Tracing the deep significance of built heritage through encounters with undisclosed protagonists

This research study is inspired by a great fascination with built heritage, for its tangible beauty, the craftsmanship it holds, and for the meaning generating force of heritage in the past, present and future. It is motivated by a great concern about the future of heritage and its, largely, underestimated present societal role and its irreplaceable importance for a society because it gives rise to cultural and social identity for different communities. Community has to be understood the way Emma Waterton and Laurajane Smith state (2010: 4-15) it in The recognition and misrecognition of community heritage: ‘Communities thus become social creations and experiences that are continuously in motion, rather than fixed entities and descriptions, in flux and constant motion, unstable and uncertain.’

This practice-based research aims to investigate on how architect heritage practitioners can arrive at a different reading of heritage places, a reading that exceeds the historical material evidence with an anthropological viewpoint whereby the deep significance of built heritage is traced through encounters with undisclosed protagonists. This approach is neither nostalgic (which would imply the illusion of a better past to which we have to stick to or to return to), nor accusatory to the present heritage studies as the developed research wants to be complementary to these. It is inherent to the dual profile of the architect heritage practitioner to be simultaneously directed towards the future as an architect who helps to pre-sent that future and to look backwards from the perspective of the heritage practitioner as s/he usually deals with the past. However, in this research the senses of time are rather different. Heritage is not just fixed in the past but it is a means to trace an arch from past to present as a generator to connect with the future, and architecture draws on the past too.

To that extent, this study meanders through different temporalities not only when looking at heritage as such (to be understood as a mixture of past, present and future without clear delineation) but as well in the development of a new research methodology of Interactive Walking combining methods and tools from different academic traditions including heritage studies (addressing the past), anthropology (dealing with the present time) and architecture (pre-senting the future)

PhD project, Gisèle Gantois

Prof. dr. Yves Schoonjans (supervisor, KU Leuven)
Prof. dr. Krista De Jonge (co-supervisor, KU Leuven)
Prof. dr. Jo Lee Vergunst (University of Aberdeen)
Prof. dr. Rajesh Heynickx (secretary, KU Leuven)
Prof. dr. Kalliopi Fouseki (The Bartlett, UCL)
Prof. dr. Koen Van Balen (KU Leuven)
Prof. dr. Anne-Françoise Morel (KU Leuven)