Memo June 2015


A memo sent to correspondents, friends and acquaintances of the Budapest Observatory (BO) in June 2015

Is the European Union the same when you read this as it was when we wrote it?

New architecture

Never in the 28-year history of the European Union prize for contemporary architecture (the Mies van der Rohe Award) was an edifice from our region shortlisted. Now it happened to the new concert hall in Szczecin. What is more, it was declared the winner!  

The architects are Italian and Spanish. It will take some time before an east European is honoured the Pritzker Prize.



Old architecture

Better are our positions in the preservation of cultural heritage: seven times out of the 13 years of the Europa Nostra awards did grand prix winners include one from East and Central Europe. As many as two in 2015: a conservation project in Budapest and a training programme in Estonia. (BO feels obliged to highlight a third winner, too.)

Mapping galore

Decision makers and funders are increasingly keen on “evidence”: proofs and arguments especially about the impact of investing in culture. The past few weeks have been rich in harvesting intellectual mapping of such endeavours.

Connected to the Europe Nostra award ceremony the closing study of a major project on the value of heritage was presented. It includes everything that has been accumulated about the topic since about when the issue was first pronounced.

Still in the realm of heritage an eighty-page study is intended to launch the work of an Open Method of Coordination team over the issue of participatory governance. What this means and how the concept has been implemented in dozens of museums, monuments and other fields of heritage.

The size and the function (to help kick-off a working group) is the same of a next paper but the subject is much more diffuse and novel. The OMC team will have to tackle ways of accessing culture via digital means.

As a follow-up to a meeting in February, a hundred-page review of research projects was published by IETM. Following conceptual introduction over fifty cases are sorted and presented when the aim was to identify the impact of performing arts.

And this is the opportunity to portray a spectacular mapping exercise of the arts in Morocco.

Researching culture

Those surveys harvest what has been explored with scientific means. The database of EU-backed research contains amazing quantities, also of culture related investigations. BO tested “museum” before, now we found almost 800 projects for “cultural heritage”. Most of them are still on-going or just about to start in the Horizon2020 programme.   

(This is the path: You go to the CORDIS page, click on “Projects and Results”, put “cultural heritage” or anything you wish into the search cell on the right, and at “Content type” on the left you see the number of projects.)

The key words “contemporary culture” yielded less, about 250 hits. Great – except that almost all are connected to universities in the west or north of Europe.

From the two lots BO picked a sample selection for you. The ten projects include million euro mega-projects as well as one-person research topics for a couple hundred thousand. You can judge where you would put your coins if it was about crowdfunding.

Which may come: here is a call about screening Europe’s crowdfunding market in relation to culture.

Digital culture

Europeana is an eminent instrument of accessing culture via digital means. Three years ago it displayed less than 30 million documents, which number may have gone beyond 40 by today. With the expansion of the geographic scope the spread of content per country gets more balanced. Germany has nevertheless retained its lead with 12.5% of all items. We have the 2012 figures only for the top twelve at that time but the interactive diagram on the Europeana site shows that Czechs have reached 1.3% from practically nil in three years, (The mystery of that Europeana diagram is that hundreds of thousand Finnish and Irish items disappeared between 2012 and 2015.)

From the available data we calculated daily visits which seem to be somewhat lower than three years ago – definitely so with the French.

In this connection we took a glance at the Google Art programme, too, just like earlier. The greater part of that global collection is still from Europe: 282 out of 561 contributing institutions. The map shows some impressive advances over the past couple of years, e.g. from Italy, Slovakia and the Czech Republic.  

Peer visits

Here is a call with short notice (9 July!) for local authorities to join study visits on culture. This is part of an ambitious new project on enhancing the role of culture in urban and regional development – unfolding side by side with the one introduced in May.