In the 1950s a removable revolving audience (hereafter: 'revolving theatre') with 80 seats has been installed inside of the 17th century garden in front of the rococo summerhouse Bellaria in order to use this historic setting as a backdrop for the theatre. The theatre expanded in the 1960s and in 1998 to become a permanent construction with a present seating capacity of 650 visitors. Although playing theatre is an old tradition in the town of Český Krumlov, its Castle and Castle garden, the permanent construction of theatrical elements in the garden is a late 20th century phenomenon.
Since 2001, the Czech authorities and the World Heritage Centre have been corresponding with regard to the impact that the revolving theatre is having on the integrity of the property. At the invitation of the Czech Ministry of Culture, an ICOMOS monitoring mission was carried out from 20 to 24 January 2005 to assess the impact of the revolving theatre situated in the Castle garden as part of the World Heritage property, and to discuss the proposed new location for the theatre. This was the first reactive monitoring mission to the property as the previous attempt to field a mission in autumn 2002 was aborted due to heavy inundations and local elections.
The construction of the revolving theatre comprises a 6m deep foundation and is linked to number of under- and above- ground infrastructural components, heavily impacting the visual integrity and the archaeology of the site. The mission observed that all elements of the former garden design around the current location of the theatre had disappeared, and heavy use of the place resulted in extensive trampling and affected the area beyond the immediate surroundings of the theatres. The theatre only operates in the summer but the facilities block the vistas along the baroque axis and the central part of the garden. The early evening closure of the garden during the summer months further interferes with the enjoyment of the garden experience by visitors. The original 1692 Bellaria summerhouse itself has also greatly suffered from its use as stage, backstage, changing room and storage space.
A feasibility study was carried out regarding the possible relocation of the revolving theatre to a new location currently occupied by a derelict tree nursery in the buffer zone of the property. The study concluded that relocation of the theatre would be beneficial to all aspects of the theatrical events, but called for an architectural competition to design the new revolving theatre and its surroundings. The mission found the proposed location topographically well chosen, as it cannot be seen from the town nor the castle. However there is a visual impact on the garden, which should be mitigated through the design of the theatre setting. The planning of the new location should also be carried out in respect of the surrounding traditional cultural landscape. The mission recommends that garden archaeology needs to be involved in the removal of the theatre and that, once the theatre is removed, efforts should focus on conserving and restoring the Bellaria summerhouse as well as the affected garden components.
According to the mission, the castle garden is well maintained but the state of conservation of the garden in the eastern part has been degraded due to intrusive changes during the 1980s. However, the authenticity and integrity of the western parts of the garden is well maintained, as has remained largely undisturbed since the 17th century.
In addition to the "Land Use Plan of the City of Český Krumlov" currently under preparation and to be adopted in 2005, the conservation of the Castle garden will be based on the conceptual plan (draft) of "the Protection Principles in the Monument Reservation at Český Krumlov".
The removal of the revolving theatre from the current location is strongly supported by the Ministry of Culture, the National Institute for Preservation, ICOMOS Czech Republic and the town of České Budějovice. However, there is also strong politically motivated opposition in the area, which considers the revolving theatre a prerequisite to traditional theatrical life and tourism in Český Krumlov.
The mission concluded that
1) the revolving theatre represents a severe problem impairing the integrity of the castle garden;
2) the current position of the revolving theatre is far from ideal from the theatrical point of view, and
3) the revolving theatre should therefore be removed and relocated as soon as possible and the international community should support the efforts of the Czech national authorities in this action.
Furthermore, the mission brought the attention of the World Heritage Centre to Article 19 of the Florence Charter for Historic Gardens (ICOMOS 1982), which states "by reason of its nature and purpose, a historic garden is a peaceful place conducive to human contacts, silence and awareness of nature. This conception of its everyday use must contrast with its role on those rare occasions when it accommodates a festivity. Thus, the conditions of such occasional use of a historic garden should be clearly defined, in order that any such festivity may itself serve to enhance the visual effect of the garden instead of perverting or damaging it."