Bucium Summer University. A model for the regeneration of rural cultural heritage

Bucium Summer University.
A model for the regeneration of rural cultural heritage

text: Mihaela HĂRMĂNESCU

Imagini extrase din Caietele Repertoriul Rural Bucium I, II, III, IV

Bucium Summer University (UdV) for monument and site regeneration under the high patronage of The Romanian Academy is a project initiated and coordinated by RPER Association – Rencontres du Patrimoine Europe Roumanie1. The project aims at providing a safeguarding model for the cultural heritage of the smallest habitation nucleus, the Romanian village, with a focus on the municipality of Bucium in Alba County, thus offering an applicable alternative for local development, in contrast with the destructive mining projects threatening the villages of Bucium, Roşia Montană and their surroundings. The history of Bucium and the story of the settlement are closely linked to the history of gold exploitation in Apuseni Mountains dating from the Daco-Roman period and continuing up to the present day. Moreover, prior to 1989, gold mining was practically the only economic activity in the area and the inhabitants’ chief occupation.
UdV Project reveals to the inhabitants of Bucium – stripped of their gold mines as a result of the 1947 nationalization and lacking employment after the state mines had closed down – an exceptional historic heritage, a guarantor of local identity retrieval and a generator of economic recovery solutions.
As of 2011, on a year-by-year basis, about 20 young people are taught a direct, interdisciplinary and interactive approach to rural heritage and are encouraged to guide their careers towards the protection and valorisation of unprotected and neglected heritage. They acquire specific knowledge and terminology which they later exploit in their academic and professional careers.
The ongoing project, an educational model for integrated research, advocates the restoration and reconceptualisation of in situ rural heritage, in favour of a sustainable development in a European context, where heritage is actually an economic drive meant to activate social life.
Drawing on the philosophy of the ICOMOS Declaration (Quebec, 2008): The Preservation of the Spirit of the Place, the project began in 2011 by studying, inventorying and drawing up scientific repertories of vernacular architecture through field prospections, discussions with the villagers and coordinated work in tens of houses and households in the villages of the municipality. Given that large amounts of architectural, urbanistic and landscape rural heritage values unknown to the date have been identified in the field, the scientific repertories and inventories ranged from studies based on architectural surveys including scale drawings and building system details to the identification and valorisation of rural cultural landscape. The following editions of the Summer University continued with an inventory of and insight into the traditional household in Bucium, hence integrating the characteristic living mode and further dealing with landscape and landscape typology studies, land use planning and, not least, traditional mining landscape. The studies also focused on oral history, sociology (archive examination, local interviews), ethnography (regional specific terminology) and tourism (heritage inventorying, questionnaires, tourist products, development guidelines). Throughout the years, the project managed to attract numerous lecturers, academic staff members from Bucharest, Cluj, Sibiu, Iassy as well as Romanian and foreign cultural heritage experts who guided the students and the community towards a correct understanding of the rural authenticity of Bucium village. Nowadays, the project comprises various directions of research centred on the valorisation of cultural rural and mining landscape, the rehabilitation of rural values and the development of rural communities’ capacities with a view to understanding and assuming local identity as a cultural drive for territorial development from a contemporary perspective.
Throughout the years of research, the initiative also included drawing workshops destined to the village children (photo) and a local competition called „The fanciest house” – several houses were awarded according to a criterion scale: the age of the building, the continuity of habitation, the highest number of traditional elements paired with the lowest number of modern interventions, the preservation of family photographs and household items. Initially, the village inhabitants deemed the winner houses as old, outdated and ordinary or commonplace, but after understanding the criteria, this conception toned giving way to a new hierarchy centred on intrinsic value.

The authenticity of the old built stock also reoriented the research directions of the project towards a series of in situ rehabilitation works based on traditional techniques and carried out together with local craftsmen on several existing heritage buildings in different stages of advanced degradation: an iconic building of the municipality – Școala Veche [The Old School], built by an unknown Italian architect, a house representative of local vernacular architecture – Colda House, Doicear House („a fancy house”), as well as the house of ethnographer Ovidiu Bârlea, inventoried and repertoried in the first editions.
During the house renovation works, we discovered a shingle craftsman who prepared the shingle for the roofs during a workshop also attended by students. Based on the documentation drawn up in the second edition, we prepared Folders for historic monument listing for six memorial objectives approved in January 2014 by the Ministry of Culture. At present, RPER, seconded by attested experts, focuses on the restoration of the Cross of Bishop Andrei Şaguna and his roadside crucifix.

The Bucium Rural Repertory Journal

The Bucium Rural Repertory Journal is the editorial and online interface of the previously presented project. After each UdV edition, the outcomes of the students’ practical work – vernacular architecture and cultural mining landscape inventory and repertory catalogues, architectural survey plans and landscape sketches – are published in The Bucium Rural Repertory Journal. Presented as a folder, „The Journal” contains an informative brochure and a series of observation records drawn up by the students during their activity and accompanied by illustrations and drawings by hand. The pages of „The Journal” also include other RPER initiatives in Bucium: historic monument listing and signalling of sensitive valuable elements, the rehabilitation of traditional houses, the revival and continuation of old crafts, the encouragement of local pride through the competition „The fanciest house”, as well as the boost and inclusion of local cultural actions.
„The Bucium Rural Repertory Journal” ensures public access to the results of the project proposed for implementation by RPER in all rural areas in Romania.

Bucium Municipality, Alba County – territory and landscape

According to the evidence, Bucium has been inhabited as early as the Bronze Age, as a result of the discovery of four gold lock rings dating from this period and currently found at the Vienna History Museum; the first documentary evidence dates from 1585. There is archaeological evidence for the gold exploration in the area, a craft continually practised throughout the Dacian, Daco-Roman, medieval, modern and contemporary period, the area presenting a potential for archaeological, architectural, ethnological, sociological and anthropological research, along with the entire region of Țara Moților [Motzenland]. Bucium Village is situated in the central-western area of Alba County, in the superior basin of Arieş valley, against the landscape of the Metalliferous Mountains in Western Carpathians, surrounded by the volcanic peaks of Detunata, Geamăna, Vâlcoi, Corabia, Vârşi, Dealul Muntariului, Dogăreşti. The mountains have altitudes ranging between 950 and 1.350 metres and a geological structure resembling a mosaic as they are segmented by deep valleys. The administrative territory of Bucium municipality consists of 29 villages, agglomerate in the river valleys, sprawled on the slopes or scattered in the high groves, totalling almost 1.500 inhabitants.
The specificity of housing owes to the immediate vicinity of the household watercourse, used in the past for stamp mills, the courtyard with the annexes and the vegetable garden, along with the orchard or a part of the meadow. The vegetation sets the boundaries of the property and is also found along the fencing. In the background, the hedges mark the high treeless grassland. The households were set up in areas where the land characteristics allowed for their location given that the village landscape is mostly hilly and mountainous.

Extract from Journal IV, 2017, Bucium municipality, the house of Macavei Ioan

Vegetation plays a crucial part in the relationship of the village with the mezzo-landscape: the greenery alongside the property limits goes all the way to the hill, reaching the intersection with the massive hedges. It covers the hills and different species can be noticed as the eye level progresses: hence, the foreground reveals the orchards, the mezzo-plan, the deciduous trees clusters and in the background, at higher altitudes, one may observe the emergence of the coniferous level.

The mining landscape of Bucium

The characteristics of the soil, subsoil and the volcanic structures located on the north-west alignments – Corabia, Frasin and Roșia Poieni, Conțiu and Arama – where the gold and silver mineralisations are found, led to the anthropisation of the landscape through mining activity, prevalent across the entire territory of Bucium. Consequently, the memory of gold is still visible in the morpho-typology of the rural settlement and the municipality area, through traces reminiscent of the various forms of exploitation used throughout history. The collective memory further retains the evolution of the gold mining technological process. With the technological process, the exploitation could be carried out using increasingly complex methods until resource depletion. Once it was depleted, an exploitation spot (a shaft or a mine) was abandoned in search of new deposits. The fourth edition of UdV Bucium (2014) dealt with the study of a household with stamp mills in Negrileasa Valley and the cultural landscape in Șesea Valley; during the fifth edition (2015), the landscape sketches focused on Abruzel Valley with a view to identify and record the location of the mines, the stamp mill hearths and the adduction channels and connect them to the landscape and the households. The urban planners team collaborated with the sociologist and made use of historical maps, archives and tales of the inhabitants, former mine workers, in order to pinpoint that stamp mill ore processing, whether practised in communities or individual households, helped defining a specific stock of built plots, hence individualizing the mining landscape of the village.

Extract from Journal IV, 2017, p. 9
The particularity of Șesea Valley and the location of the household in the immediate vicinity of the stream, alongside the road, confirms the presence of stamp mills, actually depicted both in the 18th century Josephine Survey and the cadastral documents of the Habsburg administration. Systematization plans for the basalt river elevations (with material extracted from Detunata) can still be seen along the stream. The water flow activating the stamp mill wheel was hence controlled.

Extract from Journal IV, 2017, p.16
The landmark element of the mines on Frasin Hill is represented by the presence of Moorish-inspired quarry stone parts, also used as enclosures for weight-carrying animals (horses or donkeys). In addition, the extracted stone was used as a building material for the slope support walls bordering the road to the mines, scattered with roadside crucifixes and crosses.

The rehabilitation of built heritage

The Old School

The school in Bucium is one of the oldest education establishments in the area, built in the period 1884-1900 by an Italian architect unknown to the present day. Originally a private property, after 1918 the building was purchased by the Alba County Prefecture and converted into a hospital. As of 1921, it hosted Bucium Town Hall until 1935, when it became a school. After 1990, due to pronounced degradation, the building lost its functionality, being condemned and proposed for demolition in 2004. During the first edition of the Summer University for monument and site restoration and with support from the municipality, the project initiators carried out conservation works in order to stop the degradation of the building: temporary sheet metal roofing, door and window foil insulation. In 2010, given the architectural and identity value of the building, Bucium Municipality, in collaboration with RPER-Ro Association, analyzed the possibility of restoring and reconceptualising the edifice with a view to turning it into an international Centre for Archaeology and Mountainous Architecture comprising educational workspaces for traditional occupations and accommodation spaces for the participants at the activities held at the Centre.

Colda House
Poieni village, Bucium municipality, no.465, Alba county, Romania. Owner: Eugen Colda

Built by a gold mine worker in the Colda family in 1851, the house has three wooden rooms, a store room, porches facing the courtyard and a board roof covering with no chimney. In 2004, the spirit of the house died away with the elders of the Colda family. This is how RPER found it in 2011, while prospecting Motzenland. Between 2011 and 2016, the house was rehabilitated during the construction site practice organized by RPER and ASTRA Museum through private funding.
2011: UdV Bucium, first edition; the house was inventoried and surveyed. RPER concluded an agreement with the owner for the in situ rehabilitation of the house.
2012-2013: following a conservation and diagnosis phase during which the dating inscription (1851) was discovered, the rehabilitation works were carried out using traditional techniques. All restorable elements were cleaned, treated and placed in their original position.
2013-2015: a rest period, necessary for placing and integrating the new elements in the ensemble and applying the clay plaster.
2015-2016: modern appliances were installed in the kitchen and the bathroom set up in the former store room. The rooms were equipped with traditional furniture saved from destruction.

A virtual tour of Colda House can be accessed here:  


Doicear House in Fereşti village, Bucium municipality, Alba county

Built around 1860, extended about 1890. The only still inhabited house with a vaulted porch in Bucium. Recipient of „The fanciest house” award at the competition organized by RPER during Bucium Summer University in 2014. With expert advice and financial support from RPER, the house was rehabilitated in the period October 2015-May 2016, with clapboard, beams and rafters brought from the woods in Bucium, installed by craftsmen from Bucium and destined for people living in Bucium.

Roadside crucifixes and crosses in Bucium, Alba

Out of the eight monuments in Bucium municipality, six were listed as historic monuments along with their protected areas, based on the documentation drawn up by RPER in 2014 during UdV 2013. The six listed monuments are representative for the collective memory of the inhabitants of Motzenland, being characteristic of both authored architecture and the vernacular architecture in the mining areas through their display of mining symbols. They are remarkable due to their diffused distribution across the entire municipality, through the relevant inscriptions, the quality of artistic and urbanistic expression and their contribution to the definition of cultural landscape. The project for the historic monument listing of the 6 roadside crucifixes and crosses is part of a complex programme of the RPER Association focusing on the retrieval of cultural landmarks through in situ valorization and the promotion of Romanian rural heritage, an integral part of cultural landscape.

The roadside crucifix „of Ţandrău”, 1878-1897, code LMI AB-IV-m-B-21078 Cross, donated in 1878 by Nicolae Ţandrău, was placed at the intersection of the road in Poieni, Stâlnişoara stream and the road to „Baia Domnilor” gold mine in Vulcoi massif. In 1897, it was equipped with a pedestal carved with gold mining worker tools and the wish „Good luck at mining!”.

Experiences and continuity in local community development

Our initiatives managed to attract involvement from students and young experts (architects, urban planners/landscape architects, anthropologists, geographers, historians etc.) in the field of prospection and documentation to take concrete actions meant to safeguard and valorise the cultural objectives in Bucium municipality. In addition, the activities are carried out in partnership with Bucium Municipality.

The project aims at raising the awareness of the administration and local community on the importance of the conservation and rehabilitation of heritage items using restoration techniques and the development of a platform for engagement and dialogue between the experts and the local community representatives. Hence, it is of the utmost importance how the locals communicate with the experts, how they react and interact and the way experts relate to the local environment and the rural mentality and problems, namely the expert’s role in the village and the concrete actions taken in the rural environment.

The project envisages, through all the actions undertaken, to build better awareness of the inhabitants concerning the exceptional values of the village and the existing resources and especially the importance of the community as a sole bond and element of stability and continuity. It is about rediscovering the stock of experiences accumulated and patiently transmitted throughout generations, with a role in balanced territory configuration, the dialogue between the fundamental elements of the rural settlement, sustainable management of natural resources, the art of building, protection from the climate and the natural environment and community lifestyle. The project does not have a deadline; every moment of interference between experts and locals is a landmark in itself. Its continuity indicates the importance of the region, the orientation of the community while underlining the complexity of rural life by offering support for different documentations on the development of the municipality.

1. RPER-Ro Association, founded in 2009, is a branch of „Rencontres du patrimoine Europe-Roumanie” – RPER, established in Paris in April 2008 and run by Ștefana Bianu. RPER is open to European and international dialogue as it collaborates with Romanian and French institutions and associations active in the field of cultural heritage. RPER came into being in a time of crisis: invaluable cultural values were under the imminent threat of destruction and there was urgent need to adopt responsible and active decisions for the rescue of Romanian cultural heritage – part of European heritage. RPER advocates the absolute prioritization of material and immaterial cultural heritage seen as a recipient of durable values, as well as the right of human communities to preserve their cultural identity and existence when faced with the threats of a constantly transforming world.
The following projects are among the main activities of RPER Association:
– „De la Bucium, din Ţara Moţilor” [From Bucium, Motzenland], multimedia exhibition and rural heritage workshops, The Romanian Peasant Museum, Bucharest, April-May 2014;
– „Pe drumurile romane din Ţara Moţilor” [Following in the Romans’ Footsteps in Motzenland] – the editions in 2009, 2010, 2011;
– „Ateliere de patrimoniu rural” [Rural Heritage Workshops] (colloquies, round tables and multimedia exhibitions), The Romanian Peasant Museum, Bucharest, 2010, Brukenthal National Museum, Sibiu, 2011, National Union Museum, Alba-Iulia, 2011;
– „Patrimoniu românesc – Patrimoniu european” [Romanian Heritage – European Heritage], symposium, Paris, 2008.

The material and the photographs were taken from the archive of RPER-Ro Association.
All the information and documents on the project phases, the partners and sponsors who kindly supported the Summer University editions are available on http://www.rper.ro and the Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/asociatia.rper/

Comments are closed.

Powered by Jasper Roberts - Blog