February 6, 2023 | Review "Sustainability for Architectural Heritage"

  Participants of the workshop in front of the portal of Aachen Cathedral Copyright: © AGes  

Sustainability for Architectural Heritage. New perspectives for the urban preservation of historical monuments

A review by Yannick Ley

In the framework of the interdisciplinary cooperation project "Sustainability for Architectural Heritage" (SAH) between universities from Armenia, Greece, Italy, Iran and Germany - with the participation of the Chair of Architectural History - a workshop in the form of a Training Week for the exchange of university teaching in the field of architectural cultural as well as architectural historical disciplines took place from Monday, January 30 to Friday, February 3, 2023.

The international cooperation of the participating institutions is made possible by the Capacity Building Erasmus+ program and constitutes the first project in terms of urban and architectural cultural heritage. The aim is to contribute to the updating and improvement of the educational standards in the field of urban heritage conservation, as its neglect due to the lack of knowledge in the field of restoration and conservation in the past led to the loss of important cultural heritage. Currently, as well as in the future, urban historic preservation is particularly confronted with the challenge of climate change, the management of which creates a high demand for experts with interdisciplinary skills.

The five days of the Training Week offered the 20 participants a diverse program of lectures, workshops and excursions, each of which was assigned to a specific daily theme. Monday, for example, was entitled "Interdisciplinary Approaches to Historic (Urban) Landscapes" and was accordingly devoted to interdisciplinary approaches to historic (urban) landscapes. In the morning, Junior Professor Carola Neugebauer opened the event with a welcome address to all participants who had made the journey to Aachen. This was followed by a first lecture by Yannick Ley, who presented the historiographical approach to urban analysis based on the Futur[AHR] project, and then gave the floor to Marie Enders, who presented ethnographic approaches with regard to the quantifiability of intangible cultural heritage. In the afternoon, participants got a glimpse of UNESCO's principles and ways of working through a presentation by Professor Michael Kloos on their World Heritage Management System, followed by Baharak Ashrafi offering the tools of Heritage Impact Assessment. The day concluded with an evening lecture by Professor Christa Reicher, who offered insights into the ongoing transformation of the Rhenish lignite mining region and thus a thematic impetus for the following workshop day.

On Tuesday, the first excursion was on the agenda for the participants: Already in the morning, they set off together to the Rhenish lignite mining area to the large opencast mines west of Aachen and found the first of several stops at Paffendorf Castle, whose historic walls from the 16th century house an information center on lignite mining. As the tour progressed, the group visited various viewpoints that, in addition to a synopsis of the power plants in the landscape, demonstrated in particular the profound transformation of the landscape by lignite mining, and were complemented by presentations by Marie Enders and junior professor Carola Neugebauer on the region's current and future spatial strategy. The end of the excursion was marked by a visit to the village of Manheim, which is in the process of transformation. The historic site of Manheim-alt has been abandoned in favor of lignite mining and its inhabitants have been persuaded to relocate to the nearby new foundation Manheim-neu. After the impressive visit of both sites, the participants had a fruitful exchange about identity-forming and grown village structures as well as their transferability to a new village foundation before the group returned to Aachen in the afternoon.

With the title "Digital and Classical Methods of Historic Building Research", Wednesday was dedicated to the various methods of building history research and their integration into university teaching. This was kicked off by Yannick Ley, who held a workshop in the morning in the library of the Chair of Architectural History on the various tools of digital building surveying and their communication to students in the context of teaching research projects. Tobias Glitsch then led the participants through the Reiff Museum and presented its building history as well as its current use as a faculty of architecture. Georgios Toubekis gave a multifaceted insight into the digital documentation and visualization of cultural landscapes in his subsequent lecture, which rounded off the morning's program. In the afternoon, Professor Jakob Beetz gave lectures on Building Information Modeling (BIM) and its teaching and integration into teaching, and Professor Daniel Münderlein presented digital and classical methods of landscape research.

Thursday's daytime program was entirely dedicated to the World Heritage Site of Aachen Cathedral. The program started with a city walk led by Bruno Schindler, starting at the Markt and continuing at the Münsterplatz, Elisenbrunnen and Theaterplatz and finally via the Kleinmarschierstraße to the Domhof, offering impressive perspectives on the urban dimension of the building ensemble. This was followed by a tour and lecture in the Aachen Cathedral Treasury by its director Birgitta Falk, who offered an insight into the many elements of the most significant church treasure north of the Alps. In the afternoon, the group then explored the many sides and facets of the building, first through a guided tour by Yannick Ley through the quadrum, the cloister of the cathedral, and then through a presentation of the cathedral courtyard as well as the octagon and the Gothic choir hall by Bruno Schindler. The day was rounded off by a guided tour of the roof of the cathedral by master builder Jan Richarz, who presented the participants with an impressive view and an interesting insight into the current and planned conservation and preservation work of the Dombauhütte.

On Friday, participants returned to the Reiff Museum for a series of lectures titled "Approaches to Modern Urban Heritage." In the morning, Professor Christa Reicher presented the "Big Beautiful Buildings" project, realized as part of the 2018 Heritage Year, which focused on the rediscovery of the architectural heritage of the 1950s to 1970s. This was followed by a lecture by junior professor Carola Neugebauer, who used the example of large-scale modernist housing estates to present the changes and challenges facing urban heritage conservation. In the afternoon, the Training Week concluded with two more thematic lectures, in which first Vanessa Ziegler presented the current challenges and future perspectives of large-scale housing estates and then junior professor Carola Neugebauer offered an insight into the cultural heritage of modernism and the exploration of scientific work with students in the context of university courses.

The organizing team of the Aachen workshop in the framework of the cooperation project "Sustainability for Architectural Heritage" would like to thank all participants for the highly interesting exchange and looks forward to the common future with great confidence.


Further Information



Yannick Ley, M. Sc. RWTH
Jun.-Prof. Dr.-Ing. Carola Neugebauer (Junior Professorship Conservation of Cultural Heritage)
Marie Enders, M. Sc. RWTH (Chair of Urban Design)