By collecting the used waters from each household and filtering them ecologically, we managed to raise the people’s quality of life and maintain the authenticity of the natural landscape in Viscri. We implemented the first water purification system and started educating the people about the benefits of using water responsibly. Next we hope to be able to multiply the results of the project in other villages as well.
Four years of hard work and a team of big-hearted people Built in the 15th century, the ex hunting residence of the noble Hungarian Apafi family, the mansion is located in the Mălâncrav village, Sibiu district. For more than a century, the building has been derelict, reaching the point of collapsing. The MET bought the mansion in 2000 from the Evangelist Church and started its reconstruction and renovation in 2003. The work took 4 years and involved a team of highly trained specialists, both local and international. The architect Jan Hulsemann, together with construction specialists Fritz Klutsch and Ernst Linzing, restored the mansion according to its original 18th century plan. On October 1st 2007 we inaugurated of the new old Apafi mansion. Currently, this beautiful construction has five rooms (four doubles and one single), a living room and a kitchen, all designed to make possible the usage of the mansion as a guesthouse. Here you can also discover the library, inspired by the one of 17th century Teleki count from Târgu Mureş, with a book collection in five languages. The traditional decorations, the books and the furniture have been donated by benefactors and the local community. The mansion is surrounded by beautifully landscaped gardens that preserve the original look and feel of this charming place. The mansion is open for both guided tours and accommodation with traditional meals prepared by the locals. It also frequently houses cultural and social events like seminars, conferences, concerts and local traditional festivities. The reconstruction of the Apafi mansion in Mălâncrav received Second Prize at the Green Apple Awards in 2009 for rehabilitation of architectural heritage.
How do you let a church from 1424 perish? The Bethlen family built the Lutheran church in Floreşti in 1424, fact attested by an eastern wall inscription in their memory. In 2001, left in an advanced state of degradation, the church was desacralized. Through the MET mediation, it was appointed to the local community in Floreşti, in exchange for the restoration work done by the foundation. The rehabilitation began in 2003, with the roof preservation as a priority. A local village man drew from memory images of the interior. These were later on used by the MET as basis for the rebuilding of the benches, the balcony, the staircase, wood floors and ceiling. All the interior and exterior rehabilitation work was coordinated by architects Gabriel Lambescu and Jan Huelseman, and done by local construction teams. The Floreşti Evangelist church regained its rights in 2008 and the completion of the rehabilitation work was marked by Bishop Klein with a resanctification service.
Officially documented for the first time in 1289, the village of Alma Vii became famous in time for its vineyards and orchards. Sadly, after the mass exodus of the Saxons in the 90s, the village suffered massive unemployment and depopulation. Currently there are 200 households and 390 residents in Alma Vii, an Orthodox church, a fortified church, primary school, kindergarten and a village convenience store. The preservation of the authentic local culture and natural landscape is the most important aspect of a whole village. In Alma Vii we managed to do this by restoring the buildings and encouraging locals to build and farm in the traditional way. Alma Vii was brought back to live because all the wheels were put in motion at the same time: the village, the community and the heritage.
With these projects we encouraged the people to take a closer look around and start improving their everyday living environment. We paved the streets, consolidated the riverbanks with traditional methods. We used willow weaved with hazelnut branches and thus avoided concrete reinforcement. We also replaced the plastic pavilion in front of the church with a wooden one and built a wooden bus station with a roof made out of local vegetation.
Why precisely House 129 in Viscri? Very few houses in Romania can proud themselves with being part of the historical monument “Viscri Rural Site” and UNESCO World Heritage. House 129, located right in the middle of the village, has a typical Saxon architecture and a household structure representative for this area of Transylvania. The brick construction stands on a stone foundation with whitewash façade and wood structured roof, covered in burned scale tiles. The yard annexes have been previously used for agriculture and animal farming. We gave a new functional purpose to House 129, making it the head quarters of an information, consulting and training centre for the conservation of Transylvania’s Saxon village cultural heritage. We also designed part of it as a living space. The house rebuilding and remodelling was done between June 2009 and April 2011, as part of the “Conservation of the historical landscape of Saxon villages in Transylvania” project, financed by the Governments of Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, through SSE.
The restoration and repurposing of household annexes A household with a broken down barn is not a household. Barns are a specific type of construction because they lack a foundation. In 2007, the MET initiated a project for the conservation of household annexes in the villages of Viscri, Criţ and Mălâncrav. The project wanted to preserve the traditional household structure in the three villages, revitalize the traditional construction techniques and bring back the original practices of joining. The rehabilitation was done by local teams, coordinated by an architect.
A century old tree has been giving fresh air to several generations. The project was developed by the MET in a 126.000 hectare area, including 46 villages and the city of Sighişoara. The MET promoted and encouraged the protection and sustainable management of secular tree pastures by creating awareness and involvement in the communities around. We identified over 30 pasture habitats and more than 70 century-old trees that can be defined as “natural monuments”. The Fişer plateau is in the High Natural Value Meadow category. Just here, 76 secular trees have been selected to receive the “monuments of nature” accreditation. The project was developed between April 2009 and November 2010, with the support of The South East Europe Program.
One of the nine towers After two years of historical, archeological and architectural studies, the MET started the restoration work on the Furriers’ Tower, one of the nine towers of Sighisoara’s 15th century emblematic fortification. The tower was rehabilitated by a team of experts from Shropshire UK, together with a local construction team. The Furriers’ Tower is now an art gallery space for traditional architecture and hand crafting from South-East Transylvania and an exhibit of Transylvanian built heritage conservation models. The tower also houses live performances. At its first level, we created a workshop where a local belt maker loves showing visitors his skills and craft. We loved the results of this project so much that we established the MET Romanian head quarters here, between the Furriers’ and the Butchers’ Towers.
Brick and tile, the high demand construction materials of the area We did a lot of brainstorming on how we could help the locals generate more profit. Finally, in 2006, with the support of the Horizon foundation, we managed to get the funds for the construction of a brick and tile-making oven in the village of Viscri. The work was supervised by MBA Colin Richards, conservation expert from Ludlow, Shropshire, together the architect Gabriel Lambescu and British construction specialists. The oven was lid for the first time in October 2006. In 2012, the oven was modified to accommodate lime stone processing.
The children and the saplings In 2009, the MET, partnering with the French company Accor, launched “A forest for every school” project. The understanding, from early childhood, of the importance of forest preservation leads to becoming an environment responsible adult. “A forest for every school” preserves and expands the forest areas, reforests the damaged habitats, raises the level of awareness and responsibility through educational activities and involves the local communities in the afforestation. The project targeted rural schools, where most of the children were open to participate in the educational and planting activities, under the guidance of teachers, forest rangers and MET specialists. Between 2009 and 2013 in the districts of Braşov, Covasna, Harghita, Mureş and Sibiu, more than 1.030.000 native saplings were planted. Also the Sighişoara nursery was extended with more than 40.000 oak saplings. The project received third prize in the Environment category at the Civil Society Gala in 2010.
A bio-diverse orchard There aren’t a lot of orchards in Romania that can proud themselves with these numbers: 215 plant species, 100 bird feathers and 30 mammal species. The 108 hectare orchard in Mălâncrav village, Sibiu district, has been officially documented in the 17th century, and still grows old varieties of apple trees, pear trees, plum and walnut trees. The orchard was abandoned after 1990 and slowly become derelict. The MET replanted the fruit tree varieties, and recreated the old fruit processing factory. The Trust also introduced an ecological technology of fruit growing and thus got an eco certification. Currently, the factory produces annually around 20.000 liters of 100% eco juice, sold in restaurants, shops and at traditional fairs. The orchard gives the villagers both seasonal and permanent employment. In the near future, it will also function as a nursery for old Transylvanian fruit varieties that are now on the verge of extinction, assuring a starting point for farmers and contributing to traditional farming.
What are we learning today? The old school building in the Alma Vii village, Sibiu district, was saved from demolition and rebuilt by the MET. This historical building now houses a different type of students in its Traditional Crafts Training Center, designed for the professional development of the rural folk and the support of traditional arts and crafts. Here, the locals can take professional training classes in masonry, carpentry, smiths work, wood joining, and traditional windows and doors restoration. English classes, primary accounting and agro-tourism classes are also made available to the locals, for an easier interaction with visitors. In the same building, a Heritage Information Center gives free counseling to the locals. For the general population, it offers seminars, classes, summers schools. Accommodation and meals are made available in the locals’ guesthouses.