Introducing Our International Exchange Program Hosts: Proskene Conservation & Cultural Heritage, Madrid, Spain

Each year, organizations in the United States and all over the world host interns participating in the US/ICOMOS International Exchange Program (IEP). This commitment to historic preservation, international cooperation and the future brings big rewards to both intern and host. 

Proskene Conservation & Cultural Heritage of Madrid, Spain, will serve as an IEP host for the first time in 2020. To get to know Proskene, we reached out to Preservation Architectural Engineer Marieta Núñez García to discuss the firm’s work and its plans for this summer’s exchange.

What would you like our members to know about Proskene Conservation & Cultural Heritage?

Proskene Conservation & Cultural Heritage is a multidisciplinary team of specialists who work on restoration, preservation, intervention and adaptive reuse projects of historic buildings and sites. We are based in Madrid but during our 25 years of experience we have worked on projects both nationally and internationally.

We encourage a diverse background of our team members in both architecture and engineering because we believe that, in heritage conservation especially, the best solutions are reached when all trades work hand in hand. We encourage continuing education and participate in teaching activities, both as a way of keeping ourselves up-to-date with the most recent research in heritage conservation, but also because we believe that education nurtures love for cultural heritage and that only makes our work better! For this reason, each one of our team members specializes in different branches of conservation in order to be able to complement each other. We love what we do and enjoy all challenges that usually come with heritage conservation projects: working to find tailor-fitted solutions is one of the things we love about it! For this reason, our high-spirited team always brings a positive attitude and willingness to cooperate in each one of our projects.

We believe in the power of cultural heritage and the right of current and future generations to experience it, and for that reason we belong to international organizations that work towards that goal in different ways. Our team members belong to ICOMOS Spain, Europa Nostra, Climate Heritage and ICOMOS SDG working group, greatly encouraged by Proskene’s principal, José Alberto Alonso, who is also a board member of ICOMOS Spain.

2. What has been most rewarding to Proskene about hosting interns in the past?

We believe that as cultural heritage professionals we have the responsibility of sharing what we do; because only by learning about things do people truly appreciate them and understand both their complexity and the need of a respectful, unique approach. Hosting interns helps us pass along our know-how while exchanging that knowledge and passion with what the intern brings from their respective culture and background. Hosting interns has always been an enriching experience for us! Plus, there is always the extra bonus of the cultural, linguistic (and gastronomical!) exchange that hosting an intern entails.

3. What do you hope your 2020 IEP intern will take home to his or her country after completing their IEP with you?

We expect our intern to take home to their country a bit of our passion and interest for traditional constructions, interesting debates on cultural heritage over coffee time, and a better understanding of the local culture and built heritage, as well as that of the countries in which we are currently working. In the same way, we expect to take home the same aspects from the intern’s own personal experience!

Additionally, and more practically, we expect them to take home a broad understanding of the methodologies that we use for working in our projects: from early stage digitization and conditions assessment to construction supervision and quantity surveying, including feasibility analysis, project monitoring, non-destructive testing (NDT), structural analysis and design of retrofitting and energy saving solutions. In this way the intern will acquire a holistic view of heritage conservation projects from our perspective and context, which cross-referenced with their own professional experiences will allow them to strengthen their understanding of intervention criteria.

In relation to the project on which they will be working, the intern will take home an in-depth understanding of the relationship of the UNESCO Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with cultural heritage, as well as the specific challenges and threats stemming from climate change. Finally, we believe that the internship will be a good opportunity for the intern to work on multidisciplinary projects with international teams and expand their international network of cultural heritage professionals, both practicing and emerging.

4. What do you have planned for this summer’s intern?

The intern will be collaborating on a literature review and research project relating to Sustainable Development Goals and cultural heritage. This work will involve documentation review, talking to different institutions in order to get their input on specific matters, both international (Climate Heritage Network, ICOMOS international and their scientific committees, Europa Nostra and professional practitioners such as Foster and Partners) and local (ICOMOS Spain, Hispania Nostra, Ministry of Culture and others).

Additionally, we are planning on bringing the intern along with their coworkers to site visits on different projects on which we will be working at the time of their arrival, including but not limited to:

Hall of Realms of the former Buen Retiro Palace, Madrid, Spain

Hall of Realms: adaptive reuse project of the remaining part of the 17th-century largely lost Royal Buen Retiro Palace, in order to host the future expansion of the Prado Museum designed by Norman Foster;

Church of La Calandria, La Granja de San Ildefonso, Segovia, Spain.

Church of La Calandria: 19th century church in a neogothic style located within the district of the historical palace of La Granja de San Ildefonso; our team will be supervising the construction work for the consolidation of the roof and its colorfully decorated roof timber trusses, recommended in the consolidation project that Proskene prepared last year at the owner’s request.

Outside the working routine, we are planning a one-day group summer outing to visit a heritage site, most likely in the vicinity of Madrid, to be decided by the team.

5. Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know?

We are very happy to be able to participate with the IEP for the first time, because we believe in the power of cultural heritage and exchange programs in order to gain multifaceted, respectful and bridging perspectives of society, so much needed for building a more sustainable future for all. Feel free to visit our website or Linkedin if you want to know more about our team!

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