The "Luxembourg under destruction" collective recently launched a public petition calling for a more "coherent and effective protection of Luxembourg’s architectural heritage".
A first petition launched by the online group "Luxembourg under destruction - Mir wëllen hale wat mir hunn" in 2020 garnered close to 5,300 signatures, leading to the subject being discussed in the Chamber of Deputies (Luxembourg's parliament).
However, the petitioners argue that the situation has not improved over the past two years, with Luxembourg's culture of "mass destruction" showing no signs of stopping.
The original petition called for buildings dating from before 1955 to be placed under automatic protection; the new petition, Petition 2477, calls for automatic protection to apply to buildings built before 1957. According to the petitioners, the decision to change the year was deliberate, to highlight the fact that nothing has changed over the past two years.
Indeed, despite the success of the petition in 2020 and the subsequent introduction of a new heritage law, demolitions continued, with one notable example being that of the old train station in Ettelbruck in 2022.
Chronicle.lu spoke with two of the petitioners, Peter Kleijnenburg and Sandra Latanik, who form part of the "Luxembourg under destruction" collective, to learn more about Petition 2477 and its goals.
Peter, who set up the "Luxembourg under destruction" Facebook group in 2019, noted that the 2020 petition had been "welcomed positively" but no concrete action stemmed from it. Petition 2477 aims to guarantee that all buildings built before 1957 be placed under automatic protection from the start; afterwards, the authorities could consider specific cases before deciding whether to approve any demolitions or other works. At present, it is "the other way around", with very few buildings being protected, explained Peter, adding that the situation now seems "worse than ever." "Our proposal is the best solution," said Sandra, arguing that municipalities and heritage institutions currently seemed more focused on cooperating with developers than on preserving the country's heritage.
Concerning the importance of architectural heritage, Peter and Sandra noted that different styles and periods of architecture added to one's well-being and shaped the identity of a place, and reflected its history. They thus regretted that Luxembourg's "architectral landscape is being butchered."
Regarding the argument that old buildings do not meet current standards (e.g. regarding energy efficiency), Peter countered that tearing down an existing building, which may have been standing for a century (and could potentially stand for another 100 years), and starting from scratch had "nothing to do with sustainability". He added that there was still space in Luxembourg on which to build new developments, such as in Luxembourg-Kirchberg and Cloche d'Or, which should be used, whilst protecting (rather than replacing) old buildings. Sandra added that nature is often also impacted when demolishing an old building, for example with the removal of trees, and lamented this destruction of a "good, green quality of life."
Referring to the housing crisis, Sandra recognised that this was an issue in Luxembourg as elsewhere in Europe, but pointed out that there are "so many empty houses" in the Grand Duchy, many of which have been long abandoned.
The petitioners noted that most people appear to agree with their stance but some feel they cannot change the situation. Petition 2477 is "a means to show your opinion," said Peter; Sandra added that it was a means to "save what is still left". Others are unaware of the situation, and so the group is raising awareness through social media but also postcards, which volunteers have been helping to distribute. Sandra stated that it would be "wonderful" to have a parliamentary discussion linked to the petition "because it would really highlight the problem."
At the time of writing, Petition 2477 has garnered some 2,250 signatures, i.e. half of the 4,500 signatures required (by 3 February 2023) in order for the subject to be discussed in a parliamentary session. The petition can be signed here.
The petitioners are Karin Waringo, Sandra Latanik, Peter Kleijnenburg and Tania Wenzel, who also make up the core team of the "Luxembourg under destruction" collective. Further information about Petition 2477 is available on the dedicated Facebook page and in the "Luxembourg under destruction" Facebook group.