Revitalisation of Bánffy Castle Bontida, Romania -
As a Built Heritage Conservation Training Centre.
Summary Report

The purpose of this project is to restore a building of international importance for the benefit of the cultural heritage of Romania and to create a permanent International Built Heritage Conservation Training Centre, to meet an essential need.

Activities Planned
The initial application for grant assistance identified the following activities:

  1. Partial restoration of one of the main buildings within the Castle (known as the Miklos building) to create an International Built Heritage Conservation Training Centre, which will eventually provide facilities for lecture/conference room, a laboratory, library, accommodation and associated facilities.
  2. The conservation area surrounding the castle will be restored through environmental improvement.
  3. Implementation of the Built Heritage Conservation Training Project, BHCT 2004, which will teach students conservation technology related to practical building crafts skills. It will also become a field study centre for universities which offer undergraduate and postgraduate courses in environmental studies.
  4. Dissemination of information, through presentations at selected conferences, production of a “travelling Exhibition” of the work, and publication of the BHCT Lecture Notes.
  5. Organising the Bontida Cultural Days. Within this context the Castle will be opened to the public for the promotion of cultural activities.

Philosophy of Approach
The philosophy of approach which has been followed throughout this project has been one of “minimum intervention”. Where reconstruction has been necessary it has been based on historic research and archaeological evidence, and has been undertaken by, or under, the supervision of conservation specialists.

Consolidation and conversion of the Miklos building
Work on consolidation of the Miklos building began in June 2004. The initial work of removing debris from the interior of the building enabled foundations to be set for the construction of new internal walls, onto which were later set new floors and ceilings. In parallel with this work detailed repairs were undertaken to internal walls and door/window openings in accordance with a detailed schedule of works which had been prepared in advance to ensure that the repair work could be undertaken in a logical sequence.

Implementation and supervision
The conservation work was undertaken by a professional conservation team conversant with the philosophy of the conservation approach and the practice of conservation techniques. All of the work was overseen by a British expert from the Institute of Historic Building Conservation.

Conservation Area Improvement Work
The area around the castle was landscaped through the planting of trees and shrubs, removing debris and creating new paths. It was undertaken through an element of the project which involved local school children.

Implementation of the Built Heritage Conservation Training Project, BHCT 2004
The BHCT course modules were held between 18th July  and 25th September 2004,  under the guidance of specialist craftsmen and the British expert overseeing the project. They attracted students from within the building industry as well as university students (mainly from architecture and structural engineering courses). A total of 80 students attended the courses, from Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, Belgium, the USA, and Britain. (Further links were being actively developed during 2004/2005 with universities in Norway, Sweden, The Czech Republic and France).
The modules were each of two weeks duration and consisted of a theoretical lecture section and a practical teaching session directly on the buildings of the castle incorporating the skills of  consolidation and rendering, carpentry, and stonemasonry. These were  jointly delivered by professional lecturers from Romanian and British Universities,  and Romanian and British master craftsmen. The students were taught traditional skills using traditional materials compatible with the original building, following a philosophy of repair and minimal intervention. In addition to the courses on Conservation Skills Training the project also incorporated courses on Archaeology, Building History, and Landscape Architecture.

Dissemination of Information
Information on the Project and the philosophy of approach which it represents was presented widely in a number of different ways:

  • Through presentations at International Conferences to professional audiences, and to governmental representatives, including Ministers, in each of the partnership countries (Romania, Britain and Hungary).
  • Through the preparation of a travelling exhibition depicting the activities of the BHCT Project.

The Bontida Cultural Days
Through the Bontida Cultural Days (27th to 29th August 2004), the public were invited to visit the castle, experience the work of the project, see craft demonstrations from the BHCT craftsmen, and enjoy cultural presentations of traditional music and dance from Romanian, Hungarian and Rroma groups, classical music, and children’s special crafts programmes which included the British Council’s Magic Pencil’s initiative. This has helped to influence public perception on the value of the historic environment and of its place in society, and attracted over 3000 visitors.

Through the  practical restoration of part of the Miklos building which has successfully  been achieved, a number of rooms are now available to enable the BHCT Centre to function on a more permanent basis. In doing so a principal objective of restoration of a building of international importance has been met.

Each of the Planned Activities which formed the basis of the project have been successfully concluded, and each is now able to act as a platform for the further development of  the BHCT Centre.

This project could not have been implemented without the assistance of the EU Culture 2000 initiative.