In Memoriam: Dr JUKKA JOKILEHTO, leading expert in World Heritage and former President of ICOMOS CIF

ICOMOS CIF expresses the deepest condolences for the passing of Dr Jukka Jokilehto to his family, friends and colleagues

Photograph in Shiraz (Iran), provided by Jukka’s wife, Mehr Azar Soheil

Dr Jukka Jokilehto, former President of ICOMOS CIF (1992-2001), passed away in Rome on 23rd November 2023. He graduated in architecture and town planning from the Polytechnic of Helsinki and had an extensive career at ICCROM, lately as Special Advisor to the Director-General and previously as Assistant Director General (1992-1998). He was since 1972 the coordinator of the ICCROM course in architectural conservation and from1973 responsible for the programme in Architectural and Urban Conservation. He shared his knowledge and expertise with the thousands of people trained by ICCROM and beyond. 

He represented ICCROM at ICOMOS and at the UNESCO World Heritage Committee and was World Heritage Advisor to ICOMOS (2000-2006), working on evaluation and presentation of nominations to World Heritage Committee. His unwavering commitment is a testament to his profound dedication to advancing global endeavours to safeguard cultural heritage. He travelled around the world with his inseparable wife Dr Mehr Azar Soheil, a conservation architect who graduated from the Faculty of Fine Arts at Tehran University, with a PhD from the Sapienza University of Rome.

Photograph by Risto Pitkänen provided by Mehr Azar Soheil

He lectured and published extensively. His book A History of Architectural Conservation is fundamental to all those studying architectural conservation. In Questions of Authenticity, international principles and criteria are shown as a reference and methodological framework to approach specific heritage sites, considering their local context and shaping the discussion on the topic for years. ICCROM published the book Conserving the authentic: essays in honour of Jukka Jokilehto as a recognition to his great contribution and dedication to develop both theory and practice.

Dr Jukka Jokilehto assumed a pivotal role in formulating and evolving guidelines and policies that have profoundly influenced worldwide preservation strategies. His expertise and contributions have played a crucial part in shaping the trajectory of cultural preservation by ensuring the effective conservation of historical sites, architectural and intangible cultural heritage for future generations. His remarkable career showcases his dedication to bridging the gap between theory and practice within architectural conservation. His

Cristina Gonzalez-Longo, ICOMOS CIF President and Maria Teresa Iaquinta, ICOMOS CIF Vice-President for Europe

Dr Jukka Jokilehto’s words, reflections and engagements around the world will continue to inspire professionals in the field while impacting our understanding of heritage preservation.

We are collecting here some testimonials from ICOMOS CIF members:

I met Jukka Jokilehto in person 20 years ago, when mAAN (modern Asian Architecture Network) was actively involved in a regional meeting organised by the UNESCO World Heritage Center (by the late Ron van Oers) on Modern Heritage of Asia in Chandigarh, India, February 24-27, 2003. His contribution and role in heritage conservation at the global level, especially through ICCROM, have been fundamental and impactful. May he rest in peace. (Dr Johannes Widodo, director of the Graduate Programs in Architectural Conservation, National University of Singapore)

We have lost a giant of our profession, and his personality, dedication and deep knowledge will hardly be replaced. (Dr Tamás Fejérdy, architect, conservator, Honorary associate professor, Budapest University of Technology)

When I first joined ICCROM, in 1987, I had a discussion with Jukka who was wondering why a young Italian architect would attend the Scientific Principles of Conservation Course instead of the Architectural Conservation one. In 1989 I joined the Architectural Conservation Programme, led by Jukka, to coordinate a course on Territorial and Architectural Conservation Course (ITARC), jointly organise with the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Until his retirement, I had the opportunity and honour to work with him and appreciate his intellectual generosity, and his capacity to foster my growth in the profession. I will be always grateful to him. (Maria Teresa Iaquinta, ICOMOS CIF Vice-President for Europe and ICOMOS Italia Secretary General)

I was fortunate to cross path with Jukka on a few occasions. He was a delightful person, very generous of his time, experience and sharp mind with whomever reached out to him to talk about Rome, conservation, education and other matters related to heritage. Ten years ago, while at ICCROM for a sabbatical, I spent time with him and Azi. On one particular evening, we were walking on our way back to Trastevere from a conference. We passed the Pantheon, deeply engaged in a conversation about a topic I forget. I remember stopping dead in my tracks and marveling at the fact that this magical place was right before our eyes. We took in all in for a few minutes, accompanied by Jukka’s beaming smile, he who, of course, knew the building so well from his PhD dissertation. Even after all those years spent in Rome, he could still be enamoured with such a place, never blasé (Dr Claudine Déom, Associate Professor, School of Architecture, Université de Montréal)

Jukka and Azi at Piazza del Popolo (30 Oct. 2013)
2010 in Tallinn on the occasion of the launch of the Estonian translation of Jukka’s book (Picture by Dr Anneli Randla, Head of the Department of Conservation and Cultural Heritage, Estonian Academy of Arts, Estonia)