The School of the Alhambra takes its first steps as an Advanced International Centre for Heritage Studies

This morning in Granada, the Minister of Culture and Sport of the Regional Government of Andalusia, Luciano Alonso, presented the academic project and a preview of the programme for the School of the Alhambra, which is due to open in 2014 as a centre for advanced studies and international research into cultural heritage with its epicentre in the Alhambra. As Luciano Alonso put it “today we are laying the academic foundation-stones for an important project aimed at high-level training and education in monument conservation”.
Alonso explained that with this initiative “we want to convert experience into knowledge and transmit to the world everything we have learnt about the Alhambra and our heritage, thereby enriching the international scientific community and helping other monuments to apply this knowledge and improve the way they are managed”.
The Minister was accompanied at this event by Francisco González Lodeiro, the Rector of the University of Granada, one of the institutions taking part in this project and by the Director of the Council of the Alhambra and Generalife, María del Mar Villafranca, both of whom expressed their desire that the school should become an “international point of reference” because of its “innovative subject matter and methodology”, which will make the Alhambra a “living laboratory for heritage research and training”.
The School of the Alhambra is the product of the combined accumulated experience of the Council of the Alhambra, the Andalusian Historical Heritage Institute and the Spanish Institute of Cultural Heritage, and will initially have four Chairs which in order to be identified more easily will revolve around key figures related with the main lines of work.
It will also house a Laboratory for Artistic Creation and Experimentation where the knowledge acquired over time and the innovations achieved in recent projects, such as among others the restoration of the Court of the Lions, will be applied. The University of Granada, because of its history, and the International University of Andalusia, because of its outreach, will also be joining in this initiative so contributing to strengthen the academic and investigative side of the new school.
In this way the Muhammad V Chair will be devoted to Architecture, Archaeology and Islamic Art and its contents will focus on the artistic, architectural and archaeological history of the Alhambra, the only surviving 13th-14th century mediaeval palace and a point of reference for all those interested in Andalusian art in the Islamic West. It will also explore mediaeval archaeology, Orientalism and the sources and techniques used in historical research.
Heritage conservation will be the main theme of the Torres Balbás Chair, which will tackle questions such as preventative conservation, cultural heritage management and sustainability, economy and culture, as well as preliminary studies and technologies used in heritage.
In a similar vein, ancient gardening and the cultural landscape will be the main focus of the Ibn Luyun Chair, for which part of the historical research will be conducted in the Generalife, the only surviving almunia real (royal farm) that has been used uninterruptedly for agricultural purposes through the centuries. Study topics will range from the productive aspects and the water system used in the monument to the influence of the gardening techniques used in the Alhambra on the practice of gardening today, and will also explore the management plans and the systems for assessment and diagnosis.
Lastly, the Washington Irving Chair will be devoted to the dissemination and communication of heritage and will reflect on the capacity of the Alhambra to relate to its social and cultural surroundings. In this area they will analyse questions such as communication techniques and criteria; new technologies and heritage; museology and production of exhibitions; introduction to cultural journalism and production of contents; and cultural travel as a means of dissemination among other issues.
All the Chairs will have a multidisciplinary advisory committee made up of internationally renowned professionals of which a number have already been confirmed: Cynthia Robinson, Professor of the Department of Art and Visual Studies of Cornell University; Federico Mayor Zaragoza, the Chairman of the Peace Culture Foundation and former director of UNESCO; Francisco Jarauta, Professor of Philosophy and Letters at the University of Murcia; Hamid Triki, Professor of Mediaeval History at the University of Marrakech; Mahruk Tarapor,  former Director of International Affairs of the Metropolitan Museum in New York; the architectural historian, critic, writer, painter and photographer, William J. R. Curtis; Miguel Ángel Troitiño, Professor at the Department of Human Geography of the Complutense University in Madrid; Myriam Wissa, Professor at the School of Oriental Studies in London and Jordi Suriñach, Professor of Applied Economics at the University of Barcelona, among others.
In addition, the Laboratory for Artistic Creation and Experimentation will make the Alhambra, for so long a source of inspiration for numerous artists, a place for artistic activity and inspiration. “The idea is that the monument should become a stage on which to produce works of art and in this way link contemporary creation and its processes with the landscape and the architecture in conditions that favour both artistic expression and public visits to the monument” explained María del Mar Villafranca.
Courses on offer
The academic programme of the School of the Alhambra will include both long and short courses in classroom-teaching, mixed and online formats. The long-term specialized courses will lead to 2 main titles: Specialized Master in Advanced Studies and Master in Advanced Studies, while the short courses will be specialist workshops, seminars, technical congresses and lectures. Those interested can find more information at https://www.alhambra-patronato.es/index.php/Area-Institucional

A novel aspect of the project will be its e-learning content, which will give millions of specialists from all over the world the opportunity to broaden their knowledge and exchange experiences.
The School of the Alhambra also aims to take a qualitative leap forward in terms of research, consolidating investigation in heritage, a strategic sector for Andalusia. In this way we will create an excellent framework within which to perform research activities (projects, grants, trips, prizes, etc), collaboration between groups, mobility of researchers and professionals and the attraction of talent.

This academic “adventure” is the result of collaboration between the Ministry of Culture and Sport, through the Council of the Alhambra and Generalife, with various institutions, including the University of Granada, the Andalusian Historical Heritage Institute, the Spanish Institute of Cultural Heritage, the International University of Andalusia, the Euro-Arab Foundation, the Spanish Research Council, the al-Andalus Legacy Foundation, the House of Arabia, UNESCO, ICOMOS, the Agha Khan Foundation and the Government of Saudi Arabia, among others.

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