The Network of Rural Heritage Buildings in Hungary
Permanent Delegation of Hungary to the OECD and UNESCO
The Tentative Lists of States Parties are published by the World Heritage Centre at its website and/or in working documents in order to ensure transparency, access to information and to facilitate harmonization of Tentative Lists at regional and thematic levels.
The sole responsibility for the content of each Tentative List lies with the State Party concerned. The publication of the Tentative Lists does not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever of the World Heritage Committee or of the World Heritage Centre or of the Secretariat of UNESCO concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its boundaries.
Property names are listed in the language in which they have been submitted by the State Party
Traditional folk architecture is a "non-renewable (cultural) resource": due to a radical change in the lifestyle of villages, resulting from social-economic changes, it no longer creates any works. The former architectural culture of the Hungarian landscape and, in a broader sense, the values of traditional rural-agricultural lifestyle are practically only preserved by buildings and, in exceptional cases, ensembles of buildings and parts of settlements that have been placed under different types of protection. The same applies to an amazing variety of building methods, typical of different regions and ethnic groups, and to the heritage related to social and wealth differences and to different production methods and occupations.
The origin of Hungarian folk architecture goes back several centuries. At the same time, it is in a clear and permanent interaction with the traditions of other peoples of the region. In its structural solutions and embellishments the stylistical characteristics of „grand art” architecture may be recognised. The folk architectural relics, listed under five groups, or house types, according to a generally accepted method in the Carpathian Basin, prove and present in a special manner the creativity of their creators (persons and communities), as well as their answers, refined by collective experience, to the challenges of nature and society. They are, therefore, an outstanding value of this genre of heritage not only due to their physical reality but also on account of the lessons they communicate – even to us at the beginning of the 21st century.
The Hungarian Network of Country Houses was born in the middle of the 20th century in order to preserve this complex heritage value in its full original form. The network now looks back on a history of several decades. Its concept was based on the idea that the best manner for the preservation of values is one which keeps and presents the buildings at their original location, accompanied with their complete original surroundings and all the accessories of the life they once saw. This objective is partly achieved in museum style: by the formation of interiors containing traditional furnishings in their original place and accompanied, of course, by the entire manor, i.e. the farm buildings and their accessories.
The country houses are open-air ethnographical collections which, accompanied with objects collected and preserved in situ, present the traditional material culture of a given settlement or region through home interiors (displayed in buildings that are themselves important from the perspective of folk architecture) and sometimes also workshops, farm buildings, or simpler industrial facilities. The interior of at least one characteristic room of each country house is furnished with original objects collected from the settlement concerned. In each region, the restored and furnished buildings are the most characteristic relics of local culture. In many cases this programme was needed for their successful preservation and renovation in an authentic form after thorough rehabilitation work.
The restored and furnished peasant houses become real country houses (and not only museums of local history) by being made the venues of community events, occasions joining different age groups, training and education events, and programmes for the presentation and transmission of traditional crafts. This effort for complexity dates back to be the renovation of the Schumacher House in Nagyvázsony in 1960. This was the first time when the method of full-value reconstruction of a historic site was applied to a folk site. As a result, the first in situ country house, furnished and preserved at its original location, was opened to the general public. The following period resulted in the birth of several country houses. The process was sped up in 1974, when a ten-year programme, encompassing the entire country, was launched, and caused the number of the country houses in Hungary to exceed two hundred by 1984. A country-wide network had been established to display the folk architecture of each region, including the buildings of the national minorities.
The Hungarian Network of Country Houses, an ensemble of authentic works of folk architecture, consists of elements which are spatially distant from each other and yet form a uniquely complex and essentially coherent unit of outstanding value. It is witness to a coherent cultural interaction between ethnic groups as well as to the interaction between high arts and folk traditions/folk civilisation in a specific era (18th to 20th centuries) in the region of the Carpathian Basin. The network is an original and highly unique witness to the traditional lifestyle of a civilisation which no longer exists. For this very reason, the country houses (which are focal elements of thie culture they represent) play a key role in the preservation of the sense of national and minority identity. Parallel to this, they provide an opportunity for the regions to learn their about their past, which is otherwise irretrievably lost, and to do it in a way that encompasses the entire tradition.
The Hungarian Network of Country Houses is a unique example of the maintenance, presentation, and utilisation for community purposes of the many-faced folk architectural culture of an area having the size of an entire country. In addition to the cultural variety presented by its elements, the network has the special value of combining these elements, by nationally uniform principles and a nationally uniform operational structure, into an ensemble forming a coherent whole. The Network of Country Houses is also a typical product of 20th century thinking, which makes traditional contents sustainable by preserving values.
The Network of Country Houses is composed of several hundred country houses. Only those are the subject of the tentative world heritage proposal which comply with the strictest professional requirements both in regard to the building and the interior presented therein. The country houses selected are under individual protection as historic sites. The material relics inside them present authentically arranged apartment/workshop interiors. Each exhibition either has a licence to operate as a museum or the acquisition of such a license is justified. In theory, 145 buildings, ensembles of buildings, and groups of buildings comply with this twofold system of criteria (i.e. countrywide professional control of both the building and its furnishings) in Hungary (if in addition to the 109 licensed subsites another 36 subsites acquire a licence to operate as museums). Many other country houses also comply with the strict system of requirements but they are either not protected historic sites, or they do not have a licence to operate as a museum, or currently they have no chance of acquiring such a licence.
The Hungarian Network of Country Houses reaches beyond the borders of Hungary since in many States Parties of the Central European region the practice of the country house-type functional formation of traditionally furnished historic sites, preserved in situ, have developed similarly. All of this raises the issue of the possibility of a later extension across the borders, primarily with the participation of Romania, Slovakia, Austria, Serbia and the Ukraine.
Justification of Outstanding Universal Value
The country houses are such open-air ethnographical collections of "purposeful complexity" which, accompanied with objects collected and preserved in situ, present the traditional material culture of a given settlement or region through home interiors (displayed in buildings that are themselves important from the perspective of folk architecture) and sometimes also workshops, farm buildings, or simpler industrial facilities. Country houses are therefore created in such architectural relics, which are authentic documents of traditional local architecture themselves and present an authentic picture of the former furnishings and manner of utilisation of the buildings – in addition to that of the structure of the buildings and their external appearance. They preserve and present the traditional folk architecture, farming, dwelling, and material culture, as well as the peculiarities of the lifestyle and folk habits of a given village, region, ethnographic or ethnic group. There are hundreds of operating country houses in Hungary, of which only those are part of the tentative world heritage serial property which comply with the strictest professional requirements both in regard to the building itself and its interior.
An essential characteristic of this tentative World Heritage serial property, i.e. a characteristic that determines its essence of content, is that it includes more than just one building or a few buildings: it covers an entire network of country houses created on the basis of uniform criteria. In its entirety this network is more that the sum of its constituent elements and, by way of its complexity, it constitutes an entity of universal importance. The Hungarian network of country houses presents the traditional culture of an overwhelming majority of regional and ethnographic groups. The manifold nature of this culture is of special importance since it reflects the outstanding values of both Hungary and the entire region of many ethnic groups and sub-regions. The country houses are not only a means of the preservation of material culture but they also present and preserve, through tradition-preserving workshops and other community events, local relics of folk customs, folk art, and folk lyrics. This was they become the preservers of the totality of folk culture. The preservation of traditional folk culture is not only a tool for the sustenance of cultural plurality and for meeting the general need of cultural heritage protection but also for the "protection" of local communities. By way of operating in the interest of the public, country houses do not only serve the interests of the local community but also provide an opportunity for the peoples and ethnic groups living in the Carpathian Basin to learn the cultural traditions of each other and to mutually accept each other more and more.Criterion (ii): The Hungarian Network of Country Houses is an ensemble of authentic folk architectural relics which are spatially separated but, in regard to content, form a coherent and complex cultural unit. The network is a unique and outstanding witness to a culture of a certain era (18th to 20th centuries) of a certain geographical area. Although coherent, this culture presents several deep interactions between ethnic groups as well as between high art and folk art. It is a special and unique documentary of the traditional material and spiritual culture of an era and area (which may also be interpreted in a grand historical vista), as well as of its primary architectural and technological genius and the different versions of the phases of development building on each other and often preserving their archaic appearance, too.
Criterion (iii): The Hungarian Network of Country Houses is an ensemble of authentic folk architectural relics which are spatially separated but, in regard to content, form a coherent and complex cultural unit. This network is a unique and outstanding witness to a tradition which once encompassed and organised all aspects of life both in space and time. It is witness to a civilisation that has come to an end but which, through the the radiation of the focal points created by the elements of the Network of Country Houses, has an indirect influence on forming and preserving national and ethnic identity. A unique cultural formation, it contains the characteristics of a special phase of the cultural and civilisational development of all mankind and, by doing so, it serves such regions, too, that have irretrievably lost a chance for the presentation of their own past in any similarly complex and physically manifested manner, which would allow its holistic analysis.
Criterion (vi): The material medium of the Network of Country Houses presents excellently and directly the spiritual components of a folk culture which is over by now but encompasses millennial (national, ethnic, and general) traditions. It is an inexhaustible and authentic documentary of a tradition that allowis for a balance between creativity, craftsmanship, faiths, beliefs, rites, and habits regulating all the smallest details of the framework and development of individual and collective human life in the coordinates of nature, society and supernatural. And it also documents the tyoically 20th-century intellectual approach which has created and maintains the network of country houses for the purposes of the preservation of all these values.
Statements of authenticity and/or integrity
The totality presented by the Network of Country Houses may be interpreted, on the one hand, with regard to the individual objects, and, on the other hand, with regard to their national network, which also constitutes a documentary of outstanding value as an authentic "data bank" of comprehensive folk culture encompassing all walks of life and all regional and ethnographic groups. The individual country houses present the entire material culture of peasant life since they present to the visitors manors – dwellings and farm buildings – furnished with tools of farming, articles for use, works of folk art. Besides material culture, the country houses also transmit information on spiritual heritage: on folk traditions and on folklore. To make the entire folk culture and lifestyle capable to be understood and experienced, the country houses provide access to folk buildings, their structures and use of materials, heating systems, tools of farming, articles of use, works of folk art, clothes, musical instruments and their use, kitchen culture, family organisation, customs, folk music.
The integrity of the entity of the Network of Country Houses, forming a single larger unit, is provided by the fact that the individual regional and ethnographic groups of the country as well as the special building types of the folk crafts typical of individual regions are represented within its framework. This means that the network of houses presents the buildings and material culture of individual regions (e.g. Ormánság, Sárköz, Őrség, Nyírség), ethographic groups (e.g. the Palóc, the Matyó), ethnic minorities (German, Slovak, Romanian, Ruthenian, Croatian), as well as the buildings and material culture of minor folk crafts (e.g. potters, smiths, dyers in blue). The special value of the country houses listed in the tentative world heritage serial property lies in the fact that they are not sporadically and accidentally placed over the area of the country, but form a network which presents and preserves the folk culture of all regional and ethnic groups and, what is more, does so in their original location and original interconnections, in the given regional, natural and cultural setting. They represent, almost without exception, the 18th to 20th century period of the culture, going back to very old days, thus documenting the process of modernisation.
The country houses listed in the tentative World Heritage serial property are traditional local (folk) architectural relics, preserved in their original location and placed under national protection of historic sites. The authentic restoration of these historic sites was carried out in conformity with international basic principles for historic sites. Restoration was in every instance preceded by scientific research, architectural survey, and preparation of documentation and detailed planning of execution. The buildings were selected and the scientific work was carried out by architects and ethnographic experts. Restoration was carried out in line with special principles and methods developed for folk historic sites: the perished building parts were complemented with original materials and by using the original construction technology – on the basis of information gained in the course of scientific research. The country houses selected to be included in the tentative world heritage serial property possess or will acquire in the near future a licence to operate as museums. As a result the given museum collections consist of objects collected by professionals from the given settlement or micro-region, as per the highest professional standards, and listed in an inventory book. Furnished interiors or ather exhibition paces likewise set up by professionals in an authentic manner, matching the age of the building and the social status and occupation of the villagers who lived in that age.
Comparison with other similar properties
The basis and starting point of the Network of Hungarian Country Houses is an ensemble of buildings, preserved in situ, which preserve and present the folk architectural values of the given settlement. These buildings, apart from their former different dwelling and economic functions, are also similar in that they contain exhibitions, mainly in the form of furnished interiors, presenting the history of local culture to the general public. The authentic preservation of the building stock in the network of country houses may be greatly aided by the fact that the owners of the majority of country houses are local governments for whom the country house (also protected architecturally) plays a prominent role in the preservation of local cultural and ethnic identity and, beyond this, in the preservation of the traditional appearance of the village.
Currently there are similar systems of protected building stock on the World Heritage List as well as the tentative sites, which are, nevertheless, somewhat different in their contents, history and appearance. The „Champagne Hillsides, Houses and Cellars” are like this in France, or the „Decorated Farmhouses of Hälsingland” in Sweden; or we might mention the „Prehistoric Pile dwellings around the Alps”, the common heritage of six countries (Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Slovenia, Switzerland). The Network of Hungarian Country Houses is expressly unique because it actually functions as a multi-level network.
An essential characteristic of this tentative World Heritage serial property, i.e. a characteristic that determines its essence of content, is that it includes more than just one building or a few buildings: it covers an entire network of country houses created on the basis of uniform criteria. In its entirety this network is more that the sum of its constituent elements and, by way of its complexity, it constitutes an entity of universal importance. The Hungarian network of country houses presents the traditional culture of an overwhelming majority of regional and ethnographic groups. The manifold nature of this culture is of special importance since it reflects the outstanding values of both Hungary and the entire region of many ethnic groups and sub-regions, as well as a system (of institutions) – which can serve as a model in regard to its authenticity and efficiency – for the exemplary preservation and transmission of these values on the basis of existing cultural heritage values.