Research & Studies

Reimagining Places and Spaces: Insights from 6th UNESCO MOST Winter School

The 6th UNESCO MOST Winter School, organized by the Institute of Advanced Studies Kőszeg in cooperation with the Institute of Social and European Studies Foundation, the UNESCO Chair for Cultural Heritage Management and Sustainability, and the University of Pannonia, was held from February 26th to March 1st in Kőszeg, Hungary, and online via Zoom. The event gathered over 60 students and speakers from more than 20 countries, including Albania, Azerbaijan, China, Germany, Hungary, Jordan, Kenya, Macedonia, Romania, Serbia, Syria, Turkey, Ukraine, and the United States of America, among others.

Titled “A New Space Odyssey: Creating Livable Spaces for Social Cohesion, Change, and Adaptation in Critical Times,” the 6th UNESCO MOST Winter School explored the impact of cultural spaces through historical, societal, and artistic lenses. The discussions covered significant European events, human interaction with nature, and cultural heritage sites as venues for diverse cultural exchanges. It emphasized art and community in fostering sustainable futures against the backdrop of global conflicts and social inequalities.

The participants explored the challenges and opportunities in urban development and transformation, focusing on community-driven initiatives and the critical role of communication in connecting communities with urban development projects. Panels highlighted the importance of collaborative action in addressing housing, gentrification, and social inequalities within urban contexts. The conversation underscored the necessity of redefining spaces to foster inclusivity and resilience, emphasizing the potential of art and cultural activities in liberating spaces burdened by history and memory and contributing to social cohesion.

The 6th UNESCO MOST Winter School was opened with welcome speeches by Ferenc Miszlivetz, General Director, iASK; Gábor Soós, Secretary-General, Hungarian National Commission for UNESCO; and Béla Básthy, Mayor of Kőszeg. The welcome speeches were followed by a video address by Gustavo Merino, Director of Social Policy at UNESCO.

The first panel, titled ‘Peace, Security, and Belonging to a Community in Times of War and Conflict,’ critically discussed the larger geopolitical contexts of Russia’s war on Ukraine and the armed conflict in Gaza from the perspectives of the integration and disintegration of communities in the heart of the conflict zones, as well as those parts of the world that are indirectly affected. The keynote speaker, Mária Herczog (President of Missing Children Europe, Chair of Family, Child, Youth Association), spoke about the participation of children in peacemaking activities. The panel discussion included Mariann Kármán from the Hungarian Red Cross, Kıvanç Ulusoy from Istanbul University, Klaus Wölfer, former ambassador at the Austrian Federal Ministry for Europe, Integration, and Foreign Affairs, and István Lakatos, ambassador and human rights adviser at the Ministry of Justice, Human and Minority Rights of Montenegro, Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Trade of Hungary.

The panel titled “Urban and Rural Spaces Burdened by Memory and Liberated by Art” concentrated on how art, architecture, urban planning, and cultural initiatives can transform “non-places” into meaningful locations that confront the past and promote community cohesion. Chaired by Izabella Agárdi from iASK, it featured talks by Rozita Dimova from iASK, artist and activist Emiko Gejic, a board member at Clubcommission in Berlin, and Mary Taylor from City University of New York.

The keynote speeches and panels shed light on the significant impact of global crises on vulnerable groups, especially children, and highlighted the importance of peacebuilding and empowering youth in conflict resolution. They also explored the complexities of migration, humanitarian aid, and the ethics of cultural exchange and communication amid geopolitical tensions. This interdisciplinary dialogue at the 6th UNESCO MOST Winter School offered a detailed view of Europe’s present challenges and the steps toward a more inclusive and peaceful future.

Special emphasis was given to preserving cultural heritage sites, discussed in the “Placemaking, Place Branding, Emotional Mapping” segment of the program. This section, featuring lectures by experts including Tamás Fejérdy (iASK, ICOMOS), László Gönczi (President of FIABCI-Hungary), Mónika Mátay (iASK, ELTE) and Dániel Ongjerth (managing director, Centre for Culture and Urban Design) focused on understanding and honoring the unique spirit of a place—its ‘genius loci’—as a source of identity and inspiration.

Social innovation emerged as a key theme at the 6th UNESCO MOST Winter School. The agenda encompassed lectures and workshops aimed at addressing inequalities and forging accessible, inclusive, and affordable environments for all. This comprehensive program featured contributions from esteemed academic institutions and civil society representatives, offering practical insights into the development of sustainable, equitable, and livable spaces through a direct, hands-on learning approach.

The cultural segment of the event featured a performance by jazz pianist Karoly Binder in a renovated 19th-century Synagogue in Kőszeg, alongside a visit to museums and revitalized cultural venues in Veszprem, Hungary. These locations showcased significant social, cultural, and architectural changes, especially highlighted by Veszprem’s role as the European Capital of Culture 2023.

The program blended theoretical and hands-on interdisciplinary methods, enriching participants with both knowledge and the chance for creative engagement. This approach allowed for a project-based learning experience, where participants conducted field research in Veszprem and applied classroom knowledge in Kőszeg, fostering an immersive and practical educational environment.