architecture : urban : visual culture

The Restoration of the Castle of Szászvár – the Hidden Medieval Manor House

What can you do, if during a cultural heritage management, new and valuable parts of a building are unraveled? The castle of Szászvár was a complicated project to execute by János Albert, Ildikó Mersits and Éva Szabó Dr.

The castle was once the parish of Szászvár. In the 1980s, it became unoccupied and more than 30 years of research was started with this. The reserch contained archaeological work and architectural planning, during which the building complex of a unique medieval manor house was revealed.

During the investigation it turned out that the building featured mainly Baroque and classical style, concealed carved stones and masonry from the Middle Ages in many places. In the light of this knowledge, the first plan of restoration of historic and cultural monument was made and the implementation also started; however, due to the lack of funds the construction stopped in 1990. The restoration was left unfinished and the building remained with transom windows containing medieval fragments newly placed on the facades, striped traces of examination on wall surfaces, channels cut for wiring in vaults of inner spaces and a robust stairwell of reinforced concrete.

In the course of the continued archaeological investigation, the traces of walls and courtyards built during the Gothic period were revealed, together with the adjoining stone walls of a late medieval north wing and the remnants of the south barbican at a height of 1,5 m. It became clear that the plans needed to be reconsidered.

In the early 2000s we could join the process of architectural planning which, with some interruptions, lasted until 2013. In the meantime, the condition of buildings and ruined walls deteriorated, the cracks grew, the walls of the cellar stood in water due to the intermittent draining, the stone of the remnants of walls that were excavated decades ago and stood below the protective structure, was mouldering. Finally, the implementation could start in 2015 with the help of a European Union tender.

Beyond the accurate and archaeologically confirmed reconstruction, we deemed it necessary that this medieval manor house that developed into a castle complex can be seen in its completeness. In line with this, we determined the method of restoring the remaining wings as well as the complementary presentation of the barbican, the explanatory completion of castle walls and the exhibition of the pavement of the late medieval courtyard.

In the case of the west wing we preserved the Baroque interiors and roof shape and the classical details. At the same time, the fragments found in situ and the abundant and unique archaeological findings revealed by the excavations made it possible for us to present the spaces and structures of the Middle Ages as well.

The courtyard was surrounded by the U-shaped manor house, although we did not know about its third wing at the time of planning; the remnants of this were revealed when the implementation started. However, we could already present the north wing, preserving the remaining but greatly damaged walls. Due to their condition, only a solution that prevented these walls from great burden could come into question. Accordingly, an independent reinforced concrete and steel frame was constructed.

The pressure of decision making caused by the one year deadline of implementation characterised the whole process; however, due to the aligned teamwork, in August 2016 a high quality and professionally completed monument complex was opened, housing exhibitions and different social events and professional conferences as well.

We are confident that the restoration continues and by complementing the reburied east wing, the late building complex will become complete.

János Albert

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