Conversations Build Understanding

A new collaboration between the National Heritage Ironwork Group (NHIG) and the Icon Metals Group

A new webinar series devised by the National Heritage Ironwork Group (NHIG) and the Icon Metals Group was launched at the end of October 2020.

The theme of the programme is Conversations Build Understanding and Icon Chief Executive, Sara Crofts, was delighted to be invited to set the scene by explaining the idea behind it and offering a few thoughts about the value of cross-disciplinary dialogue. She writes:

Conversations are important because they are a key mechanism through which understanding, knowledge and professional judgement are developed. I am certain that I do my best thinking when I am talking to others. Having to articulate the problem in a way that helps others to understand the issue is an excellent prompt to enable you to finesse your own thoughts and opinions, and often helps the brain to make connections and identify possibilities that might not have surfaced otherwise. And a conversation is a two-way communication. The other participants respond to your words and ideas, adding to them and enriching them. Sometimes they help to make new connections or to introduce fresh perspectives and ideas that you might not have uncovered alone.

However, there is a danger that if left to our own devices we tend to only talk to people in the same role that we have: architects talk to architects, blacksmiths to blacksmiths and conservators to conservators. While we might still learn a great deal, this mono-culture conversation can become something of an echo chamber. There is a danger that ideas and practices, and indeed prejudices, becoming ingrained when we only talk to people like ourselves.

So, it’s good to open our minds and to make a commitment to seeking out different conversations. We all see the world differently; and as an architect I have always valued the different ways of seeing and thinking that craftspeople, conservators, engineers and others bring to the dialogue. My mind looks for patterns, but others interpret objects in words, numbers and textures. This variety of experience and understanding brings many more dimensions to the discussion.

But finding opportunities for rich and rewarding cross-disciplinary conversation has become something of a challenge in our Covid-limited world. Opportunities for casual conversation are fewer due to the changes taking place in the workplace and on our building sites, and so there was a clear need for something to address this gap.

So, this is the reason that Conversations Build Understanding has been developed by the NHIG and the Icon Metals Group and I welcome it wholeheartedly.

The format for these online sessions has been modelled on those stimulating informal conversations that happen in conference coffee breaks, on the scaffold, and in the workshop. Invited guests will be brought together to discuss and compare their different experiences and insights on a range of topics. Prompted by the questions from the audience, the speakers will be able to delve into the nitty gritty of conservation and craft practice, tackling thorny issues from their different perspectives. As we all know, when it comes to real life projects there are many ways of achieving the desired outcome; these events will allow space and time for practitioners to explore their subjects and debate diverse approaches to problem-solving and decision-making.

This webinar series is timely and important; in these darks days we must renew our commitment to collaborating across disciplines and support each other to ensure that our cultural heritage – old and new – continues to be championed and cared for.

Through respectful conversations we will indeed build genuine understanding.

Find out more about the free webinar series on the NHIG website.