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2 minutes to read Posted on Wednesday February 9, 2022

Updated on Wednesday February 9, 2022

portrait of Sneska Quaedvlieg - Mihailovic

Sneska Quaedvlieg - Mihailovic

Secretary General , Europa Nostra

portrait of Georgia Evans

Georgia Evans

Senior Editorial Officer , Europeana Foundation

New European Bauhaus - an interview with Sneška Quaedvlieg-Mihailović

The European Commission’s New European Bauhaus initiative wants to put sustainability, inclusivity and beauty at the heart of Europe’s future. We speak to Sneška Quaedvlieg-Mihailović, Secretary General of Europa Nostra, about the key role that cultural heritage can play.

Sneška Quaedvlieg-Mihailović
20th Anniversary of Sneška Quaedvlieg - Mihailović as Secretary General of Europa Nostra
Felix Q Media
Europa Nostra

It has been a busy time for the cultural heritage sector! What has Europa Nostra been focusing on?

In the unprecedented context of the COVID-19 pandemic and the much-needed economic and social recovery of the wide cultural sector, our organisation has, more than ever, stayed true to its mission of being the European Voice of civil society committed to cultural heritage. We have enhanced (mostly online) networking and capacity building opportunities for heritage stakeholders, celebrated excellence in the heritage field with our flagship European Heritage Awards / Europa Nostra Awards, campaigned to save endangered heritage across Europe and beyond (especially through our 7 Most Endangered programme), and advocated for the recognition of cultural heritage as a strategic asset to all policy priorities of the European Union as well as of all European countries, cities, communities and citizens. 

How is the New European Bauhaus initiative relevant to this work and Europa Nostra’s activities? 

As stated by the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen in her State of the Union speeches in September 2020 and 2021, the New European Bauhaus adds a much-needed cultural dimension and a soul to the European Green Deal by bringing it closer to citizens and their living environment - both built and natural. It is deeply connected to our cultural heritage, both tangible and intangible. Therefore, the wider heritage ecosystem has actively and enthusiastically expressed its readiness to contribute to the widest possible outreach, and hence success of this initiative! For this reason, Europa Nostra was particularly pleased and honoured to be selected among the very first 13 selected partners of the New European Bauhaus and our organisation strives to align all its activities to the ideals of the initiative. 

Personally, what does New European Bauhaus mean to you?

Let me tell you how delighted I was when I heard, for the very first time, the value of BEAUTY being advocated by a European Institution! The three core ideals of the New European Bauhaus - sustainability, inclusiveness and aesthetics - are embedded in our shared heritage and are key to (re)imagining our collective future together. Indeed, European urban and rural areas are built over centuries of shared history, reflected in buildings and landscapes alike. Cities and regions, including our countryside and rural areas, with their distinctive ‘spirit of the place’ and with their direct links to the quality of life of citizens and their communities, must be at the forefront of this vital movement!

In 2021, Europa Nostra produced The European Cultural Heritage Green Paper, in close collaboration with members of the European Heritage Alliance. How do you think this paper supports the values of the New European Bauhaus?  

The European Cultural Heritage Green Paper ‘Putting Europe’s shared heritage at the heart of the European Green Deal’ makes a convincing plea that our cultural and natural heritage are key to achieving the ambitious goals of the European Green Deal to make Europe the first carbon-free continent by 2050. The Paper correlates cultural heritage to all of the components of the European Green Deal and provides concrete and operational recommendations for policymakers at all levels and heritage stakeholders across Europe. We are convinced that cultural heritage, while being endangered by climate change, is also part of the solution. From reusing heritage buildings to using traditional agricultural know-how to support sustainable food systems, cultural heritage can support the transition towards a healthier, greener and fairer future in the spirit of the New European Bauhaus. 

Europa Nostra, acting also on behalf of the European Heritage Alliance, was proud to cooperate with ICOMOS and the Climate Heritage Network of which we have recently become a regional co-Chair for Europe and CIS. We are grateful for the support received from the European Investment Bank and the EU Creative Europe programme, to release this ground-breaking document. 

In a not too distant future shaped by the New European Bauhaus, what do you hope that the experience of visiting a cultural heritage site would be like?

Historic buildings and their surrounding landscape shape and nurture our feeling of ‘home’ and our sense of belonging to a wider European family. Europe’s cultural heritage provides a vital bridge between the need to preserve these multiple layers of our identity and the need to embrace new ways of life. As such, it offers an inspiring framework for social cohesion and inclusion which contributes to the wellbeing of citizens and their communities. As the idea of the New European Bauhaus is focused on the design and the aesthetics of Europe’s future sustainable living environment, we hope that its projects will help promote a ‘high-quality Baukultur’ with due respect for  the historic character of our cities, villages and rural areas. Care for cultural heritage must be part of any green agenda for the future of Europe! 

How do you think that digital, tangible and intangible heritage can work together to support this vision? 

As a result of the pandemic, the digital shift in the cultural heritage sector has accelerated, offering welcome tools for more inclusive cultural experiences. Cultural heritage institutions (big and small) have embraced digital opportunities to continue their activities, keep their audiences entertained and engaged, while reaching new ones across Europe and beyond. Digital practices, such as 3D modelling, also have the potential to drive creativity and also enhance conservation efforts for the sake of a better safeguard of both tangible and intangible aspects of Europe’s shared cultural heritage. Indeed, digital,  tangible and intangible heritage are interrelated and reinforce each other. There is a need to further enhance these synergies for a more sustainable, inclusive and beautiful future of Europe but also for Europe to promote and even lead innovation on the international scene.

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?

When it comes to collaboration, the heritage world has a huge amount of experience to offer, as each heritage site and project entails, by definition, a strong partnership between a wide range of actors and disciplines. Cultural heritage, with its multiple values for Europe’s society, economy, culture and the environment, contributes to so many other policies and sectors, including urban and rural development, architecture, design, education, research, innovation, agriculture, mobility, social cohesion and inclusion. In order to make those bridges even more robust, there is a need to adopt a more holistic approach to cultural heritage. The New European Bauhaus is a unique opportunity to mobilise, to change our mindset and our narrative about Europe’s green and digital transformation while enhancing our shared cultural heritage. In this way we shall make our continent - and the whole Planet Earth - a better, fairer, more beautiful and more meaningful place to live for present and future generations. 

Explore New European Bauhaus on Europeana Pro and watch Sneška Quaedvlieg-Mihailović’s keynote speech from Europeana 2021.