Unesco Chair in Water, Ports and Historic Cities awarded to Leiden-Delft-Erasmus professor Carola Hein

News - 07 December 2021 - Communication BK

Water-rich cities, such as port cities, often have a rich history. They also have a dynamic future ahead of them, because they are faced with climate change, migration, urbanisation and a whole host of other significant developments. Generally speaking, port cities have a long tradition of adapting to new circumstances, which is often reflected in their heritage. How can we learn from their past to solve problems in the future?

Carola Hein, Professor of History of Architecture and Urban Planning at TU Delft, has been shining a light on this fascinating area of research for many years. This month, in her capacity as initiator of the Leiden-Delft-Erasmus Port City Futures programme, Hein was awarded the Unesco Chair in Water, Ports and Historic Cities.

Past to the present

‘We can’t understand the present if we don’t understanding the past. So, I am very honoured to have been awarded this Unesco Chair,’ says Hein. ‘In my work, I try to link ideas and developments from the past to the present day. A great deal of the world’s heritage has something to do with water. The historic structures, ports and port cities are a valuable source of knowledge about the past, but they also offer solutions for the future. They contribute towards sustainable developments.’

LDE partnership

‘The appointment is also recognition of the way we work within the Leiden-Delft-Erasmus partnership, bringing together disciplines to work on the themes of port cities on the one hand and on water and heritage on the other. This multidisciplinary approach is key, because issues of identity, cultural heritage, sustainability and economy and, above all, quality of life can only be solved by a diverse team of researchers.’

International knowledge exchange

This Chair will contribute to a greater awareness of this interconnectedness. Methods will also be developed to delve into historical sources and to collect large quantities of data, from which information will be extracted in a targeted manner. This will make it possible to establish links between water and heritage, and between ports and cities. The first step is to create a database with information on existing water- and port-related World Heritage sites. This information will be available for use in open-access publications, education and public information. Additionally, the Chair will be the epicentre for teaching – from Bachelor’s and Master’s degree programmes to summer schools and online classes.

Professor Wim van den Doel, Dean of Leiden-Delft-Erasmus Universities, adds:
‘The LDE universities are delighted that Professor Carola Hein has been awarded the Unesco Chair in Water, Ports and Historic Cities. It is recognition for her work to underscore the significance of ports as an urban and socio-cultural phenomenon, and to make the connection between the fields of water and heritage. Besides the cultural and historical aspects of port cities, Unesco also emphasises the importance of sustainable development, including issues such as rising sea levels and other climate-related factors, and particularly, how people will live and work in the future in large delta regions all over the world.’

More information

Professor Hein leads the Leiden-Delft-Erasmus PortCityFutures programme. The chair stimulates multidisciplinary cooperation between researchers from different academic institutions. PortCity Futures recently launched the MOOC (Re)Imagining Port Cities: Understanding Space, Society and Culture.
More about Carola Hein can be found on TU Delft professors page. 

This Unesco chair is part of an international network of Unesco-supported chairs within the Unitwin/Unesco Chairs Programme, established in 1992. The programme aims to promote research, education and programme development on Unesco themes such as sustainability, education, human rights and culture. 

Header image: Rotterdam by Guido Pijper via rotterdammakeithappen.nl