The desertification process has become a chronic problem in southern Romania. Experts estimate that over 1,000 hectares of land become sand dunes every year, which means that in 50 years the vast majority of southern lands will be covered with sand, in the absence of immediate action.
The Neamţu manor in Olari is located on 1.3 ha terrain which, in the interwar period, was the administrative center of another agricultural field, surrounded by a recreational garden. In the 50’s it became the CAP in the village, gradually becoming dry land, transformed into a vacant lot.
Located in the Olteţ meadow, 30 km from Slatina and 43 km from Craiova, Olari village in Pârşcoveni commune is a predominantly agricultural, impoverished area, with certain desertification tendencies due to climate change, deforestation and destruction of existing irrigation systems. Many families live only on unemployment support, the inhabitants are deprived of access to information, which is why they practice the same type of agriculture without the result with which they were accustomed.
The “Experimental Center for Studies and Education at the Neamţu Manor in Olari” will initiate a model of experimental agriculture that will provide soil stability with sustainable solutions for the future. We also want to offer a model for the use and rescue of these types of arid, dried up lands for the rural community. Thus, the locals will be able to practice a subsistence agriculture and even medium-term long-term agriculture.
In this process we partnered up with Forgotten Herbs for their expertise in culinary archeology, with an emphasis on food plants from spontaneous flora or forgotten by contemporary gastronomy. Together we planned to create a small experimental garden around the mansion. We will grow there some species and varieties resistant to drought, the scorching heat of Oltenia and its type of soil. This year we will try an experiment with some more resistant historical species, but which will also have a connection with the place.
For this we chose fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum), an aromatic plant from which both leaves and seeds are used and which we know were used in the old Oltenian cuisine, and peas (Lathyrus sativus), a legume almost unknown today, but widely consumed in the ancient Balkans, for which we ordered the seeds from Croatia. We add two kinds of artichokes (Cynara scolymus), an ingredient that appears in the Brâncovenesc Manuscript from the early 1700s, giving us indications, practically, that these plants were cultivated in southern Romania.
We will plant four traditional species of Mesoamerican corn well adapted to drought conditions, obtained from a collector of rare varieties from Satu Mare.
We try to help the dry soil from Olari by practicing traditional agriculture according to the “three sisters” method by which corn is grown with beans and pumpkins, three species that grow in harmony and help each other by loosening the soil in depth and enriching it naturally with nitrogen. and nutrients.
We also join some varieties of traditional beans (including Anasazi), others of pumpkins of many kinds and calabash (Lagenaria siceraria) another culinary plant that appears in the Brâncovenesc Manuscript, consumed at the royal court before the pumpkins reached Eastern Europe, today completely forgotten.
In autumn we will also put raisin vines that we will take from the Research Station from Drăgășani and possibly lavender.
There used to be a water fountain as well as a decorative fountain. We consider it a priority to build a well that provides clean water for these agricultural works as we found the old well to be clogged. So we started drilling a new well. Although the initial forecasts showed that we will find water at a depth of 20 meters, it turned out that nature has plans of its own and the water is at a depth of 33 meters. Additional desanding and protection works against sand were added so the costs doubled. However, through a public call we managed to raise the amount of 5,825 lei which was covered by 34 private donors and the Bilceşti Gardens from Vâlcea County. We give out thanks to all.
Forgotten Herbs started out in 2012 as an independent botanical exploration project from the perspective of culinary archeology, focusing on food plants from spontaneous flora forgotten or lost by contemporary gastronomy. Over time, the project has evolved in several complementary directions, involving a team of people welded around the same passions at the intersection of botanical research and food anthropology, with forays into history and art, but also encompassing a physical side of interaction with nature through community gardening, volunteering and environmental education activities. Thus the “Historical Garden” was born, a thematic sector located in the Botanical Garden of Bucharest populated with plants grown in the eras before the arrival and spread of plant species brought from the New World, followed by the Legumim project, an urban garden of ethically grown and sustainable vegetables. according to the principles of permaculture.
After all the studies we talked about earlier, the next step is to obtain the authorization to carry out the intervention works (a building permit). The procedure has several stages: a local planning certificate is requested from the local town hall, indicating what is permitted according to the local regulations and what other authorities must analyse in advance (mandatory bills) the project before issuing the permit. In the case of works on historic buildings (monuments) the views of the Directorate for County Culture and the State Inspectorate for Construction are mandatory.
The divisions responsible for culture evaluate (in theory) the way in which, through the project, the heritage value of the building is preserved and may request modifications of the solution so as to ensure a quality intervention in compliance with the principles of heritage protection. The culture divisions consult with the Regional Monuments Commission, composed of specialists in the field, for these approvals in order to issue relevant points of view. Unfortunately, in practice, more and more often, these opinions are conditioned by various interests, divergent from those of heritage conservation and enhancement. The project presented to the Directorate for Culture and implicitly to the Regional Commission contains the preliminary studies and the proposed architectural solution in which all the intervention works, repairs and possibly additions, modifications with the related justifications are made explicit.
After collecting information about the building – historical study – analysis of materials – geotechnical study – topographic survey – technical expertise – we can determine what we can do with it and how. It is natural for the architect to help establish the direction, but it is good to keep in mind that any building is used by people and therefore the establishment of the DESIGN THEME should be done while consulting its users, and the architect should be the conductor and moderator of the received ideas. The architect’s job is to harmonize the desires and needs of use with the constraints resulting from the first stage of analysis. Thus, the diagnosis shows where the problems that need to be remedied lie, what are the valuable elements that need to be preserved, what are the constraints related to materials and technique. In the case of the Neamțu Manor, for example, the Roman mosaic on the first floor is an extremely valuable element that must be preserved, so that any intervention on the floor of the rooms with mosaic on them must be avoided.
In order to reach a Design Theme dedicated to the Neamţu Manor from Olari, we consulted children who regularly participate in non-formal heritage education workshops. We considered them to be the main future users of the site and, consequently, their opinion very important. We have prepared a series of kit materials through which we conducted this investigation.
What the children want:
After the consultative phase, the role of the architect intervenes, who selects from these points of view what is possible and what is more difficult or not at all appropriate. In the case of the Neamțu mansion, solar panels are not an option because they alter the architecture – which all the “beneficiaries” (the children from the local community participating in the non-formal heritage education workshops) want to preserve.
Architect-client cooperation is essential for the end result to meet the needs of users. Even if some requirements seem fanciful and childish, the architect is the one who will know (should know) to translate them into concrete and realistic elements.
Pro Patrimonio won a financing through the Historical Monuments Stamp Tax of the INP for the realization of the technical documentation for the authorization and execution of the conservation works for the Neamțu Manor in Olari. We use this opportunity to tell what such a journey, which seems very complicated, bureaucratic and accessible only to specialists, means We hope you’ll find it useful and become more confident in the support provided by professionals for this absolutely necessary step to intervene in an existing building, not just in the case of a historical monument.
The project consists of several stages. The first is the diagnosis – what are the problems of the house. Just like at the doctor’s office, we first evaluate the health condition and the causes of the visible degradations, but we also perform material analyses in order to be able to evaluate the house’s behaviour in more detail.
What the diagnosis stage consists of:
> SURVEY >> HISTORICAL STUDY >> MATERIAL ANALYSIS >> GEOTECHNICAL STUDY >> TOPOGRAPHIC LIFTING >> TECHNICAL EXPERTISE
THE SURVEY is the complete drawing of the building (plans, sections, facades), made by the architect. You can measure in the classic way – with roulette and draw each piece separately, or you can opt for modern technology – 3D scanning. The survey is combined with photographs and direct observations to note the degradations that are observed: cracks, missing elements (windows, plasters, finishes, chimneys) or deformations and displacements of constituent elements. Direct observation can also bring information about the different stages of construction (if joints or differences in materials are observed).
The evolution of the building over time – changes, use, references and old images – is particularly important to understand the current state of the building.
THE HISTORICAL STUDY also analyses the cultural value of the various constituent elements, establishing, in the case of historical monuments, how to intervene (e.g. strict conservation, repairs with compatible materials, etc.). In the case of the Neamțu Manor, the Roman mosaic on the first floor is one of the most valuable elements that must be strictly preserved.
Other analyses necessary to establish the diagnosis are ANALYSIS OF MATERIALS (brick, mortar, plaster, wood) in order to determine their composition and their degree of resistance. If there are several types of materials, most of them should be tested. If there are areas with high humidity, humidity measurements in the depth of the walls or construction elements are also recommended. In the case of organic materials (wood), the biochemical analysis of the elements is also recommended, in order to establish if there are biological attacks and, if so, what kind.
The GEOTECHNICAL STUDY refers to the analysis of the soil and building foundations. It is done by surveying the foundations and analysing the soil layers to determine their resistance and the presence of moisture in the soil.
TOPOGRAPHIC SURVEY is necessary to analyse the position of the house on the ground and how rainwater drains at ground level. Often around the old houses the land has risen in time and the waters flow wrong, towards the house, being one of the main factors of degradation.
All information collected is analysed in terms of structural stability (geometric composition – survey, strength of materials and soil, etc.) and establishes a complete diagnosis of the building as well as recommendations and priorities for intervention.
Another tour of workshops for children held at the manors looked after by Pro Patrimonio – Perticari- Davila Manor in Izvoru village, Neamțu Manor in Olari village and Golescu villa in Câmpulung – has come to an end. This second tour was coordinated by our generous Andreea Machidon supported by dedicated and special volunteers. For the very first time, we would like to thank one of the mothers, Daniela Marchidan, who has worked with patience and care with the children as well as with her 10-year old son. They have helped not only in the organization, but also in the process of creating objects. We also give our warm thanks to the extremely creative and fun Isabella Madauna, architecture student.
The theme of this tour around the manors was getting close to and understanding nature and natural elements by means of observation and reinterpreted drawing. The teams of children from the three manors managed to paint botanical elements on lunch-box type pouches suitable for gatehring plants, leaves or nuts and which will soon be on sale. They also designed their own pencil-case type minipouches for school which they personalized using the stamp technique after having made their ow FIMO stamps.
They managed to create an adorable series of colourful agendas using a simple method of book binding. These are to be their private agendas with modules they can change by themselves once they run out of clean pages. A very useful instrument for their future creative development is the notion of font that they found out about and which they exercised on their new agendas. The work was done outside in Neamțu Manor and Golescu Villa, the children fully enjoying nature, while at Izvoru the workshop took place inside the canteen rebuilt during the former workshops.
Tour of the Manors is the second from the series this year and is part of a more ample Pro Patrimonio Foundation project, Education for Heritage undergo this year under the umbrella of the European Year of Cultural Heritage #EuropeForCulture, #EYCH2018
The first practical workshop of the series dedicated to the rejuvenation of the Neamţu Manor in Olari village (held between 4 and 9 July 2017) focused on the restoration of the Roman mosaic flooring and contributed to the preservation of the degraded mansion. At the manor’s upper-level, the loggia, the lobby and the bathroom have Roman mosaic flooring made of colored marble pieces with elegant drawings.
For a week, five English and two French volunteers coordinated by arch. Raluca Munteanu (Pro Patrimonio) and restoration specialist Liviu Epuraş (National University of Arts Bucharest), carried out repairs and conservation works: floor void filling, restoring ceramic bathroom walls, reproduction of mosaic patterns (dolphins and lions) on mobile panels.
Meanwhile, they also explored the cultural landscape of the area: the Brâncoveni Monastery and the Avincis vineyard of Drăgășani.
Alex Iacob came from Craiova and documented throughout the volunteers’ work:
We thank LEROY MERLIN România for their support with the materials and tools that are essential to such an action!
In September 2017, SoNoRo Conac (Manor) once again set music to the rescue of Romanian architectural heritage through a fundraising campaign for the rehabilitation of the roof of Neamţu Mansion in Olari, Olt County. The campaign consisted in organizing a charity concert at the mansion on September 21, and a donation system communicated in September.
The musical program included works by Jean Sibelius, Friedrich Händel – Johan Halvorsen, Eugène Ysaÿe and Franz Schubert and performed by artists Cristina Goice – Violin, Sabin Penea – Violin, Răzvan Popovici – Violoncello, Radu Nagy – Cello.
Details at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AV7VfqYXRmk
The mansion is managed by Pro Patrimonio Foundation which carries out conservation and gradual rehabilitation works, and at the same time tries to restore the link between the manor and the community through educational and cultural actions for young people and children.
George Enescu House in Mihăileni and Neamţu Manor in Olari – Educational Centers for Local Communities
Casa George Enescu din Mihăileni și Conacul Neamţu din Olari, centre educaționale pentru comunitățile locale
Ghidul Salva-Monument. Un proiect în cadrul „In-Herit – Centrul național de informare și promovare a patrimoniului cultural”.
Salva-Monument Guide. A project within “In-Herit – National Center for Information and Promotion of Cultural Heritage”.
Forgotten Textures: Inter-war Bucharest. Plastering Recipe Book, Pro Patrimonio 2019/ second edition, 2021/ [excerpt]
Who’s Afraid of the Matache Neighbourhood? Principles of Urban Regeneration for the Matache Area – Bucharest North Railway Station / Pro Patrimonio 2012
Education for heritage. Guide to ideas and explorations for the built and natural heritage and crafts / Pro Patrimonio 2019