There is a little square two-minutes from your flat. You have seen it many times on your daily route. You perhaps even recognised that it is somehow unique. Nothing special, no outstanding architectural value, but lovely and always full of life. And would be great to explore once.
A week-end of Open Houses initiated in Budapest (HU) (budapest100.hu)
All of us are surrounded by places and buildings like this. All of us are excited what and who is there behind the doors. Who lives there now and who has lived there before and what stories they could tell. The ‘Come in! – talking houses shared stories’ URBACT Transfer Network is centred on the good practice entitled Weekend of Open Houses. It is an easily adaptable community festival in Budapest called Budapest100 celebrating the city’s built heritage and common values. This good practice might help the inhabitants of eight European cities to explore their own built heritage, those little squares only two-minutes from their homes and get local communities closer to each other along this journey.
The Budapest100 community festival was started in 2011 by the Open Society Archives and the Contemporary Architecture Centre in Budapest, celebrating houses turning 100-years old that year during a thematic weekend. The event became a yearly festival, always celebrating buildings that were 100 years old in the given year. Since 2015 the celebration of 100-year-old buildings is not possible anymore due to WWI, so each year the focus is on different themes (2017: buildings along the Danube, 2018: buildings around squares).
Exploring our community through our built environment
Each year approximately 20 000 visitors come to look behind the doors of 50-60 open houses of downtown Budapest, explore hidden treasures and listen to urban stories told and shared by local residents and volunteers. This rather attractive urban initiative is definitely not about money: the whole programme costs about 20 000€ each year including the development of a website and the salary of a part time employee.
Promoting engagement with cultural heritage
Europe is celebrating its diverse cultural heritage at all levels in 2018 through the European Year of Cultural Heritage, the aim of which is to “encourage more people to discover and engage with Europe's cultural heritage, and to reinforce a sense of belonging to a common European space”. The slogan for the year is: Our heritage: where the past meets the future.
Historic Urban Landscape approach of the UNESCO as a backbone for action
Come in! is taps on an important thematic field: perceptions of cultural heritage in Europe – which is extremely rich in cultural values - is changing. It is not anymore seen as a financial burden, but increasingly recognised as an asset, which can provide a catalyst for enhanced growth and wellbeing. Since the adoption of the Historic Urban Landscape (HUL) approach by the UNESCO’s General Conference in 2011, cultural heritage is a very important reference point and crosscutting field in urban policies both on global and European level. The UNESCO’s HUL Recommendation seems to be the alpha and omega regarding cultural heritage, and indeed most urban policies are rooted in that framework which stresses the importance and urgency of involving communities in the valorisation and conservation of the built environment.
Residents and Volunteers: keys to success of Budapest100
Of course Budapest100 does not stand alone, there are many similar concepts in Europe and worldwide. The most well-known initiatives are perhaps Open House and the European Heritage Days. But there are two crucial differences between Budapest100 and other similar initiatives: the involvement of residents and initiators of activities supported by volunteers and having a strong social focus besides the architectural one. For Budapest100 every house is interesting, not only those with outstanding architectural value or the ones protected by law.
The combination of the three pillars (built environment, but not only outstanding values, strong involvement of communities supported by involvement of volunteers) makes Budapest100 unique in the EU context.
Budapest100 for everyone: the Transfer Potential of the good practice throughout Europe
On the one hand, as the good practice is really not complex (it is “just” a two-day event) it could be easily replicated in almost every residential environment of any European city having a strong local ‘identity’ the community festival can be built on. Searching and analysing these identities behind residential areas of candidate cities was the most important factor while building up the partnership. The good practice will be adapted in various built environments, e.g. in the historical centre in Gheorgheni (RO) with its unique and mostly unexploited Armenian heritage; in Forlì (I) focusing on its sensitive rationalist heritage or in Varaždin’s looking at its (HR) untapped modern buildings just next to the beautiful Baroque city centre, and will be even tested in newly built environments as well (e.g. in modern housing estates in Újbuda (H) or Pori (SF)).
On the other hand, the other two pillars (community engagement and volunteering) of the good practice highlight serious challenges related to the overall transfer potential of the good practice, simply because it can be difficult to boost these factors as they are deeply
Last, but not least, for adapting this community-led initiative we need municipalities that are able to facilitate bottom-up developments without controlling what is uncontrollable, act as matchmakers, and harvest and accelerate the results of such a community festival by crossing silos (the cultural department is most likely the one responsible for the festival, but its potential spill-overs refer to social and other departments too).
Proper motivation tools, team and capacity building for URBACT Local Group members to overcome resistance and create quick wins is also essential for Come in! partner cities.
Visit the network's page: Come in!