Spaces of Memory, Spaces of Heritage

21/06/2017 @ Romanian Cultural Institute, 1 Belgrave Square, London SW1X8PH

The London Festival of Architecture, a citywide celebration of international built environment, now in its 10th year, provides the perfect setting for a showcase of the finest conservation projects in Romania. The exhibition, which opens at the RCI gallery, is accompanied by a conversation with architect Vlad Sebastian Rusu, the author of the major restoration works at the Cultural Palace in Blaj, architect Șerban Cantacuzino CBE, founder of Pro Patrimonio Foundation, businessman and philanthropist Nicolae Rațiu MBE, and artist, journalist and author Jessica Douglas-Home, founder of Mihai Eminescu Trust. The panel discussion is chaired by Dr Timothy Brittain-Catlin, Reader in Architecture at the University of Kent and Deputy Chairman of the 20th Century Society.

Using a wider historical framework to explore the way in which narratives of memory inform architectural practice, the event presents, through an exhibition of documentary photography, sketches and text, the major restoration and conservation projects carried out at the Cultural Palace in Blaj, winner of this year’s EU Prize for Cultural Heritage / Europa Nostra Awards in the Conservation category; the Enescu House and other rehabilitation projects, managed by Pro Patrimonio Foundation in association with the Romanian Order of Architects; and the Saxon Church in Alma Vii (Transylvania), recently restored by Mihai Eminescu Trust.

“The greatest glory of a building is not in its stones, nor in its gold. Its glory is in its Age, and in that deep sense of voicefulness, of stern watching, of mysterious sympathy… which we feel in walls that have long been washed by the passing waves of humanity.” - art critic John Ruskin

The Cultural Palace in Blaj (Transylvania, central Romania) is one of this year’s 11 winners of the EU Prize for Cultural Heritage / Europa Nostra Awards in the Conservation category. Designed in 1930, the Cultural Palace was renovated in the 1960s to provide the city with a cinema and library, as well as spaces for the local History and Ethnography Museum, only to be largely ruined after a major fire in 1995. After the fire and many years of neglect, the municipality of Blaj decided to restore it in 2012 and commissioned architect Vlad Sebastian Rusu to carry out the works. The architect's concept was to strip the building back to its raw structure, creating new spaces while also leaving traces of its history.

The Pro Patrimonio Foundation was founded in 2000, and since then has undertaken a series of projects whose main aim is to conserve, save and reactivate mainly architectural heritage. Actions focus on practical projects to protect and rehabilitate heritage, as well as on involving the community and making it aware of its own identity, memory and the value of its cultural heritage. The foundation carries on a number of programmes of national and international importance, trying, among other things, to create a network of crafts centres associated with historical monuments: the Țibănești Traditional Crafts Centre, which has developed around the P. P. Carp manor house; 60 Wooden Churches, with the support of Europa Nostra; the Georges Enescu House in Moldavia; among others.

The Mihai Eminescu Trust was founded in 1987 to help Romanian dissidents keep in touch with Western culture and learning while alerting the West to Ceauşescu’s plan to bulldoze Romania’s rural architecture. After the fall of Communism, it evolved into its present form, dedicated to the protection of the beautiful Saxon villages of Transylvania. The Trust has completed over 1000 schemes in 29 villages, repairing houses, barns, roads and churches, and training the villagers in long-forgotten crafts. Repair work has been undertaken on the fortified churches of Apold, Archita, Viscri, Richis and, with the aid of grants, the Trust has recently completed the restoration of the magnificent church in Alma Vii.

When: Exhibition Preview & Talk: Wednesday 21 June, 7pm. The exhibition is open until 30 June, Monday to Friday between 10 am – 5 pm
Where: Romanian Cultural Institute, 1 Belgrave Square, SW1X8PH

Free. Please confirm your attendance on Eventbrite