Many Croatian Castles Are in Ruins, Instead of Creating New Value

By 25 October 2015

Many of Croatia's historic buildings are falling apart.

While many people see buildings and structures which are part of cultural heritage as a huge burden, Mladen Obad Šćitaroci, professor at the Faculty of Architecture, believes that the cultural heritage is our future, a cultural and economic resource. His most well-known work is his book "Castles and Parks of Hrvatsko Zagorje", reports Jutarnji List on October 24, 2015.

"In addition to castles, which are often mentioned as an example of endangered heritage, that group includes industrial heritage, fortification buildings and rural traditional architecture. There is insufficient awareness that the architectural heritage can offer better and more attractive living environment than new construction. Protection of old buildings does not mean much if you do not follow through with an active part, which includes the possibility of bringing in new life into old buildings. The heritage that we have represents a resource with unbelievable possibilities. Many people are using cultural and natural heritage to make money. You can do that, but the legacy has to be preserved, used and improved upon. Unfortunately, we do not recognize it as an important resource for development", Obad Šćitaroci said.

"The world has recognized the importance of the economic use of heritage. It started with the heritage which is under UNESCO protection, and that has spread to the national levels. We are still making only the first steps, slowly, which is not enough. There are some good examples of preservation and use of cultural property, but such examples are too rare for us to be satisfied. Thanks to the EU funds, some towns and municipalities have managed to implement certain projects. There is no evaluation of heritage. Not everything can be preserved, nor is everything equally valuable. There are many castle which are important and should be preserved, such as: Opeka, Oroslavje, Stubički Golubovec, Jastrebarsko, Brezovica and many others. Many castles are empty. About 50 percent are in poor condition and without a defined purpose, while 30 percent are almost in ruins. Major investments are needed in their reconstruction. European funds provide money for reconstruction only if the project can be viable and if it can become the engine of growth for the surrounding areas. We cannot turn all castles into hotels or museums", added Obad Šćitaroci.

"We do not have systematic and deliberate process of revitalization and use of our architectural heritage. We should create pilot projects at the national level, in collaboration with counties and cities/municipalities. The development and improvement of heritage cannot be solved with administrative measures. It takes vision and a new outlook, a shift away from stereotypes. Let us turn to experts and find the political will, let us invite the media to together create a positive atmosphere in society and make the neglected and forgotten heritage the starting point of development, new income and new jobs, while at the same time preserving the heritage as a part of Croatian identity", concluded Mladen Obad Šćitaroci.