«The crisis is jeopardising culturaldiversity» Ernesto Ottone (UNESCO) to Thomas Vonier, UIA President

International Union of Architects (UIA) President Thomas Vonier interviews Ernesto Ottone Ramirez, the Assistant Director-General for Culture of UNESCO.

Half the world’s population lacks Internet access.
77% of the World Heritage sites are closed.
13% of museums will not be in a position to reopen.

The crisis prompted by the pandemic is jeopardising cultural diversity. This is a conclusion reached by the Assistant Director-General for Culture of UNESCO, Ernesto Ottone Ramirez. Interviewed by International Union of Architects (UIA) President Thomas Vonier as part of the One Year To Go! campaign leading up to the 27th World Congress of Architects – UIA2021RIO, Ottone stresses that, although new technologies are underpinning access to culture while sheltering at home, this is limited to only half the world’s population as “the other half has no Internet access.”

He also talks about cultural institutions that have shut down across the globe: 77% of all the World Heritage sites are closed. We are talking about more than 820 locations. Not only are they closed. All their means of support are at risk, because people cannot work in travel, tourism and other services related to them. Some 90% of the world’s museums – a total of 95,000 institutions – are also closed right now. You have an entire region with not a single museum that is open. This is the situation in Latin America. No museums are open, from the Caribbean down to Argentina and Chile.”

According to Ottone, a survey conducted by the International Council of Museums in May showed that some 13% of closed institutions will not be in a position to reopen after the pandemic. “For UNESCO, this is something that is very hard to hear, because it means that diversity is endangered.

For Thomas Vonier, this is an issue related directly to the work of architects and urban planners: “it is hard to imagine how we will adapt buildings (and particularly cultural institutions) to the circumstances, which might continue for quite some time. But I have noted that people are rediscovering old principles of design: the importance of having a balcony or a place in the open air, for example. In this situation of confinement, this has tremendous value. We have seen people talking about the importance of having streets with easy access, parks, recreation areas. We are also assigning high value to natural ventilation and sunlight, not only at home, but also in offices, restaurants and stores.”

The UIA president believes that these months leading up to the 27th Congress of Architects will involve a steep learning curve, ratcheted up by the circumstances. “A year down the line, our understanding will be greatly enhanced,” he affirmed. This interview is available through

the UIA2021RIO channel on YouTube:


Press info:
Luciana Lana