Two years ago I wrote, right here on BoredPanda, an article that changed my life forever. It was about a beautiful abandoned building, Neptune Baths, and it went viral. "Woah", I thought, how powerful heritage is and what a treasure Herculane Baths are.
Back then, when I told you the story, I asked myself at the end of the article, "How can we save it?”. I wanted to raise awareness over Romania's decaying heritage, and in the process, I ultimately fell in love with this amazing place.
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This started an unbelievable journey, a passionate one, defined by courage, strength and an unimaginable will to make a change. Together with another seven friends and architecture students, I started a social and architectural reactivation project, HerculaneProject. Focused mainly on Neptune Baths, "our home", as we call it, we aimed to do more than just raising awareness... conservation and ultimately the restoration of this beautiful monument. What a dream!
Beyond passion and feelings, a young team of architecture students worked for two years to develop a technical project and to approve it - we researched all of the 62 single treatment rooms in three layers, we scanned the main facade and the main access with the help of two companies, we mapped the degradation with a cumulative of 265 degradation boards, we made the exact surveys of the house, and documented the details and ornaments. We spent hours freezing in between its beautiful shriveled walls, we worked hard to convince specialists to join our cause, promoted the project on social media and tried to involve as many young people as possible.
Negotiations with the local administration, who is the owner of the building, local investors and the community brought us closer to the cold reality. As architecture students, we learned more about legislation from meetings with lawyers and governors than about design. Contracts with the City were drafted and signed, and a research of the past legal issues gave us a reality check once again. And all-nighters weren’t (and aren’t) going anywhere pretty soon. All of these steps were necessary in order to develop proposals for the emergency intervention needed in order to conserve the building.
Still, after hard, but very hard work, a part of the building collapsed. Now, that sector of the house is so degraded that we count the days until its total collapse. What brought us here? Legal issues regarding the property, lack of a trustworthy administrative partner, inadequate legislation, lack of funding and over thirty years of indifference, corruption and the lack of an integrated vision for cultural heritage. But this is not the story.
Because, in all of this darkness, something amazing happened. People unified for a cause and donated. We managed to raise more than 40k euros out of the 100k needed to conserve this amazing monument. Yet, we still have a long way to go. Also, volunteers participated in our summer schools and our cultural projects brought tourists closer to cultural values and heritage. We took steps that connected us with the local community. Over 300 people participated in our architectural tours last summer and over 19 000 people follow and encourage us on social media. Our story made this happened. Our passion. Our devotion and hard work. But more than that, Herculane has this magical power to make you fall in love with it.
Interior swimming pool, by Danu Alex.
Now, we have one more bridge to cross in order to reach our first goal - and I am sure that we will - through perseverance, patience and hard, hard, but very hard work. Why am I telling you this story? Because it’s a building’s story that reflects a society, who’s hope was lost. But where we lack legislation, funding, specialists, integrated strategies… we make up with passion.
How can we save it? I ask myself once again, not knowing what tomorrow will bring.
By Danu Alex.
Collapsed structural wall, by Danu Alex.
By Danu Alex.
Interior, by Danu Alex.
The facade of a building sector, by Danu Alex.
By Danu Alex.
Facade, by Danu Alex.
Interior treatment room, by Danu Alex.