regeneration. The EWH-coordinated partnership consisted of specialists in the areas of heritage management, conservation, economy and modern urban technologies. The project created an opportunity to learn about the Warsaw School of Economics’ modern blended teaching methods of and inspired development of EWH’s Academy of Heritage. The partners experienced EWH practice through project meetings in Edinburgh, engagement with EWH’s stakeholders, and events including the annual World Heritage Day programme. In parallel, EWH learned about modern approaches to urban regeneration in Vienna and Warsaw by visiting projects such as: Ankerbrotfabrik, Westgürtel, or the Cultural Cellars of the Warsaw’s Old Town. The latter was particularly inspiring in the context of EWH’s plans to restore the Tron Kirk.

One of the main challenges in urban regeneration is the lack of a skilled workforce to undertake appropriate repairs to historic buildings. This is a common problem across Europe. EWH has been involved in two projects addressing the issue through the Erasmus+ funding programmes: Added Value for Craft (AV4C) started in 2013 and Revival of Disappearing Architectural Professions (REDIAPRO) started in 2014.Developing traditional skills Both projects identify barriers faced by the craft sector’s sustainable development and the training requirements of crafts businesses, and highlight best practices from each participating country whilst raising awareness amongst the European community of traditional architectural occupations essential to undertake building repairs.

The results of the projects are being collated into comprehensive new studies. The projects’ websites will also feature a series of films, highlighting traditional crafts people at work, including three master craftsmen from Scotland. Both projects are complementary to our work with Historic Environment Scotland and the Traditional Building Cooperation with Krakow International Cultural CentreForum.

In parallel to the project-led collaborations, EWH has been involved in several European initiatives in the last seven years including one focused on the partnership between Kraków and Edinburgh. Through the REV.ON initiative EWH, in collaboration with the City of Edinburgh Council, has rejuvenated the partnership which originates from early 1990s when Edinburgh-based urbanists went to Kraków to support the development of the Kazimierz District Action Plan. From 2011 the collaboration opened a new chapter which included the involvement of the former Edinburgh design leader in the international design competition for the Nowa Huta District. The partnership is focused on learning about measures taken by the municipality of Kraków to maintain settled streets; staff exchanges to build up understanding of different cultures of work;  and working with the International Cultural Centre in Kraków and its Heritage Forum of Central Europe as well as the European Campus of Excellence.

EWH is also a member of the Europa Nostra Council, which is a pan-European network interested in safeguarding cultural and natural heritage of Europe. This membership allows us to stay connected with the Europe’s agenda for heritage and build our own capacity, especially in the area of European programmes, funds and networking.

EWH cooperation in EuropeOn top of all the aforementioned activities, EWH runs a programme of international internships that attract students and young professionals from a wide number of European countries. Since 2010, EWH has been partnering with the Brandenburg University of Technology in Cottbus, which runs the World Heritage Studies programme.

EWH has been working with partners representing the following European countries: Poland, Italy, Spain, Romania, Czech Republic, Croatia, Austria, Bulgaria, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Netherlands, and Portugal.

Contact: Krzysztof Jan Chuchra.