Heritage and Quality of Life

SoPHIA addresses the Newsletter 10 portraying the relationship between heritage and quality of life. It also presents the Holistic Heritage Impact Assessment Model, a key deliverable of the project (a toolkit for practitioners and a visualization exercise to navigate the model will be made public soon), as well as recent and future events on cultural heritage impact assessment and a new collaboration.

Interventions in historical environment and cultural heritage are not just about preserving and safeguarding material things but about safeguarding and sharing all heritage to better the lives of peoples and communities. Improving the quality of life can happen on diverse levels by providing employment, making the environment more liveable and sustainable, and providing room for social interaction. Heritage acts as a living component in everyday life. Our quality of life is greatly affected by our built environment. Heritage appears throughout our environment embracing us, providing character and ambience to neighbourhoods and larger regions. It is giving meaning to our place in the world, first to our immediate surroundings and then to a wider world.

Heritage offers opportunities for relaxation and recreation, evermore important in a fast-paced world. The physical dimension of the heritage allows for meeting friends and socialising with the local and broader communities, for forming new connections and memories. The historic and aesthetic value provides further social opportunities for interaction with the wider community to form common memories. All this, in turn, is leading to an increased sense of identity and belonging and strengthening peaceful and fruitful cooperation within different communities. Both have been acknowledged as a crucial part of the quality of life. High quality interventions in heritage are recognized as contributing positively to quality of life of people engaging with it from the local area. It roots us in a particular place. It connects us to our present location as well as linking us to our historic past. This gives us a great sense of belonging.

When looking at the impact of heritage on quality of life, it is crucial to acknowledge the perspectives of different stakeholders. It is vital to bring stakeholders together. Heritage interactions work at its best when stakeholders form a common vision about the present and future of the heritage. The impact of heritage and heritage interventions is time dependent. Heritage acts as a living component with complex interactions and interdependencies between resources, people, communities, and the environment. Over time, stakeholder perspectives, and priorities on quality of life change.

During the Covid 19 pandemic lockdowns we have been able to reflect further on the relationship between heritage and environment. When heavy volumes of traffic were removed from streets of cities, and people could walk freely without noise pollution or air pollution, we began to sense our relationship with our built environment as if for a first time. This pause in momentum of city life allowed us to reimagine the city and how we interact with it. We began to understand that we can work in a different way and we could gain a different form of work life balance. We rediscovered our public spaces such as parks and squares as important social spaces.

The SoPHIA impact assessment model for heritage interventions attempts to capture all these facets by combining a multi-domain approach with the different peoples (or stakeholder) perspectives and their development over time, acknowledging the importance of assessing the long-term impact of heritage and heritage interventions.

The multi-domain approach goes beyond the typical compartmentalisation into the economic, social, cultural and environmental domain and focuses on six cross domains, including quality of life. The model explicitly references the different stakeholders, which must be consulted regularly before, during and after interventions. Heritage impact is considered a living component with complex interactions and interdependencies between resources, people, communities and the environment, which requires ongoing assessment, including ex-ante and ex-post evaluation.

The IADT Team

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