I Started A Reactivation Project To Save One Of The Oldest Spa Resorts In Europe—The Stunning Herculane Baths
Have you ever thought you were too small to make a change? Get ready to have your mind changed. This is the story of how a small group of architecture students is saving the most beautiful abandoned spa building in Romania and perhaps in all of Europe, Herculane Baths. It all started with the question “What can we do? How can we save it?” and a big dose of courage and idealism.
For us, this journey goes beyond a building or a beautiful abandoned spa resort. For us, this journey is about courage, love, and knowledge, but mostly is about community and the journey of making a change. And for that, no one is ever too small or insignificant.
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Beyond passion, we 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 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 research of 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.
Photo by Corina Cretu.
Photo by Heiko Probst.
But still, a part of the building collapsed. So 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. We were absolutely devastated and decided that we needed to take the matter fully into our hands—raise the money needed to save the spa monument and start the construction site ourselves.
We were scared, but then something extraordinary happened. Over 2500 people from the civic society contributed and helped us raise 18000 euros in just three weeks, and two private sponsors donated 40000 euros, so we successfully raised 58000 euros out of the 103000 necessary. We started the construction site and the first stage was executed in November 2019 and was successfully completed.
What have we achieved so far? During the first stage of securing the building, we intervened in 12 areas at the roof level, we sanitized the building—220 m³ of debris and garbage were removed from the inside (over 70 trucks), we protected the majolica fountain, we blocked the access to the building, we supported two roof framings and four floors, we cleaned the outdoor terraces, the roof, the pipes, and gutters of moss and rubble. All the constructive and ornamental elements on the verge of collapse, representing a public danger, were stored inside the building, and all elements already collapsed were palletized and stored inside. All these works are reversible and temporary, and aim to stop the degradation produced by infiltrations of meteoric water, by collapses of unstable elements and, unfortunately, by human hands—theft, breaking of ornamental elements.
Before and after our interventions
Part of our team
But we still need 50000 euros to finish this construction site. We raised 11000, but another 39000 euros are necessary. We need all the help we can get and this is why I am writing here, with hope and an open heart.
With the hope that those of you who are passionate and believe that courage and solidarity change the world will join our cause and help us finish the work we started.
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