Henrik Schoenefeldt

Episode 192,   Apr 15, 11:13 AM

My guest this week is Henrik Schoenefeldt, Professor of Sustainable Architecture, who has been at the University of Kent since 2011. He was at Cambridge prior to moving to Kent and we learn about the role of sustainability in architecture from an historical perspective, such as from the Victorian era.

Henrik grew up in Germany in a former industrial city, a site of industrial heritage, and indeed he grew up in a house on a former industrial site.

Henrik reflects on how Covid and Brexit prompted a lot of thinking regarding identity, including his own future in the UK. He’s working on the largest conservation project in the UK at the Palace of Westminster, and reflects on how far what one does in academic work resonates with our interests as teenagers.

We find out how the rebuilding of Coventry Cathedral became a personal story for Henrik as his grandmother was in Dresden during the bombing. It also links to matters of faith, as Henrik recounts.

Henrik discusses how his family did talk about the Second World War and how it shaped their lives, and we talk about the things we once took for granted but which is no longer the prism we would look through, now. We talk about crossing national boundaries and Henrik recounts how he would go on interrail journeys as a teenager, and we see the things we have in common, and how some people today want to go back to those more isolated sovereign units.

We discuss why it is that we come back to things, and we learn about his secondment over the last seven and a half years to Parliament. We find out how Henrik got into this project. We learn that the Palace is a treasure trove for the study of the development of environmental technology and design principles. He has direct access to the underground tunnels etc. in the building.

Musically, we talk about how Henrik was more interested in the popular culture of a previous age when he was growing up, and how he still listens to The Beatles today, and he is aware of the techno scene from his final days of school. He enjoys going to live classical music.

Then, towards the end of the interview, we find out whether Henrik’s younger self would be surprised to see the journey he has taken. We learn that many of his peers at a Steiner school were also interested in the environmental interests he has. And, we find out why Henrik is somebody who looks back in order to look forward.