"Gostuša", also known as "stone settlement"; is located in South-East Serbia in the area of the Nature Park "Stara planina", and it represents a unique mountain village, also enlisted as a national cultural property.Its outstanding values were pointed out in legislative documents concerning cultural heritage protection and preservation, and urban and spatial planning in the Republic of Serbia.
This paper gives an insight of the extraordinary connection between the nature and architecture that managed to survive in its original form for more than one hundred years. The peaceful coexistence of man and nature brought back to life the values that were forgotten for decades, and the thought that this simple symbiosis can ensure sustainability for the future. The village was almost abandoned in the 1970's, and after almost four decades the only logical solution seemed to be "going back to the origins".
In order to protect the natural and cultural heritage, and the unique environment, but also the intangible heritage, many actions were undertaken by the Serbian authorities.For the preservation of the unique landscape and architecture the Institute for Cultural Heritage Preservation Niš (ICHPN) started a research project in the year 2011, and made the set of documents and actions for its protection in the terms of the Law.
The inherent values of the natural materials and man-made structures, together with the plenty of natural resources, but also the vicinity of the larger settlements, the lake, ski-center, etc. makes this place so special in every possible way.
The specific functional and architectural concept of the village is very interesting. It consists of the residential area placed in a narrow canyon of three small mountain rivers, and satellite settlements that create the network of small independent units at a distance of 300 to 500 meters in relation to the central settlement, and all together constitute a unique living organism, changing in function together with the change of seasons.
Architecture of residential and economy units is always adapted to the terrain and the natural resources. Stone dominates as a building material, and it is used widely from the foundation to the top and the roofing. The new concept of the tourism in the rural areas gives so many different possibilities for sustainable development especially in places like this. Preserving the built heritage is one of the ways that ensures the better quality of the touristic offer of the region as well as its authenticity together with all the other values.
The main idea was to propose a Research project(composed of reconnaissance, research, mapping, recording, geo-positioning, systematization and digitalization of the recorded documents, preparing the proposal for the inscription in the list of cultural monuments of Serbia, publishing, promotion and action planning) to the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Serbia (financial support in the years 2012 and 2013) and at the same time to create an opportunity for sustainable development by involving the most important stakeholders.
Created vision and strategic framework for the sustainable development of the village.Harmonized development plans within the framework of the international principles and conventions.Holistic approach provided in protection of cultural and natural heritage.Prepared proposal for inscription in cultural heritage list of Republic of Serbia.Protection provided through documentation, and legislative acts.Printed materials - Research and Conservation Project Study of Gostuša and Flyers.Development of spatial planning and urban studies of the villageExhibitions Raised awareness of the importance of the village by education of the local community, presence in the media and social media, implementation in local and national development plans.More than 20 professionals and students took a part in realization of this Project.Visibility on a national and regional level Increased.The issue of an innovative brand development (visual identity and slogan) and positive perception of the Gostuša started.Several rural tourist households registered.Help provided to the local community.
The main goals are: to increase awareness of cultural and nature heritage through interpretation, guidance and promotion (development of interpretation approaches, publications, web site development, branding), to create a platform for education and the formation of a scientific research and conservation center (developing training programs, seminars, summer schools, restoration camps, conferences), to introduce some of the options of rural development (presenting with business opportunities and fundraising that can be obtained throughout a handbook and seminars), to ensure the successful management with encouraging a transparent comprehensive long-term planning and by linking stakeholders, to provide total rehabilitation of the village and its surroundings with complete preservation of historic and monuments characteristics, authenticity and integrity.
Many of the activities from the proposed Action Plan are already successfully finished. Two of them still to be done are: establishment of the Support Center and developing of the Education, Research and Conservation Centre.
The first one should be based on the administrative resources of the Municipality of Pirot. Once established it will became a place for coordination and help for the local population and for the stakeholders to provide management, presentations, promotions, interpretation and establishment of tourist facilities to improve living standard and support development of the region. Also it should give possibility for the allocation of financial resources, take care of the tourist offer and promote the site together with the other tourist points and attractions in the municipality. In this way the local society should became more numerous, better educated and ready to receive tourists, provide adequate services and develop the programs and events on their own. Joining the cultural routes and forming new ones is also an important objective. Creating and developing cross-border projects and the introduction of the missing infrastructure and contents is also an important role of this Centre.
The other activity to be done in the near future is establishing the Education, Research and Conservation Centre. The Municipality of Pirot already has experience in allocating of the EU financial support and with the rehabilitation of the abandoned public buildings in the villages. In Gostuša village there is a possibility for the rehabilitation of two public buildings, one is a property of the local community and the other is a large school which belongs to the Republic of Serbia. At the same time, reconstruction and rehabilitation of these two will open numerous possibilities for other activities which will help the village and the villagers to find their way towards sustainable development in many different ways.
A project conceived originally to protect and preserve the cultural heritage of the village of Gostuša, it also complements the protection of the Nature Park "Stara Planina" and attends to raise awareness, provide a space for international, public-private and interdisciplinary cooperation and development. It also seeks to support and produce synergies between the stakeholders on operational issues, and promote tangible actions for the good management of rural landscape, at political, administrative and participative levels.
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