Daniel Ewald, landscape architect MNLA

Landscape Ambassadors – Stone, architecture

The Landscape Ambassador course in Sopron, Hungary has been completed. It has been a rich and intensive course, and valuable on so many levels – I did not expect it, but being a part of a transnational and transdisciplinary group really sharpened my view of what I believe in as a landscape architect and how to approach complex topics as we have in the last two weeks. It has been a wonderful journey and experience of an unknown territory, culture and people.

Our topic, as mentioned earlier, has been stone as a material through the times and architectural styles of the region. We discussed this topic in the beginning and asked ourselves several questions, among which were how local materials were used and to what extent, how the villages were planned and expanded, how the architecture as function serves the shifting needs of the inhabitants, and finally how the people felt about the cultural and natural heritage issues in the region.

We learned quickly that keeping up the cultural heritage and traditional building methods did not come without problems. On the Hungarian side of the border, every village has its own compendium of building directions, and as such there are strict rules on the use of materials in the buildings labelled as cultural heritage. We saw that in many cases, just renovating a home deemed to be so problematic that people gave up when being faced with the immense paperwork required, and many avoided to even apply for the heritage status.

In our presentation, we argued that local values were overshadowed by the cultural heritage, and that questions should be asked on the future development. We learned that people move from the smaller villages to the cities – an issue we can relate to, the same thing happens in Norway – and to keep inhabitants, there needs to be more flexibility to the people’s needs and demands. Combining the old and the new can be done beautifully; it’s a matter of good design practice. It is possible to keep traditions while at the same time allowing modernisation. Views change and so does traditions; but adding new values does not necessarily mean that older values will be lost. It’s a delicate issue, but when developing settlements, we argued that the first thing one needs to keep in mind is that architecture is present to solve something, not just be something. Empty, traditional homes that are lit when tourists arrive serves a purpose also – but what is more important?

The Stone group, led by professor Jean-Francois Rodriguez

In the end, we proposed to simplify the building regulations in order to meet with the modern development in the region, and to prevent local, smaller villages to wither away; as the smaller villages tie the culture and landscape together. Staying true to tradition is important, but when the restrictions quenches the desire to stay and live your life as you want, a more open minded approach to development is required.

It has been a wonderful experience to be a part of this course – and  to everyone reading who are deciding whether or not to apply for the next Landscape Ambassador course: Don’t hesitate!

Filed under: Excursions, Hungary, Photos, Presentations, Reflections, Studies

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  1. […] Landscape Ambassadors, Stone, architecture […]

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