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1998 Spanish Best Practices selected by the International Jury >

The Rehabilitation of the Convent of Santa Catalina, Jaén (Spain)

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Reference Date: 26-07-98

Experience selected in the 1998 Dubai Award for Best Practice, and catalogued as GOOD. ( Best Practices Database.)
País/Country: Spain

United Nations Region: Europe
Ecological region: Continental
Activity: Village
Partnerships: Local Authority. Regional Government. Central Government.

Themes = Architecture and Urban Design: historic preservation. Housing: affordable housing. Poverty erradication: job creation, vocational training.

Main contact:
Jesús María Martín Clabo
Paseo de las Montalvas s/n
BOX 24
Tel: +34 953 74 13 62
Fax: +34 953 74 26 23

D. Eusebio Ortega Molina
Council of Baeza (Local Authority)
Cardenal Benavides, 1
BOX 24
Tel: +34 953 74 02 04
Fax: +34 953 74 30 45

Partner One Support Type: Administrative Support

D. Maria Antonia Teva Sarrión
Regional Government of Andalucia (Regional Government)
Sta. María del Valle s/n
Tel: +34 953 21 11 00

Partner Two Support Type: Financial Support

D. Antonio Roldán Siles
Work National Institute (Central Government)
Plaza San Francisco, 4
Tel: +34 953 23 60 00

Partner Three Support Type: Financial Support

Nominating Organization:
Marta García Nart
Spanish National Committee
Paseo de la Castellana 67
Ministerio de Fomento
Tel: +34-91 597 75 72
Fax: +34-91 597 86 04

Key Dates

Starting date for the initiative: January, 1992.
Finishing date: 1995.


Prior situation: There was a large space and building abandoned in the neighbourhood inside the walls of the historical centre. There was also a sector of the population without proper housing through a lack of their own resources, moreover there were a large number of young people unemployed, without training and no expectations of finding work.

Situation afterwards: A building of historic interest has been restored (Remains from the 16th Century) and it has been put into use, also repopulating the historic centre and contributing to the improvement of the town planning for the centre. At the present time 25 families live in the unit and it is the headquarters for four civil associations. At the same time training has been given for the employment of 70 youngsters who carried out the work.

Impact: Access to a dwelling for a sector of the population with a limited level of income. Correcting the depopulation of the historic centre and its loss of activity. Recovery and putting into use of the Cultural Heritage. Qualification for the people involved providing them with training for stable employment.

Lessons provided by the practice: Any project for sustainable local or rural development must envisage, amongst its strategies, the recovery and putting into use, in a rational way, of unemployed resources with great value such as the young sector of the population and its heritage, and as a result, contribute to the improvement of the quality of life of all the citizens.


1. Situation before the initiative
Baeza is a town with 16,000 inhabitants located in the centre of the region called "La Loma" in the Province of Jaén. Its main resources are agriculture based on the sole crop of olive production and a great cultural heritage inherited from the successive cultures which inhabited the place (bronze age, Iberians, Romans, Visigoths, Muslim and Christian cultures), with its most important legacy being that which dates from the 16th and 17th centuries, the age of the maximum splendour of the city.

At the same time, there was a large sector of the young population who were unemployed and who did not have the proper level of training to allow them to gain entry to the jobs market and moreover, another sector of the population affected by underemployment and unstable work, a situation which is common in the Province of Jaén since it is, according to different economic indicators, one of the least developed Provinces in the whole of the country.

In view of this situation and with these valuable but underused resources (heritage and young people), the Town Council backed the creation in 1986 of the Baeza Workshop School, whose objectives are: training for youth employment through the alternative of professional practice, whilst at the same time recovering the town's heritage.

The reasons that led to the development of the initiative were the application of basic strategies aimed at correcting these situations of the lack of use of valuable resources such as the valuable heritage owned by the town and promoting employment amongst the young by means of offering qualifications in trades relating to the practice of the recovery of its heritage, knowing that by putting the resources to use it would be possible to create employment and wealth and also an improvement of the quality of life of the citizens.

The associated entities involved in this initiative are the National Institute for Employment of the Ministry for Work (INEM), the Department of Public Works and Transport of the Autonomous Regional Government of Andalusia, the Town Council of Baeza and the Workshop School belonging to the latter.

The INEM, since 1986, has financed the training costs and Town Council contributes to the financing of the running costs for the Workshop School. On the other hand, the Department of Public Works envisages in its activities in the town programmes for the preferential rehabilitation of housing and the programme for unique initiatives for the refurbishment of buildings of historical value for their residential use mainly.

Prior to the initiative, during the period 1989-1991, the Workshop School had carried out a similar experience with the refurbishment of the Palace of Villareal for the use of 12 dwellings through an agreement between the Department of Public Works, the INEM, the Town Council of Baeza and the Workshop School which obtained some exemplary results, since this work was recognised on a European level with the award of a Diploma of Merit in the competition "Europa Nostra" in 1991.

As has been described above, the traditional agricultural crop in the area, the single cash crop of olives, limits economic diversification, which, together with the low level of industrialization and the lack of bussiness initiatives, economic activities are limited to agriculture and the services sector, deriving mainly from cultural and natural tourism. The environment is heavily marked by the structure and size of the historic centre and the important heritage that it contains.

The setting-up of the initiative was caused by the application of a basic strategy for local sustainable development by means of which, by activating the heritage and training the unemployed for employment, the aforementioned deficiencies could be corrected. According to the socio-economic characteristics and the problems of the town, a number of criteria were established for deciding on the priorities for the beneficiaries and activities, so the criteria for social assessment were: creation of local employment, incorporation into work of groups with difficulties of integration, use of endogenous resources, training provisions in the project, social integration of a certain sector of the population with financial difficulties and the demonstration effect that the initiative might have.

At the same time, a number of technical criteria for assessment were established such as: the innovative nature of the initiative, the integration of building in the zone thereby increasing the value of the historic centre and the type of project for rehabilitation which meant a new view on the use of heritage as a resource.

The process for involving the different institutions was the following: in 1991 the Town Council presented a project for a Workshop School to the INEM, the aim of which in the training programme was the Rehabilitation of the Convent of Santa Catalina, this institution agreed so the resources were obtained for setting up the Workshop School, the Department of Public Works had entrusted the usual technical staff from the Workshop School the technical project for the rehabilitation of the building, the property of the Town council which had purchased it a year earlier. At the same time, the Town Council and the Department of Public Works signed an agreement for managing the process for the works for the rehabilitation in which the latter would provide the financial resources for their performance. Thus, with the Workshop School as the builder, the Town Council as the Manager and the INEM and the Autonomous Regional Government with their financial contribution and control of the training programme and of the works, respectively, they managed to involve them all in an initiative co-ordinated on a local level.

2. Objectives, strategies and mobilizaton of resources
The objectives that were set out in the initiative were the following: the recovery and putting into use of the cultural heritage, the correction of the process of abandonment of the historic centre with the subsequent loss of activity in the latter, contribution of the improvement in the quality of life of a sector of the population, which would promote a change of attitude and mentality in the population with respect to their heritage and, at the same time, since the Workshop School would execute the works, they intended to achieve the following objectives: integration and professional insertion for young unemployed people, providing them with practical training and experience in real work which would allow them to find work within the scope of the preservation of the town's heritage, the training of specialists in professions required on the market and in different craft trades, some of which are about to disappear and the promotion and diffusion of the tasks for the preservation of heritage in order to achieve greater knowledge about it by society through the participation of the youngest and most dynamic sector of the population.

3. Process
Then, in 1992, the works began for the rehabilitation of the abandoned Convent building, which were carried out by the Workshop School with the aforementioned institutional support and which were concluded in 1997. The costs for financing were shared in the following way: the Department for Public Works provided pesetas 170 million, the INEM, within its programme for Workshop Schools, provided pesetas 35 million and the Town Council of Baeza, through the purchase of the building plus aid for the works, contributed pesetas 17 million.

4. Results Achieved

It may be considered that the objectives set out prior to the initiative were achieved in full, if these are evaluated as the number of impacts such as the fact that:

The changes, on the level of the citizens, that have been achieved with this initiative mainly involve the change of attitude of the group which lives in the building, insofar as they have felt and made themselves responsible for the care and maintenance of the building, valuing the heritage recovered as a resource which, according to their previous way of acting, was not to be expected. The policy of local and rural sustainable development has been reinforced and the strategies set up in these types of initiatives, consisting of the recovery of endogenous unemployed resources, as a means to achieve the creation of wealth and improvement in the quality of life for the inhabitants, have demonstrated that they are the right ones for achieving these objectives.

Both on a local and autonomous government level these types of programmes and initiatives are still being supported, as proven by the present facts, in other towns and cities in the Autonomous Community of Andalusia. The links established between the different institutions have been reinforced and institutionalised with the same type of initiatives presently being undertaken in Baeza, where the co-ordination between the different agencies involved is optimum.

As regards sustainability, from the social point of view, it is obvious that there has been an increase in the level of integration of a discriminated sector of the population, thereby increasing social cohesion amongst this group and the rest of the local society, at the same time a historic building has been recovered with remains from the 16th century (Cloisters and Archways) thus causing a change in attitude as regards heritage amongst the local society and also 70 unemployed youngsters have been trained, of which a high percentage have found stable work on the local labour market. The recovery of the costs for the initiative is achieved by the contribution from the group which lives in the building through a monthly payment by way of rental, the value of which ranges between pesetas 4,000 and 7,000, a sum that is easily payable for them, these sums are repaid to the Autonomous Government, since the contribution from the INEM only covered the training for the pupils at the Workshop School.

Previously, the Workshop School had performed a similar scheme of a lesser size (Rehabilitation of the Palace of Villareal for 12 publicly sponsored dwellings) with top class results, hence two basic conclusions were reached: the management of the initiative should be kept on a local level, Town Council and Workshop School, so that the process could maintain the desired agility and secondly, that the different resources had to be co-ordinated by different institutions with more authority than the Town Council, since the local financial resources were very limited which is usually the case; also the study of projects for local and rural sustainable development corroborated for us the fact that cultural heritage as a resource is a basic asset in any strategy that may be envisaged in these projects.

With the Programme for the Workshop School, we may mention cases such as the town of Ronda (Malaga, Andalusia), with great similarities as regards its financial and cultural conditions in which they are carrying out similar initiatives; on an international level, based on the knowledge of this initiative through visits and exchanges, we have seen that similar initiatives for rehabilitation are being performed or have already been performed in the historic centres of Quito (Ecuador) and the old district of Havana (Cuba).

At the same time, visits are regularly received from authorities and local administrators from different South American countries, belonging to the South American Union of Municipal Councils (UIM) which are developing projects for sustainable development in their respective municipal districts and these relations have been carried out since the year 1995, during these visits they are shown the type of initiatives performed by the Workshop School and the Town Council, as an experience that may fully be extrapolated to their local conditions. Through the Workshop Schools Programme and that of the Institute for Co-operation with South America (ICI) a number of working visits were held in Baeza with the technical staff and local representatives from Joao Pessos (Brazil), Colombia, Municipal district of Santiago de Chile, Ministry of Culture of Cuba, where they discovered the initiatives that the Workshop School was carrying out and the type of strategies to be applied within the programme for Local Sustainable Development.

Finally, we should mention the visits from the heads of the Baeza Workshop School to the city of León (Nicaragua) with the aim of applying the experiments performed on a local level to a similar environment.

Este documento se ha editado a partir de una versión inglesa.
Revisado por Nerea Morán Alonso.

1998 Spanish Best Practices selected by the International Jury >
Ciudades para un Futuro más Sostenible
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Escuela Técnica Superior de Arquitectura de Madrid Universidad Politécnica de Madrid
Grupo de Investigación en Arquitectura, Urbanismo y Sostenibilidad
Departamento de Estructuras y Física de la EdificaciónDepartamento de Urbanística y Ordenación del Territorio