Meet the Young Cultural Heritage Professionals – Interview with Philipp Hesse

Meet the Young Cultural Heritage Professionals – Interview with Philipp Hesse

CHARTER is teaming up with ICOMOS, and the ICOMOS International Emerging Professionals Working Group, to discuss and learn more about the perspectives of the young cultural heritage professionals as they enter the sector and take their first professional steps. Our first interview for this second series round concerns Philipp Hesse, an architect and teacher of historical building construction and building registration in Germany.

New profile on the Young Cultural Heritage Professionals series:

Young cultural heritage professionals

What was your motivation to enter the cultural heritage field? Was it your first option?

I grew up in a small town in Thuringia after German reunification. As a former residential town, it is rich in cultural heritage dating back 800 years. Due to the strong changes in economic, social and demographic developments, this place faces great challenges. At the same time, with reunification, a comprehensive effort to rehabilitate and restore cultural heritage began. Nevertheless, more cultural monuments have been demolished since 1990 than were destroyed in total in 1990. It was also possible to follow the challenges of what it means to preserve our cultural heritage in a shrinking region without sufficient financial resources. This had a great impact on me and working with heritage was my first choice.


How was/is your transition from studying to working?

I have been working during my studies since my bachelor’s degree. Mostly as a working student in architecture or construction research offices. After graduating, I continued to work in one of the offices. This gave me the opportunity to work in all phases of a project, which you can’t teach in a university. Here, the area of costs and construction management is particularly worth mentioning. Here I was also able to learn about dialogue and coordination with various authorities in the field of monument preservation.


How are you looking/looked for a job in heritage?  And how do you experience/experienced the phase of search and application?

I don’t have that much experience in the field of job hunting, as I started my own business shortly after graduating. Often, however, the biggest obstacle was that a clear knowledge for managing a construction site, as well as the costs in a construction project, was expected. At the same time, it is a problem that there is often no good communication from the offices where you apply. Here you often wait in uncertainty and sometimes not even a rejection can be sent. This can often have a demotivating effect.


What skills and competences do you notice are demanded the most in job offers?

When you come from an architecture school, the focus is often on conceptual design. However, this usually does not correspond to the fields of work as a newly trained person. Unless you work in the competition department. Often, basic knowledge of costs and tendering, as well as building registration, is assumed. At the same time, good knowledge of a wide range of computer programmes is a prerequisite for a job.


Based on the profiles of job positions, do you notice skills or competences that your education didn’t provide you with?

How to accompany a project and how to communicate with the authorities, clients and other project participants can often not be taught during the apprenticeship. At the same time, historical building constructions are not often taught, and the focus is still on new buildings and standardised constructions and superstructures. However, this is often an integral part of working with cultural heritage. 

However, this can only be partially taught through a university. That’s why I think it’s important that relevant practical opportunities are already offered during the studies.


How do you think young people can be attracted to work in heritage? Do you have proposals?

Through my teaching activities, I see time and again that building in existing contexts and cultural heritage are often taught late in the curriculum or are taught inadequately. Therefore, there is often a lack of interest in and understanding of cultural monuments and how to deal with their substance. I often notice that the possibilities of a practical occupation with cultural heritage are very gladly accepted and then interest is also developed.

Our time and our educational opportunities are often subject to a great deal of deadline pressure. In order to awaken an interest in our cultural heritage, one must give students the opportunity to spend more time with an object and its history. At the same time, one must also give young people the chance to actively participate in preservation.

For some years now, I have been offering practical workshops in my projects in the summer, which are very popular. Here, an interest in our cultural heritage is often awakened.


How do you see the future of the cultural heritage field?

I think the architecture industry needs to focus even more on cultural heritage. The sustainable development of our society can only succeed if we understand and use the potential of the existing buildings. The definition of cultural heritage is constantly changing. Today, we consider buildings and urban spaces as cultural heritage, which were not considered 20 years ago. Therefore, the importance will continue to increase. At the same time, the necessary adaptations to energy saving, the change in the availability of resources as well as the influences of climate change also pose challenges for our cultural heritage. Here, the young and upcoming generation working with cultural heritage urgently needs to find answers.


About the ICOMOS and the International Emerging Professionals Working Group

ICOMOS is a network of experts committed to promoting the application of theory, methodology, and scientific techniques to the conservation of architectural and archaeological heritage. In 2017 ICOMOS established the Emerging Professionals Working Group to promote the Emerging Professional membership base. The EPWG stimulates engagement with emerging heritage practitioners, tracks the progress of ongoing initiatives and shares updates involving the conservation of cultural heritage.
Learn more here!

Share on