HERITAGE-PRO Austrian partner IPRE (Institute of Property Research, Vienna) offered a virtual training week March 15 – 19, 2021 for 13 staff members of all project partners. Methodologically, it was organised as a management game. The training week included five working days and three half-day sessions online via Zoom. The training week was developed by Dietmar Wiegand, Managing Director of IPRE and Professor at Vienna University of Technology, using HERITAGE-PRO training material. The aim was to identify “lessons learned” from the training and to assess if the concept could be a role model for cultural heritage valorisation in general.
A unique historic building seeks a future use
Our staff members were supposed to organise the reuse of a former water tower in the 21st district of Vienna. The water tower was built in the Twenties of the last century and is a protected monument now. Dietmar Wiegand gave general information concerning the industrial area where the water tower is located, the history of the tower, and the current state of repair. He distributed different tasks to the participants in order to “master the processes” and “understand the business”. All his presentations were linked to HERITAGE-PRO training modules and exercises. “It’s all about the right people around the table”, this is what he communicated from the start of the training.
The object was shown by a drone flight from outside and a 3600 video of the inside – what an amazing space! Participants got a particularly good impression of the location and appreciated the videos very much in order to get a realistic impression of the site. Participants agreed that the videos added value to the virtual training in order to better understand the environment. In terms of interdisciplinarity, the inclusion of people who can do virtual services like that was an important learning outcome. Following Professor Wiegand’s most important guideline: “Gathering the right people around the table means to KNOW these people and recognize their talents!”
In a first step, the participants discussed how different the interest of owners can be and what that means for a heritage site. Then the focus switched to the capabilities needed in order to create a successful interdisciplinary team, to bring together different knowledge: Who could develop and operate such a location? How to engage the right people? How to gain knowledge on people’s knowledge? How to organise human resources? Maybe it’s wrong to work always with people we know?
These questions were discussed in three groups, each assuming different owners, from the governmental, intermediate, or private sector. All three groups discussed the practical use of the rooms including practical procedures of room occupancy, possible business opportunities, social aspects including social responsibility, financial issues, and multifunctional and multiple issues of the building.
The learning outcomes surprised the participants due to their richness despite the limited time. Professor Wiegand described the interdisciplinary online process as a “blueprint for an interdisciplinary approach for the reuse of cultural heritage sites”. They are summarised below in terms of content in groups:
Lessons learned for an interdisciplinary methodology
- Bring all necessary expertise to the table because if one expertise is forgotten the whole project can be at risk; completeness of capabilities is key
- Consider cultural, economic, ecological, social aspects alike
- Learn how other disciplines solve problems – other disciplines might have other traditions to solve problems, which might be helpful for your own discipline
- Let different disciplines support creative thinking
- Prepare and communicate a clear method how to manage an interdisciplinary team
- Allow unpredictability – let things happen
- Role plays might add value to the dynamics of a development process
- Work with representatives of different “bubbles” not only within your own “bubble”
- Ask the community/communities for help – on national, European, international level
Lessons learned for personal capability development
- Develop your own capacity to immediately work together in an interdisciplinary team
- Have an open mind – allow yourself to dive into another discipline
- Be aware of different backgrounds and accept them
- Allow inspiration from other disciplines and transfer it to your own discipline
- Be aware of possible difficulties and learn how to compromise
- Develop the capacity to manage different opinions
- Be brave enough to rethink results if they are not good enough
- Pay attention to a good mix of hard and soft skills in team cooperation
- Be aware that we are learners and teachers at the same time
- Try to be authentic, transparent, and enabling in your leadership
- Take care of persons of the team in an emphatic way
Lessons learned for interdisciplinary project management implementation
- Learn how to make people work together who might have pre-conceived ideas
- Try to benefit from rich discussions from different perspectives
- Start a project by asking “Do we have a common understanding of the project goals and are we all committed to serving these goals?
- Spend more time on a common understanding of project goals and on a commitment to these goals instead of spending years on wrong implementation steps
- Try to find out if all partners at the table share the same values in their opinions on cultural heritage
- Learn more about possible partners and take time for that
- Learn to accept that interdisciplinary work in complex projects means compromise
- Accept that in complex projects with a nearly infinite number of possible solutions you might never find the 100% optimum, reaching 80% might also be a success
- Define a clear way of decision making
- Use creativity tools and methods
- Consider different roles in an interdisciplinary team: silent persons, leaders…
- Learn to make use and create additional benefits from virtual tools as they might enrich development processes
- Be flexible, goals may change due to circumstances (“agile management”)
- Try to find and cope with the “hidden agenda” of partners behind their official agenda and create transparency on that
- Avoid bumping into a project but create a “culture of listening” ahead
- Create an informal atmosphere that helps to get further
Creating a concept for the project development for reuse of historic buildings
For the participants, the training was first a practical test of a direct application of interdisciplinary principles from the HERITAGE-PRO training scheme. Doubts as to whether virtual training can replace on-site observations were quickly dispelled by the use of videos and the all-around drone flight. Dietmar Wiegand’s final question, whether such a concept could be usefully applied to measures in cultural heritage valorisation, was unanimously answered in the affirmative after the workshop. Advantage: With this concept, national, European, and international consortia can be invited at comparatively low cost to reflect on and enrich a valorisation project with the knowledge of very different disciplines.
Perhaps this was the most important result of the workshop: High-class interdisciplinary knowledge can be made available for cultural heritage conservation in a virtual way, which is usually not available at the local or regional level – a realisation that could inspire many future conservation measures.
Video and drone flight are available here:
Video and drone flight credits: Alex Rieck (https://phaenomenalex.com/)
Picture credits: Mario Iwancsics, Dietmar Wiegand, HERITAGE-PRO
Title picture: Gerd Altmann Pixabay CC