Irene Wiese-von-Ofen

Thoughts and Recommendations from German Experience: Examples in Essen
Irene Wiese-von-Ofen, (Architect and Townplanner, Former Deputy Mayor of the City of Essen, Freelance adviser for Urban Planning and Participation, Vice-Chair of the Advisory Board to the German Federal Ministry for Traffic, Construction and Urban Development, Essen)

1. Introduction

After the second world war the recognition of the rescued heritage in European cities was a strong one, but in the same time there was a collective demand for new and modern buildings, the wish to use the opportunities of the destroyed settlements for more healthy and strictly divided quarters following functionalism and less density than the middle aged situations. The controversial solutions are to be seen in Warsaw where it was obvious that for the soul of the population the historic centre was of tremendous importance. The same in St. Petersburg, where after the state of siege the precious testimonies of identity and resistance were protected and cultivated in an extraordinary attempt.

Similar were the efforts in Prague — one of the best rescued examples of a European centre of culture and history during centuries.

Therefore finally after years of debates national laws of heritage protection were constituted in all European countries – on both sides of the iron curtain. This was one of the points of united approach.

As known in the international discussion on protection and rescuing the testimonies of outstanding value was going on through the sixties and seventies. High level experts meetings, researches and governmental initiatives led 1972 to the World Heritage Convention as the result of institutionalising instruments to protect worldwide buildings, landscapes, various cultural products of literature, music or special cases of important vernacular environments of “outstanding universal values” (OUV).

Nevertheless there was from the beginning a high interest from amateur people interested in history, in aesthetics, being owner or neighbour, so that elements of participation were belonging since the beginning to protection procedures and the maintaining of the protected ensembles were depending on the involvement of private initiative – unavoidable that state support and state subsidising was and is necessary to overcome.

During these round about 40 years since the first inscription on the Worlds Heritage List the approach changed. More and more city governments recognised the marketing effect of heritage protected buildings and environment and were eager to get on the list, although very often a positive or negative impact was not obvious. More and more organisational elements became steadily important. Regulations grew a lot. Public recognition and controversial debates took place up to the case, that people went to court pro or against protection initiatives.

2. Protection

The situation of the World Heritage Properties in the various European countries differs very much: they are belonging to cities, to private owners, to foundations and trusts, to non profit organisations and associations, to churches.

In the most cases all these sites and properties were already under the protection of state laws.

They differ from country to country, mostly these are state laws.

In Germany as a Federation, this is the responsibility of the 16 Länder with various different heritage laws. The municipalities are very strong in Germany, so that they are responsible for the concrete institutionalising protection, but together with the higher level of the Länder administration .They are responsible for the approval of the nomination of these heritage protection especially in cases of conflict, where there is the right to decide against a municipality based on the expertise of special institutions.

The nomination for the World Heritage List of the UNESCO is the responsibility of the German Federal Republic Government. Therefore this procedure takes long time and is complicated concerning responsibilities and communication lines in the multi level spheres.

In cases of conflict there are sufficient regulations set up by the UNESCO and the different guidelines implemented by various regulatory steps and guidelines.

One of the most detailed recommendations within those guidelines is about the question of management: that means

  • how to finance the future of the heritage protected building, ensemble or city
  • what are the future restrictions (f.i. number of visitors, light, heating , ect.)
  • what are the using aspects, needs and impacts
  • which assessments on income, renting, new using and revenues are to expect

Sometimes management plans are thought to fulfil the role of an urban development plan. This is not the purpose of management plans which have to give like a business plan the strategy how to conduct the maintaining of the monument or site. As an example the main tasks of the management plan in Schloß Schönbrunn may be mentioned. The problem was that too much visitors wanted to visit the castle and the gardens. This big number of visiting people were a danger for the precious wooden floors and paintings. The dears in the gardens as well were irritated. On the other hand the revenue was not enough for maintaining if reducing the allowed number of visitors. So the management plan had to describe how this conflict might be solved by various steps of raising income through benefit events, founding supporting associations or societies of friends or how to negotiate for support of governmental subsiding. Sometimes special institutions are using the heritage protected ensembles like castles or monasteries as schools or universities and therefore the support through state financing is the obligatory consequence of putting the ensemble under protection So together with the protection it should be defined who is responsible for renovation and running the institution.

Naturally one aspect in the management plan is to look at the impact of the environment and to include in intended developments the relevance of the heritage monument or ensemble taking into consideration the urban context. Cooperation with the responsible administration is a self-evident duty.

3. Financing

Financing of the World Heritage sites and properties depends on the ownership. In any case there is in most of the European countries different support, be it tax or interest payment reduction for private ownership, be it public grant, state subvention or other funding by urban development programmes. In UK there are National Trusts which are the owners or financing the high quantity of heritage. In Austria the system is similar to Germany.

Foundations are a well known and practical way to rescue ensembles of outstanding value, so that very often private owners give their properties to such a foundation as counter value for maintaining the property.

4. The role of NGOs

Non Governmental Organisations are key actors in initiating protection procedures. They are partners in participation processes. They are often representatives or bearers of activities or manager for using Heritage protected properties. Very often their role is the one of attorney in fact for state responsibilities with the relevant support by the governmental institutions. Offering interface and interaction between the various different players gives high responsibility to NGOs.

There are very different NGO. The fantasy of engaged people, younger as well as older ones, in active coalitions is enormous It may be a society founded to run a dance centre, or an association to implement a training centre in a former production ensemble, or a sport club in a hall or an assembly of researchers in an former office or a gathering of young musicians or a theatre pool in former washing places of a mine or mountain training groups in former power plants – just to mention only some. These are the examples for sometimes spontaneous users, sometimes very officially organised, who are the people looking for opportunities, who are willing to be engaged, who are interested of cooperation and are the fundament of maintaining. Only with different using the heritage protected buildings and ensembles they are belonging to the city, they are rescued and part of the overall lively character of a city in the stream of past and future. Those initiatives are to be found, motivated, supported, not in every case financially, but in organisational questions, legal support and institutionalising advise and cooperation extent for stabilising even little initiatives.

So there were founded in some cities agencies for training private partner or groups in order to support non profit approaches or help to organise possible business opportunities, to assist in certifying procedures and help finding contacts with relevant consumers. That means to bring together the demand side with those who want to be active and love an old building and love a special identity in their living and working situation.

More an more corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities are developing with big companies for the benefit not only of revitalisation of buildings but supporting special projects for unemployed youngsters or trainees in integrated programmes of education, building protection, space rehabilitation and maintaining — that means another format of living and learning as well as another format of working as a social business.

5. Recommendations.

Because the World heritage Centre is situated in Paris und the initiative of the Charter protection has an European origin in thinking, philosophy and vision on what and how to protect the beginning of the World Heritage list had a European superiority.

Meanwhile it is a real world wide mirror of outstanding testimonies around the world.

Nevertheless the European city with the characteristics of aesthetic architecture, open space, gardens, density in human dimensions of the buildings and mixed use as well private ownership has an important influence as a consequence of the fact that many of the worldwide examples of outstanding quality follow this ideal.

This “European City “as a guiding principle to protect is an important impulse. Therefore in a lot of conflict situation with real estate developers on the one side and inhabitants and NGO’ on the other side the question of density and high rising construction or only offices– all of them together or each of them condition for revenues — play the key role of debates and very often are not to solve without some experience.

Important steps in those cases are – and “Joint Missions” of the UNESCO follow the same methods – that the city has prepared together with stakeholders and NGOs as well as single inhabitants, who are especially engaged and knowable, the following:

  • the city should have a strategic master- plan in what direction the city should be developed
  • the city should work on heritage protection for the own identity and point of view not only for the World Heritage List approach
  • special situations, places of historic importance no question whether the architecture or the aesthetic quality is outstanding , should be recognised
  • vernacular environment should be protected as well as well known precious testimonies
  • special view axes should be marked
  • dimensions and their changing between new and old ensembles should be part of public discourses
  • impact of new development on heritage situation should be assessed

These are recommendations that are well known in the most European countries with different liabilities following constitutional realities, different cultural and ethnic mentalities and feeling of responsibilities. But looking through the European countries I must say that in the majority of the countries in Europe there is a strong feeling for the responsibility to give the historic outstanding heritage to the next generation. Therefore in the majority of the cities the administration is aware of the preciousness and at the same time complicated challenge of protection. The more and more it is obvious that the City or State Government mostly has a strong support of NGOs or inhabitants groups in cases of conflict with developers or strong property interests.

It is my experience in a lot of conflict situation that inviting all relevant parties and speaking with one another is the best way to solve conflicts, to find ways of financing und to overcome the conflict. Round table meetings are a good method to bring people and stakeholders and the administration as well as politicians together to implement common interdisciplinary successful approaches.

Идеи и рекомендации из опыта Германии, с примерами из города Эссен
Ирене Визе-фон Офен (администрация города Эссен, архитектор и градостроитель, зам. председателя Консультативного комитета Федерального министерства транспорта, строительства и городского развития Германии)

В Германии очень большое количество объектов Всемирного наследия: соборы, замки, центры городов, парки и сады, а также знаменитые особенные промышленные объекты с различными способами использования.

Охрана. Охрана объектов всемирного наследия очень сильно различается в зависимости от собственника: им может быть город, частный владелец, фонд, трест, некоммерческая организация или ассоциа-ция, церковь. Как правило, все эти объекты находятся под защитой земельного законодательства. Германия является федеративной республикой с 16 землями, и потому в разных землях законодательство может различаться. Наряду с администрацией земель муниципальные власти также ответственны за проведение процедуры получения статуса объекта всемирного наследия. Внесение объектов в список Всемирного наследия ЮНЕСКО автоматически означает, что они переходят в ведение федерального правительства. Поэтому этот процесс занимает много времени и очень сложен, в связи с необходимостью распределять ответственность и вести коммуникацию на различных уровнях.

Финансирование. Финансирование объектов всемирного наследия зависит от собственника. В любом случае существуют несколько путей поддержки: налоги или сниженные процентные ставки для частных владельцев, общественные гранты, государственные субсидии или другие способы финансирования в рамках программ городского развития.

Роль НКО. Некоммерческие организации играют ключевую роль в инициировании процесса получение статуса охраняемого наследия. Они очень часто являются представителями, активистами или менеджерами по вопросам охраны объектов наследия. Часто они действуют по поручению государства и фактически отвечают за их обязанности, получая при этом соответствующее финансирование. Делегирование части ответственности и активное сотрудничество между различными игроками дает НКО возможность нести довольно высокий уровень ответственности.