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A JOINT HUNGARIAN AND SERBIAN SEMINAR “PROTECTING HERITAGE AMIDST URBAN DEVELOPMENT” HELD IN SUBOTICA
A joint Hungarian and Serbian seminar under the title of “Protecting heritage amidst urban development” was held in Subotica, Serbia on 27 and 28 May 2011. The organizers of the seminar were the László Teleki Foundation and the National Office of Cultural Heritage in Hungary in cooperation with the Municipality of Subotica, CSO “Urbis” and “Authentic Vojvodina”. The seminar was realized with the sponsorship of the Hungarian National Cultural Fund and the Deputy State Secretariat Responsible for Hungarian Communities Abroad of the Ministry of Public Administration and Justice.
Subotica – Szabadka is a town situated in the northern most part of the Republic of Serbia with a population of about 100.000 inhabitants. Prior to the First World War it constituted part of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, and it was the third largest and most developed city in Hungary after Budapest and Szeged. Subotica having no access to a river route experienced its first dynamic economic development just after it had been connected to the railway network when a railway line was built there in 1869. Shortly afterwards an unprecedented prosperity followed, which resulted in the construction of many private and public buildings, palaces and many-story apartment buildings designed in the most fashionable architectural styles prevailing in Europe at that time. The prosperity lasted roughly till the end of the first two decades of the 20th century. This was the time when the current architectural fabric of the town along with its large parks, broad roads and alleys was established.
Picture 1 – Town hall in Subotica built in 1908 - 1912
Today, the inner parts of Subotica still maintain the architectural features it had acquired one hundred years ago and can boast of a vast built heritage dating from the age of prosperity. The uniquely rich Art Nouveau legacy, made up of well over 100 buildings, provides the most characteristic feature of the town. The Town Hall
(Picture 1), the Raichle Palace (Picture 2), the Synagogue (Picture 3) and other emblematic sites with their richly decorated and undulating walls rank Subotica among the most outstanding Art Nouveau cities of Europe.
Picture 2 – Raichle palace built in 1904 Picture 3 – Subotica synagogue built in 1902
Notwithstanding its outstanding values Subotica’s 19th and 20th century heritage, similarly to other parts of Vojvodina in Serbia, is not properly appreciated. Over the course of the past few years several valuable buildings have been demolished or rebuilt. Despite the fierce protests and the campaign conducted against demolition the emblematic building of the theatre, located right in the heart of the protected city centre and listed as a cultural monument of great importance, was demolished in 2007 (Picture 4), to give way to the construction of a colossal concrete
structure intended to serve as the new theatre building (Picture 5).
Picture 4 – National theatre in Subotica built in 1854 Picture 5 – Structure of a new theatre building and demolished in 2007
In the spring of 2011, it was publicly admitted, that the financial resources for the continuation of the construction works had expired, and the works had to be suspended. As a result, right in middle of the protected zone of the city centre, next to the finely restored Art Nouveau building of the Town Hall there stands and will surely stand for many more years to come a monstrous concrete torso, a bizarre reminder of human folly. At the beginning of 2010 two of Ferenc Raichle’s one-story Art Nouveau houses built in 1899, actually the two earliest Art Nouveau buildings on the territory of Serbia, were demolished (Picture 6 and 7). Raichle was one of the most eminent architects of the town, who had contributed with several remarkable buildings to the curved and colourful Art Nouveau architecture of Subotica. The so- called “oldest house” in the town, dating from 1730 was also destroyed under the pretext of its restoration, which eventually ended up in its reconstruction, as the baroque vaults were replaced by iron and concrete structures. The similar grim fate awaited the Haisler bath and several other buildings, which fell also prey to the lack of professional approach.
Picture 6 – Raichle house in Vase Stajića str. 11 demolished in 2010, Picture 7 – Raichle house in Vase Stajića street 13, demolished in 2010
The increasing number and scale of threats endangering Subotica’s built heritage, the adoption of a new urban regulation plan in 2010, and the subsequent demolition of Raichle’s two buildings prompted the organization of the seminar.
The seminar in fact was the first of a series of events that the László Teleki Foundation has initiated recognizing that the challenges facing the protection of built heritage of Europe call for common thinking and actions. Appreciating that only debates conducted with the participation of all stakeholders concerned can elicit
effective responses to these challenges the Foundation attributed huge importance to local communities and civilian organizations being actively involved in all events of the series.
Therefore the events are envisaged to rest on three pillars. The first pillar being the expert presentations putting the issues concerned into a professional context, the second a panel discussion providing a forum for experts, authorities, CSOs, local communities and other stakeholders for debating and reconciling their different approaches, and finally the third a Declaration formulating recommendations worded during the panel discussion.
Urban development, being identified as one of the major threats imperilling the protection of built heritage and the traditional urban fabric of a city, was chosen as the topic of the first event of the series and accordingly Subotica as a befitting venue
to host it.
According to the adopted scheme the first day of the seminar was dedicated to presentations held by prominent experts from different universities and institutions from Scotland, Spain, Hungary, Austria and Serbia.
Picture 8 – Seminar opening The presentations of the morning session were focused on the values and importance of Subotica’s built heritage viewed from an international perspective and on the importance that heritage can play in forming and strengthening urban identity
Prof. Jeremy Howard from St Andrews University, Scotland focused his presentation on the quest for new national and international visual languages which were especially intense at the age of the evolving mass public education, when
communities sought to express their newly found voices more insistently and more articulately than ever before (Picture 9). Consequently, the model of Subotica’s early twentieth century architecture can also be viewed as symptomatic of the wider, pan-European trends in Zeitgeist identity- making. Prof Gerle János from the University of Debrecen centred his presentation on the role that the architecture of the turn of the century plays in creating the image of a town, and the importance of this architecture in creating urban and national identity. The significance of urban identity in raising urban attractiveness and spurring harmonious urban development was the theme of the presentation held by Borislav Stojkov, PhD, Director of Republic Agency of Spatial Planning of the Republic of Serbia (Picture 10). Professor Nađa Kurtović Folić from the University
of Novi Sad called for revalorizing cultural heritage of 19th and 20th century, which can serve as an important step toward contemporary urban development. Landscape identity was extensively discussed by Prof. Werner Kvarda, from Natural Resources and Life Sciences University, Wien (Universität für Bodenkultur) in his presentation entitled The Landscape Identity and Identity of Inhabitants. He underlined that in a paradox way in our globalized world, the non-global issues like community, region and subsequently the notion of identity are getting more and more importance. In central Europe the identity of cities are very much linked to the landscape.
The second block showcased several best practices in the management of historic cities from the UK, Spain, Hungary and Austria.
One of the most inspiring presentations in the block was held by Ricard Barrera and Lluis Bosch Pascual from the Urban Landscape Institute of the Barcelona City Council. They presented the project Barcelona pasa’t guapa (Barcelona be beautiful) launched by the City Council back in 1985, in order to promote the protection and improvement of the urban landscape of the city, by fostering the restoration of privately owned buildings. Professor Gábor Winkler from the Széchenyi István University in Győr presented the best regeneration examples that were carried out in several cities in West Hungary. He also outlined the basic principles and requirements governing urban regeneration or development plans. Anna Szövényi, Assistant Professor at Corvinus University in Budapest demonstrated via the case of Kőszeg, a town in West-Hungary, the way how urban continuity can be accomplished.
Finally, the presentations held in the last section were intended to draw the attention upon the possible threats that the preservation of traditional urban fabric are faced with. The legal instruments governing the preservation of built heritage and the planning of regulation plans of historic cities in Serbia were discussed also in this section.
Picture 11 - Ricard Barrera and Lluis Bosch Pascuals presentation Attila Ertsey, Vice Chairman of the Hungarian Chamber of Architecture
focused his thought provoking presentation on the challenges that the aggressiveness of the financial capital poses to the preservation of the traditional architectural fabric of a city. He showcased some of the most striking examples of the newly appeared structures that were conceived to dominate and overshadow the traditional skyline of the city.
Picture 12 – Seminar tour Kornelia Evetović Cvijanović, General Manager of the local City Planning
Institute presented a historical overview of the urban regulation and development plans of Subotica over the last fifty years. She pointed out that during the compilation of the latest plans the preservation of built heritage and urban identity was given much consideration. Gordana Prčić Vujnović from the Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments from Subotica presented the measures and guidelines governing
the protection of the town’s built heritage, which also constitute the basis of the regulation plans for the town.
As the closing event of the first day the participants were taken to a tour (Picture 12) of Subotica by Arch. Viktorija Aladžić Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Civil Engineering in Subotica, the co-author of a thorough book on Subotica. During the tour the most emblematic and also the most endangered sites of the town were visited.
The second day of the seminar was reserved for a round table discussion, which provided the opportunity for all participants, experts and local people alike to discuss the issues related to the fate of Subotica’s built heritage (Picture 13). The threats that the traditional architectural fabric of the town is faced with, as well as the ways how to save the dilapidated buildings and the one-story buildings which do not
fit any longer into the new high-rise image of the town envisaged by the authorities and investors were also widely debated. The problems identified by the participants as posing the greatest threats to the traditional urban fabric of Subotica and the recommendations worded during the discussions as to how the risks can be avoid were included in a Declaration, which was offered for signature to all participants.
Picture 13 – Round table discussion The Declaration will not only be forwarded to the local, regional or national
authorities but also to all international organisations responsible for the preservation of cultural heritage.
A STORY FROMViktorija Aladžić, Ildikó Deák