‘Creating a better future can only happen if we understand our identity’

Manuela Belle

I am Manuela, an Italian engineer (now project manager) with a passion for old buildings who moved to the London some eight years ago in search for better opportunities and then fell in love with the city and have stayed ever since.

Despite what you might think my passion for heritage became such only after moving to the UK, when I left behind my family, my friends, my hometown and the city where I studied, Ferrara, with no regrets. I am making it sound more dramatic than it actually is, Italy is only a few hours away on a plane and social media make it so easy to keep in touch with all my loved ones back in my home country. Nonetheless only when I moved to a new country I realised the importance of having an identity and how much that is defined by each individual’s heritage.

“Features belonging to the culture of a particular society, such as traditions, languages, or buildings, that were created in the past and still have historical importance.

 “Valued objects and qualities such as historic buildings and cultural traditions that have been passed down from previous generations.”

Taking these definitions from the Cambridge and Oxford Dictionaries it immediately becomes clear that heritage is not just about majestic historic buildings and landscapes that represent nations landmarks, but also about traditions, languages, stories and objects that might be less iconic but are equally important as they are passed on generation to generation forming our identity.

In our professions we come across heritage on a regular basis, sometimes without recognising it and its importance. I can think of so many projects that Arcadis UK have and still are delivering, from the restoration, refurbishment and repurposing of a number of historic buildings – including the Palace of Westminster (which I am directly involved in); to Lower Thames Crossing where we undertook community consultation and engagement and advised on the cultural heritage of the area; and to Otterpool where we are designing the masterplan for a new garden town by valuing the current landscape and archaeology assets present on site and providing a sustainable development that meets future needs.

Our work gives each one of us the opportunity to make a difference in  creating a better future and I strongly believe this can only happen if we understand our identity,  learning from past mistakes and building on previous successes. It is up to us, young professionals, to reflect, inspire and take responsibility to shape our future in the fast paced and ‘disposable’ world we are living in.

 “The more you know about the past, the better prepared you are for the future.”  -T. Roosevelt

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