Preservation with an International Focus

Speaking to FAI Staff

DJB – with INTO Chair Dame Fiona Reynolds looking on – speaking to the FAI (Italian National Trust) staff in Milan

I have returned to Italy for the second time this year for a short meeting of the executive committee of the International National Trusts Organisation (INTO).  Our host for this year’s meeting is Fondo Ambiente Italiano (FAI) or the Italian National Trust, a remarkable INTO member which has saved 54 properties and protected 6 million square meters of historic landscape in Italy since 1975.  Over the past two days we have been meeting with the FAI staff at their headquarters in Milan and have toured three wonderful – and unique – FAI properties.  Along the way the 15 members of the INTO executive committee have learned more about the Italian model of preservation while we share our own experiences and shape strategy for the group for the year ahead.

FAI’s headquarters in Milan is in a historic equestrian exercise rink that has been marvelously repurposed for 21st century office use.  The space, desks, and equipment are all modern and set up for strong collaboration, yet the entire new three-floor interior addition could be removed without damaging the historic fabric of the walls and windows.  Along with other members of the executive committee, I had the privilege of speaking to more than 100 staff of FAI, in my case telling them of NTHP’s work on the future of preservation and our ReUrbanism efforts launched just last week.

FAI headquarters

Headquarters of FAI – the Italian National Trust – in Milan

After a day of work at FAI headquarters, we traveled to Villa Necchi Campiglio – a 1930s villa in the heart of Milan – for a tour by FAI volunteers and dinner with the organization’s senior management.

Porch and sliding door

Porch and sliding door at Villa Necchi Campiglio


Villa Necchi Campiglio

Entrance hall to Villa Necchi Campiglio

This villa was designed by Piero Portaluppi and showcases the lifestyle of the Milanese upper-middle class in the period before WWII.  It was a delightful evening, where connections were made for future work together.

Friday began bright and early, as we headed to Lake Como to begin a day of touring of two extraordinary sites, including FAI’s most popular – and heavily visited – villa.  I’ll end with a shot to whet the appetite, but due to the late hour here in Milan and the slowness of my wireless connection, I’ll post many more pictures later.

Villa del Balbianello

Villa del Balbianello on Lake Como

More to come…



Opening Views from the 16th International Conference of National Trusts

King's College Courtyard

King’s College Courtyard, Cambridge

Cambridge, England, has proven to be a delightful host for the 16th International Conference of National Trusts, co-sponsored by the National Trust of England, Wales and Northern Ireland and the International National Trusts Organisation (INTO).  More than 250 delegates and guests have arrived for the preliminary INTO meetings and the five days of conference sessions, tours, and discussions.

Anglesey Abbey

Anglesey Abbey

Candice and I arrived mid-day on Saturday for the INTO meetings, which began the next morning at Anglesey Abbey, a wonderful National Trust property near Cambridge. While most of the day was spent in meetings, we were given a delightful tour of the house, gardens, and mill by National Trust staffer Justin Scully and his team.  It was enough to whet our appetite for a return visit with the full conference later in the week.

White Birch Grove at Anglesey Abbey

White Birch Grove at Anglesey Abbey

Each day we’ve taken our meals in the Great Hall at King’s College – a splendid space in which to enjoy good conversation with fellow delegates from around the world.

Great Hall of King's College

Great Hall of King’s College

Great Hall Windows

Windows in the Great Hall

And on Monday evening, it was also the setting for our opening gala reception, with baroque music from Eboracum Baroque.

Eboracum Baroque

Eboracum Baroque at King’s College

Now it is time to head out the door for a day of touring and discussions at National Trust properties.

More to come…


Salute to the Chairman

The Backs

View from the River Cam and the Back Lawn at King’s College, Cambridge

We arrived in Cambridge mid-day on Saturday for the 16th International Conference of National Trusts.  Even through our jet-lagged fog, we were charmed by this beautiful city as we met two friends and colleagues from the International National Trusts Organisation (INTO) for lunch in an English pub across from King’s College.

The meal and an afternoon nap were the refreshments we needed before heading out to dinner at the Polonia Club (who knew they had a Polish Club in Cambridge?).  The occasion was a delightful evening with the members of the INTO Executive Committee and Secretariat to toast our outgoing chairman, Simon Molesworth of Australia.  Simon has guided INTO for 10 years, first as head of the steering committee and then as the founding chairman, first elected to his post in New Delhi in 2007.

Simon Molesworth Dinner

Simon Molesworth (right) enjoying food, wine, and friends at the Polonia Club of Cambridge

Several of us spoke that evening about Simon’s service as the founding chairman of INTO, and his indefatigable work ethic through the years.  There was more than one mention of his joining our bi-monthly conference calls at midnight from Australia, so that those of us in North America and Europe could be on at more reasonable hours of the work day.  Others spoke of his vision for INTO, his ability to listen to all points of view, and his care for the world’s cultural heritage.  INTO Vice Chairman Bill Turner of Canada reminded us of Simon’s habit – while walking the Camino de Santiago last year in Spain – of handing out pens to local dignitaries along the way…and adding to the age of the eucalyptus tree from which they were made with each telling.

I spoke of Simon’s optimism, which will always be a trait I will associate with our founding chairman of INTO.  That outlook opened up new opportunities for the organization.  He is optimistic about the role young people will play in heritage conservation, as seen through the service of his own daughter as the volunteer head of INTO Farms.  Simon is optimistic that in the face of extensive world troubles, caring for our built and natural heritage is an important part of the way forward.

After ten years of service and investment of great personal time and resources, Simon turns over the reigns of INTO to Fiona Reynolds, the former Director-General of the National Trust in the U.K.  I am thankful for Simon’s work and for his unfailing commitment to the work of INTO to “promote the conservation and enhancement of the cultural and natural heritage of all nations for the benefit of the people of the world.”  Simon ensured that INTO – an international network of National Trusts and similar non-governmental organizations – was globally diverse but united in a shared commitment to work through cooperation, coordination and comradeship.

I join colleagues from around the world in saluting you, Mr. Chairman, and in thanking you for your invaluable service.

More to come…


Taking the Waters at Balneario de Mondariz

Balneario de MondarizI am in the midst of a brief work trip to Galicia…and if you don’t know where that is, well neither did I just a few weeks ago.

Galicia – the Switzerland of Spain – is the small portion of land that blocks Portugal’s northern border from touching the Atlantic Ocean. It is hilly (hence the Swiss reference), with a fascinating landscape that is matched by its unique history.

I am here, with colleagues from around the world, for an executive committee meeting of the International National Trusts Organisation (or INTO).  We are being hosted by one of our member Trusts – the Tesouros de Galicia – and several of my colleagues joined a contingent from Tesouros de Galicia in completing 140 kilometers of what may be Galicia’s most famous pilgrimage:  the Camino de Santiago that ends at the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela.

After a much too complicated trip to arrive (never fly Ryan Air – for those of  you old enough, think a bad People’s Express experience), I joined my colleagues in Santiago de Compostela for our first meetings at the Facultad de Geografia e Historia, Praza da Universidade. I don’t know about you, but I didn’t have any facilities in my college that looked like this – and especially not the History and Geography departments!

Santiago University

We left later on Saturday to go to Mondariz, a beautiful little town that along with Santiago and the nearby city of Vigo, made up a trio of must-see places for the Edwardian tourists of Britain in the early 20th century. Thanks to our hosts, we were able to stay in the beautiful and historic spa known as Balneario de Mondariz. The spa put us in a bubble in the middle of the troubled Spanish economy, but it didn’t take a long walk away from the town center to see the abandoned homes and poverty.

The spa features the waters that were once enjoyed by the King of Spain and Edwardian tourists from England.  The buildings are  beautiful and nestled in the countryside.  This view of a chapel in the mist was what I saw when I opened my window shades in the morning.

Mondariz Church in mist

Entrance to the Spa at Mondariz

There are several wonderful buildings once – or still – associated with the spa, including the old hotel, and the grounds.

Hotel at Mondariz

Garden at the Mondariz Spa

The springs themselves are highlighted within a publicly accessible building, seen at the top of the post and here (where the water bubbles beneath the sign).

Spa Waters at Mondariz

After our meetings wrapped up, we toured two local Galicia landmarks: a late Medieval castle, and a wonderful set of ruins – the Castro de Trona dating back more than 2,000 years.

Galician castle

Galacian ruins

Mount of Holy Name of Jesus Parish

Galician hills

And yes, when the meetings and tours were over, I was able to “take the waters” as they say, at Balneario de Mondariz. What a relaxing way to end the day and prepare for dinner with good friends and colleagues from St. Lucia, India, England, Scotland, and more.

The dome over the pool at Mondariza

Yes, I was floating around somewhere under that dome.  Ahhhhhhhhh.

Galicia Meal with INTO Ex Comm

Perhaps I’m now ready for three flights and all-day travel to get home tomorrow evening.

More to come…


London 2010

After a day of work on Wednesday, I took an overnight flight to London and plunged into two full days of meetings with the Executive Committee of the International National Trusts Organisation (or INTO).  The days were full, including a lecture on Thursday night at the small and wonderful Garden Museum by my INTO colleague and friend Jeanine Perryck of The Gelderland Trust in The Netherlands.  I was running on adrenaline (because it sure wasn’t sleep), but the trip was very useful (from a business standpoint) and it had the added benefit of being in one of the world’s great cities.

Thursday was an off and on day weather-wise (typical London), but Friday was a glorious fall day.  I went out on our lunch break, crossed the street from the English National Trust and INTO London headquarters on Queen Anne’s Gate, and strolled through St. James Park.  I’ll share a few pictures of that beautiful day.

Before leaving for home on Saturday, I took a two hour walk in the more typical overcast morning.  I had been to Westminster Abby for an Evensong service on September 11, 2003 (so very moving), but I wanted to take it in again, and see Westminster Cathedral and the Houses of Parliament along the way.

So, here are a few photos from my whirlwind trip to London, as I prepare to depart.  I’ll begin with the Queen Victoria Memorial in St. James’s Park.

Here are some gate details, first from Buckingham Palace and then from St. James’s Park:

The flowers in St. James’s Park were beautiful.

I loved this wonderful little stairway off of Queen Anne’s Gate, which led to our host’s offices at 32 Queen Anne’s Gate.

And I’ll end with a nice fall shot from the Dean’s Yard at Westminster Abby.

More to come…


Why Should We Care About an International National Trust Movement?

This Place Matters at Dublin Castle with Catherine LeonardWe have just completed a wonderful International Conference of National Trusts here in Dublin—the 13th in the history of the National Trust movement. I suspect that when a small group of Anglophiles gathered together in the 1970s in Scotland for what became the first gathering of the world’s National Trusts, they could not have imagined either the spread of their movement or the diversity of people, countries, issues and models that we have seen this week from among the 200+ delegates in attendance.

To read my full post on the wrap-up to the ICNT13, visit the PreservationNation blog.

More to come…


Heritage of the World in Trust

Dublin Castle 2009Every two years the world’s preservation and heritage conservation community comes together for the International Conference of National Trusts, a wonderful gathering of colleagues and friends working together across the globe to protect, enhance and responsibly enjoy our planet’s fragile heritage.  To read my full post on the opening of ICNT13, check out the PreservationNation blog on the National Trust web site.

More to come…