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2 minutes to read Posted on Thursday August 5, 2021

Updated on Monday November 6, 2023

portrait of Héctor Aliaga

Héctor Aliaga

Architect and European project technician , Fundación Santa María La Real

portrait of Georgia Evans

Georgia Evans

Senior Editorial Officer , Europeana Foundation

New European Bauhaus - an interview with Héctor Aliaga

The European Commission’s New European Bauhaus initiative wants to put sustainability, inclusivity and beauty at the heart of Europe’s future. Through conversations with cultural professionals and heritage advocates, we are exploring the key role that cultural heritage can play. Today we speak to architect and European Heritage Tribune, Europa Nostra, ESACH European Heritage Youth Ambassador, Héctor Aliaga.

Héctor Aliaga
Héctor Aliaga
Héctor Aliaga

You are currently working with the Santa María La Real Foundation, Europa Nostra, the European Students’ Association for Cultural Heritage (ESACH), the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS)  - and completing a PhD! Can you tell us more about your different roles? 

It is true - I am currently involved in many different projects and organisations! My main job is as an architect at the Santa María La Real Foundation. I work on Horizon 2020 projects focused on the sustainable management of territories, cultural routes and pilot destinations through heritage and cultural tourism, including IMPACTOUR and TExTOUR. I also collaborate on projects which define management plans for World Heritage Cities, and design and create different thematic tourist routes specialised in urban heritage in Madrid. At the same time, I am carrying out PhD research at the Polytechnic University of Madrid in the field of Sustainability and Urban Regeneration, focusing on the enhancement of alternative cultural heritage of large cities in the 21st century. 

I disseminate and enhance these cultural heritage related activities by working with organisations including Europa Nostra, ESACH, the European Heritage Tribune and ICOMOS-Spain. Thanks to my role as an ESACH Ambassador and the international representative of the Emerging Professionals Working Group (EPWG) in ICOMOS, I am able to give more visibility to this work, my colleagues and young people.

What does New European Bauhaus mean to you?

New European Bauhaus, for me, is an updated and renewed revival of many of the values that have been raised throughout the 20th century. Given my background as an architect, I find it particularly interesting that aesthetic issues and the value of ‘beauty’ have been included as one of the three key pillars of the initiative. The cultural urban landscape, visual and architectural landmarks, perspectives and relationships between streets and buildings, and the connection with nature through the city itself and its perimeter, are fascinating issues to think about and discuss in terms of aesthetic, and this initiative.

How is New European Bauhaus relevant to the work you are doing?

The New European Bauhaus is undoubtedly an incredible initiative at European (and almost global) level to rethink our society, our cities and our cultural heritage in terms of resilient sustainability, inclusive societies and aesthetic values. These approaches do not stand alone, but are part of an active strategy aligned together with the 2030 Agenda, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the European Green Deal and the European Heritage Green Paper, published between ICOMOS and Europa Nostra. These act as a starting point for the approaches of all the projects in which I participate in a collaborative and multidisciplinary way.

How do you think we can mobilise young people, students, and new and emerging professionals around the New European Bauhaus? 

It is very important, at least from my point of view, to give young people, students and emerging professionals voice and visibility. The world of cultural heritage, and in this case the world of the New European Bauhaus, is complex, diverse and multidisciplinary. For a person new to this sector, it can be difficult to know where to start, who to approach or what steps to take. As we do through ESACH or the EPWG of ICOMOS, it is important to create spaces, activities, working groups and actions that help to involve these future generations through specific projects, presentations and networking events, mentoring and training plans, and the dissemination of scholarships and specific courses.

What we can never forget is that the ideas, points of view and proposals of young people and those new to the sector are just as valid as those of other professionals; even if they do not have the same experience or the same tools, this can be addressed little by little through ‘learning by doing’.

If you visited a cultural site or heritage institution in five years time, what do you hope that experience would be like? 

I would certainly hope that such an enclave or place would know how to maintain and enhance its own identity and singularities, which make it unique in terms of cultural and heritage criteria. It is important that the approaches of the New European Bauhaus, in terms of aesthetics, sustainability and inclusion, as well as new technologies, are able to adapt to the needs of this site or property.

How do you think that digital can support this vision? 

New technologies and the digitisation process must be tools to help us to know, understand, maintain, conserve, preserve, manage and disseminate all our cultural resources and heritage assets in a more efficient and simple way, both for us and for future generations. There are many options available, from intelligent monitoring systems, dissemination through social networks or the use of techniques such as Video-Mapping, geolocation, Virtual Reality (VR) or Augmented Reality (AR). 

What we should never lose sight of is that however much digital media improve and evolve, they must always be a tool which accompanies the experience of our relationship with cultural heritage, both tangible and intangible; digitisation should not replace the real ‘in-situ’ experience, but rather be focused on improving its quality.

New European Bauhaus encourages interdisciplinarity - Commissioner Mariya Gabriel has described it as ‘a bridge between the world of art and culture on one side and the world of science and technology on the other’. How can the cultural heritage sector work with other sectors to make a contribution to the initiative?

I would approach this question from the point of view of ‘heritage education’, and in this way, connect again with the mobilisation of future generations and younger professionals. There is no doubt that cultural heritage today is understood as a multidisciplinary field, whereas previously approached from more specific points of view, such as architecture. It is essential to raise awareness in our society of the importance and value of cultural heritage from a young age to make it a resource capable of addressing both the field of the arts and the world of science, and able to respond to issues including sustainability in cities, resilience strategies and sustainable development.