Transylvania Trust

Csilla Hegedus

executive director

Transylvania Trust

3400 Cluj-N. O.P. 1, C.P. 379 Romania

European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage / Europa Nostra Award

International Built Heritage Conservation Training Centre

The international Built Heritage Conservation Training Centre operated at Baacute;nffy Castle Bontida by the Transylvania Trust in partnership with the UK based Institute of Historic Building Conservation has been awarded with the top prize for heritage preservation education, training and awareness raising of the European Union and Europa Nostra.

Known as the Oscar of heritage preservation the Europa Nostra Awards scheme was launched in 1978 to promote high standards and high-quality skills in conservation practice, and to stimulate the trans-frontier exchanges in the area of heritage. By spreading the ''Power of Example'', the Prize also aims to encourage further efforts and projects related to heritage throughout Europe. Since 2002 the prize became the official award of the European Union for cultural preservation. The European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage / Europa Nostra Awards are since then jointly offered by the European Commission and Europa Nostra, in the framework of the Commission's Culture Programme, to celebrate outstanding initiatives among the many facets of Europe''s cultural heritage in categories ranging from the restoration of buildings and their adaptation to new uses, to urban and rural landscape rehabilitation, archaeological site interpretations, and care for art collections. Also awarded are prizes for research, dedicated service to heritage conservation by individuals or organisations and, for the first time in 2008, education projects related to cultural heritage. The Built Heritage Conservation Training Centre was awarded with the Top Prize of 10000 Euro in this new category, by an independent scientific jury of 15 members.

The Built Heritage Conservation Training Centre offers theoretical and practical teaching through lectures followed by a direct hands-on tuition made possible by practical workshops in the crafts of Rendering, Masonry Consolidation, Carpentry and Stonemasonry, within which students undertake practical restoration projects directly on historic buildings. So far more than 800 trainees ( craftsmen and university students) from 13 European countries and overseas have participated, and important parts of a unique and threatened baroque mansion, the Baacute;nffy Castle have been partially restored, together with other historic buildings. The project also brings benefits to the local and regional community, by ensuring social inclusion, community development and development of local businesses. The main partners of the Transylvania Trust are the Institute of Historic Building Conservation, (represented by David Baxter, its European Projects Director), the Mayor and the Local Council of Bontida, the National Office of Cultural Heritage, Hungary. HRH, Princess Margarita of Romania is the Royal Patron of the training centre.

On 12 June 2008, the European Commission (DG EAC) and Europa Nostra awarded 6 Prizes, 18 Medals and 3 Europa Nostra Medals to the laureates of the 2008 edition of the EU Prize for Cultural Heritage / Europa Nostra Awards, at the European Heritage Awards Ceremony in the magnificent setting of Durham Cathedral in the United Kingdom.
The Prize awarded to the BHTC Centre was presented at a local ceremony in Bontida on the 19th of August by Dr. Andrea H. Schuler the Executive President of Europa Nostra and Mr. Mr James Joseph Cassidy Programme Manager of the Directorate General for Education and Culture of the European Commission.

The International Built Heritage Conservation Training Centre

In 1998 the British Council and the Romanian Ministry of Culture, recognising the need to develop a built heritage conservation strategy, invited the Transylvania Trust and the Institute of Historic Building Conservation (IHBC) to design and implement a project to promote historic building conservation in Romania. The result is now the Built Heritage Conservation Training Centre at Baacute;nffy Castle, Bontida. The program initially began in 1999 in the UK, was transferred in 2000 to the Bethlen Gaacute;bor College in Aiud, Romania, and since 2001 has been based at Baacute;nffy Castle, Bontida, where the courses have been developed to meet international demand.
The purpose of the centre is to promote excellence in the conservation of the historic environment and specifically to teach traditional building craft skills which can be utilised in the repair and maintenance of historic buildings; whilst in parallel undertaking the restoration of an endangered major historic building (the Grade A listed Baacute;nffy Castle).

The BHCT Centre encourages an holistic approach to historic building conservation, recognising that the care of the historic environment is not the remit of a single group of specialists. Many disciplines are involved in its care, and therefore in addition to its practical courses it offers specialist workshops to other participants such as Landscape Architects, Building Historians and Archaeologists, who also have a role to play within the historic environment. Through its wider educational programme the Centre seeks to raise awareness of the value of the historic environment and directly involves the local community and schools in developing social and citizenship programmes.

The Centre promotes a policy of Minimal Intervention in dealing with the repair of historic buildings, combined with a strategy of Compatibility in techniques and materials, and the use of local resources. It promotes a philosophy of researching, analysing, understanding, and recording historic buildings before and during intervention.

The Centre provides teaching modules, each of two weeks duration, which offer a theoretical and practical understanding of the care of the historic environment. Its principal emphasis is to offer a direct hands-on learning experience for its students. This is achieved through practical workshops in the crafts of Rendering, Masonry Consolidation, Carpentry and Stonemasonry, within which students undertake practical restoration projects directly on the castle buildings. The workshops are jointly led by British and Romanian craftsmen.

The courses provided through the centre are available to craftsmen who are already within the building industry, who seek to either specialise or widen their personal skills, and to undergraduate and post-graduate university students. It is these individuals who will be responsible for preparing specifications and schedules of work for the care and maintenance of the historic environment in the future. Within its educational strategy the Centre encourages the interaction and exchange of knowledge between craftsmen and specifiers in order to promote a better understanding of the nature and approach to historic building repair.
The practical training element is tailored to the requirements of the students and courses are adapted accordingly. The practical training structure for craftsmen therefore differs from that available to undergraduate and post-graduate university students.

At the end of each course a Diploma (Certificate of Achievement) is presented to successful students. The Certificate is accepted by the Ministry of Culture and is widely acknowledged within the building industry in Romania as having special value and recognition of quality.
The Transylvania Trust in association with the Babes-Bolyai University from Cluj runs the only Post Graduate Diploma Course in Historic Building Conservation in Romania. Students from that course undertake their practical training through the BHCT Centre.


So far more than 800 students have been trained through the BHCT programme, and they have come from Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, Slovenia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Sweden, France, Brazil, Australia, Belgium, USA, and UK.

In terms of skills and professional background, the participants were extremely diverse, covering nearly the whole sphere of professionals involved in the care and conservation of the historic environment. The Heritage Days, organised for the schools from within the region, enabled more than 140 children to participate in special teaching programmes developed through an innovative curriculum in a partnership between the BHCT Centre and the schools/teachers.

The training activity involves practical restoration on different parts of the castle, which helps in the consolidation and regeneration of the buildings which had reached a severe state of collapse prior to the commencement of the project. The simple presence of the training centre stopped local people from using the site as a source of building materials. The most endangered parts of the building were stabilized and gradually functional spaces which now serve the teaching process with accommodation; catering and other facilities were created in the former ruins.

Through the project the physical restoration of parts of the castle have been achieved:

  1. Restoration of the former kitchen block, and its conversion into accommodation and catering facilities for the students of the BHCT Centre, as well as opening the Art Cafeacute;, (a commercial cafeacute; now run jointly by the Transylvania Trust and the Local Council of Bontida).
  2. Restoration of 2 floors of the Mikloacute;s building and conversion into lecture rooms and conference facilities, library, teachers' accommodation as well as workshops.
  3. Restoration of the former chapel within the main building, and conversion into a community cultural hall
  4. Partial Restoration of the former stables within the Court D'Honneur and partial conversion into workshops for the use of the training centre as well as for maintaining the traditional crafts skills within the local community.
  5. Partial restoration of the main entrance gate and adjacent rooms, and conversion into a visitor reception and exhibition area, as well as a lapidarium, presenting the archaeological finds collected by our art historian and archaeology students from within the different buildings of the Castle complex.

In terms of the social inclusion and community building, the project encourages wide public participation. This was particularly highlighted through "The Bontida Cultural Days" held each year since 2001, at the last weekend of August, whereby the public are 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 Jewish and Rroma groups, classical music, and children's special crafts programmes which included the British Council's Magic Pencil initiative. The event attracts yearly over 6000 visitors.

Funding, support

The work of the Centre is supported by the EU (through Culture 2000 and Phare programmes), the Romanian Ministry of Culture and Religion, The Ministry of European Integration, The British Council, The British Embassy (Romania), The National Office of Cultural Heritage Hungary (KOH), National Cultural Fund (Hungary), The Getty Grant Programme, The World Monuments Fund, The Headley Trust, ICOMOS, and HRH The Prince of Wales. The total amount of funds raised so far for the project is in the region of 2 million Euros. Funding has had to be sought on an annual/bi-annual basis as there is no long term sponsor for the project.


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