Heritage Legislation in Romania

67533470_xxl.jpgThe process of recognising architectural heritage or value is prescribed by detailed legislation.[1]

In an interview with Stefania Romascanu, adviser at the Sibiu Department for the  Protection of Culture and Heritage, she described the consultation process as lengthy, often lasting years. If a request is received for a building to be granted the status of monument (equivalent to listed status in the UK), a caseworker investigates its architectural, historical, and cultural value. Through a score system, if the building is deemed of importance, it is included in the official list of Romanian monuments by the Ministry of Culture, a process that normally lasts between 6 months and a year.
When an application is received for changes to a monument, the building is treated as valuable in its entirety and every effort is to be made to preserve it intact. The lack of differentiation between layers of value hinders the rehabilitation of many buildings that are monuments themselves or in the proximity of monuments. The legislative approach is a hybrid between pre-1989 communist prescriptions and French legislation borrowed when Romania progressed towards democracy. Lucian Carstea from the Urban Planning Department in Sibiu further explained in our interview how the protection areas for monuments are decided. Many of the current areas were defined by the communist version of the planning department, called PROIECT S.A. (followed by the name of the city/town it covered). Standard practice was to define a radius around a monument, which often intersected boundary lines of adjacent properties and buildings. Therefore, many who would like to improve their properties now have to approach them for amendments, as half of their property might be protected and the other half not. This is normally the case with historic city centres and the process is costly and lengthy for home owners and often discourages maintenance. Current practice is more thorough and similar to the conservation area system in the UK, where property boundary lines are considered when defining the extents of protected sites.

A last informative interview on the issue of preserving architecturally significant buildings was with Ciprian Anghel Stefan from the ASTRA Museum in Sibiu[2], who explained the museum’s novel approach to preserving cultural heritage related to the Romanian folklore. Mr Anghel Stefan is the director of the open-air museum in Sibiu, which extends over 96 hectares of land on the NW border of Sibiu. One of Europe’s largest open air museums, its collection includes over 400 buildings that are monuments, all representative of Romanian folklore. Often starting with either information provided by the public about a place of interest or by simply seeking out buildings according to the needs of the museum’s collection, they travel to villages. By walking and investigating, they come across a variety of valuable architecture that they then proceed to acquire if possible. If convenient for the building, it is renovated and left in-situ with established management. Otherwise, it is carefully documented and dismantled, transported to Sibiu, and erected in the museum. The approach has been copied by a similar open-air museum in Bucharest and the initiative is funded by the Ministry of Culture.
Such organisations could play an important role in heritage preservation in the context of changing attitudes in the face of trauma. Professor Wendy Pullan, during the “Living With Earthquakes” conference at Jesus College, Cambridge (October 2017), considered the issue in the light of increased interest in matters of national and ethnic cultural identity. When dealing with different types of trauma in the built world, a more homogenic thinking is necessary. Heritage groups and organisations are rethinking their role and becoming more pro-active, both in terms of the physical reconstruction of the built fabric, but also in aiding with humanitarian intervention and relief. Evidence in L’Aquilla (Marche region, Italy) shows such groups aiding relief efforts and subsequently actively starting the documentation and rebuilding of the town’s historic church. Similar efforts were observed in other disaster stricken zones.

The ASTRA Museum in Sibiu and the Bucharest Folklore Museum are both examples of such groups intervening to protect heritage, but of a different era than the Cat.1 and 1+ buildings. The challenge would be to extend the programme towards architecturally significant seismic risk buildings that would otherwise be demolished and forgotten.

[1] Government of Romania . 2001. Law no.422/2001 regarding the protection of heritage structures . Law, Bucharest: Government of Romania .

[2]Anghel Stefan, Ciprian, interview by Crista Popescu. 20017. Relocating and/or rebuilding decaying heritage (July).

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