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About this project

Villas, stately homes and castles – compatible use, valorisation and creative management - VILLAS

The international project Villas, stately homes and castles – compatible use, valorisation and creative management (short name Villas) as part of the Interreg program was accepted in December 2003 and will run until the end of 2006. Interreg is an EU initiative to promote cross-border, trans-national and international cooperation. The overall aim is to strengthen economic and social cohesion by encouraging harmonious and balanced development of the European territory. Interreg IIIb identifies 11 geographical regions and Croatia participates in the Cadses region (Central European, Adriatic, Danubian, and South-Eastern Space) that includes both EU member states and non-member states, among the later ones also Croatia. Primary objectives of the Interreg IIIb program are related to the promotion of spatial development, promotion of efficient and sustainable transportation systems and development of the information society, promotion and management of natural and cultural heritage, environment protection, resource management and risk prevention. The Villas project has received funding from the Interreg program for the activities of EU member states, whereas non-member states contribute in kind meaning that they are using their own resources. Croatian projects are financed by Croatian participants – Fund for Regional Development of the Republic of Croatia, counties (Zagreb County, Krapina-Zagorje County, Varaždin County, Požega-Slavonia County and Koprivnica-Križevci County) and the Faculty of Architecture of the University of Zagreb.

There are16 active participants (institutions) in The Villas project: seven from Italy, one from Austria, one from Greece and seven from Croatia. The lead partner is Regione Veneto – Direzione cultura (Veneto Region – Culture Office, Italy). Other Italian participants are: Istituto Regionale Ville Venete (IRVV – Regional Institute of Villas of the Veneto), Provincia di Campobasso (Province of Campobasso), Università di Ferrara – Dipartimento di Architettura (University of Ferrara – Department of Architecture), Università di Trieste – Dipartimento di Ingegneria Civile (University of Trieste – Department of Civil Engineering), Istituto di Beni culturali – Regione Emilia Romagna (Institute of Cultural Heritage of the Emilia Romagna Region) and Regione Umbria (Umbria Region). The Austrian partner in the project is Office of the Government of Carinthia, Department 20 – Spatial Planning and Development from Klagenfurt (Amt der Kärntner Landesregierung, Abt. 20 – Landesplanung), whereas the Greek partner is Municipalityof Corfu. The Villas project is being implemented as six work packages coordinated by different institutions: 1) project management; 2) analysis of the legal, historical, conservation and economic context; 3) systematic data collection and evaluation of renovation results; 4) evaluation of models for implementation and development; 5) trans-national plan and pilot projects for cultural heritage valorisation and 6) development of territorial partnership through „networking” and pilot projects.

NIKŠA BOŽIĆ, Dipl.Eng.Arch.
Secretary of the Croatian part of the Villas project, and head of the conference organizational committee


The main objective of the Villas project is to increase the value of cultural heritage made up of historical manors, curiae, castles, villas and summer-houses in the Cadses area (Central European, Adriatic, Danubian, and South-Eastern European Space). The historical heritage of manors, curiae and villas is an important component of local identity; however, many of these buildings are without an adequate use today, in various stages of dilapidation and have unsolved ownership structure. The project aims at improving and revitalizing the aesthetic and economic aspects of the architectural heritage by creating evaluation models and defining acceptable reuse strategies, according to the planning criteria and problems of each region. In the long term, the project is expected to have positive effects on the regional communities through investment possibilities, promotion of manors and development of the cultural tourism offer and cultural routes at a national and European level. The main starting point of the Villas project is that cultural heritage – preserved and managed in an appropriate way – can play a decisive role in spatial and economic development of a region. The focus is on the problem of contemporary use of manors and their adaptation to modern demands. In addition to meeting requirements of quality restoration of historic buildings, the aim is to create economically sustainable purposes. A manor with accompanying buildings is considered to be the engine for economic development of the area in which his presence is felt. The conference Villas, stately homes and castles – compatible use, valorisation and creative management (Zagreb, 2005) is the result of two years of activities of Croatian participants in the Villas project. In 2006 we would like to organize a similar conference to carry on with these topics and round them up. Together with the web site of the Croatian part of the project, that would be a well-prepared starting point for activities on the national or local level concerning revitalisation of Croatian manors, villas and curiae with an acceptable scientific and professional foothold verified on European level. The goal of the conference is to gather at one place scientists and experts, manor owners and users, responsible persons from state institutions, units of local government and self-government, services for the protection of cultural heritage, possible clients and creative people, as well as all other parties and individuals interested in issues concerning manors, curiae and villas. Topics to be discussed include re-use and creative management of manors, curiae and villas in the context of existing legal and economic restrictions, problems of ownership, financing and concrete experiences or plans for the re-use of these buildings. The conference will provide excellent opportunity to promote specific projects of the re-use of manors, curiae and villas. In the context of the international Villas project, the conference aims at creating a scientific and professional network of partnerships and opening forums for exchanging experience and ideas in the future.
The 2005 conference will focus on three thematic groups:
– Manors, curiae and villas – cultural heritage as the engine for economic development – By creating new evaluation models for cultural heritage and defining strategies and guidelines for acceptable re-uses, cultural heritage can become an important component of economic development. The goal is to define acceptable forms of reuse of historical buildings to stimulate private entrepreneurship in culture, in the way that historical buildings become not only economically self-sustainable, but engines for development of wider areas;
– Exemplary cases of re-use – experience, problems, possibilities and plans – Through presenting examples of the re-use of manors in Croatia and Europe, there will be opportunities to learn about the best examples, exchange experiences and open a discussion on the re-use issues and ways of solving them. Exemplary cases of the re-use of manors, curiae and villas will be
considered mainly in the light of preserving architectural cultural heritage and economic
– Creative management of cultural heritage within legal and economic restrictions – In order to create preconditions for future re-use of historical buildings, it is important to critically evaluate the existing legal regulations and general economic context in which the re-use of manors is taking place. In addition to analysing our local context, the emphasis will be on considering
international experiences regarding legislation and using local, national and international sources for funding projects for the re-use of manors, curiae and villas.
Papers and presentations from the conference, some forty of them, provide conclusions and recommendations to those involved in the protection, renovation and revitalisation of manors, curiae and villas as well as to all those who would like to contribute toward a better future for Croatia’s cultural goods. Everyone is invited – ministries, state, university and scientific institutions, local governments and self-governments, associations and individuals – to put an end to degradation and further devastation of Croatian manors, curiae and villas and to contribute toward their revitalization in a culturally and socially acceptable and economically sustainable way. In that respect, the following is being proposed:
1) To conduct a systematic inventory of manors, curiae, castles, villas and summer houses for each county – to establish their exact number, current physical state of each building, ways of use and other important data;
2) Valorisation (categorization) on the state level to enable comparison with similar examples from Europe and to establish objective criteria for protection, renovation, revitalization and reuse;
3) To develop a national strategy for renovating and revitalizing manors and other historic buildings;
4) To stimulate contemporary uses of abandoned manors and allow adaptation to modern functional, formative and economic demands with respect for each building’s monument properties;
5) To harmonize legislation and regulations governing the reconstruction of building heritage in order to prevent the overlap of jurisdiction between different state institutions and to clearly define regulation hierarchy specifying which regulations supercede if there is a conflict.
6) Monies accumulated from the collection of monument fees should be, according to a pre-established program, directed toward reconstruction and revitalization of manors because manors as cultural monuments are used also by the society and not only by their owners;
7) To amend existing law and introduce tax relief for investments into reconstruction of manors under the condition of full compliance with all conservation requirements; the percentage of tax relief could be proportional to the monument category of the building;
8) To affirm cooperation and partnership between the government and manor owners in implementation of revitalization programs;
9) To create the system of management with manors because good results cannot be achieved by protection only;
10) Costs for reconstruction of manors should be shared among all those who benefit (directly or indirectly) from the cultural heritage;
11) Reconstruction and revitalisation of manors is an interdisciplinary problem where experts from different fields should work together;
12) Although the dynamics of life demanded changes and adjustments of the buildings itself to the needs of its owners it is important to respect the reversed relationship that starts with the fact that contemporary use is always determined by the capacity of each historic building;
13) Following similar examples in Europe, to establish an institute or a research center for investigation and monitoring of the reconstruction and revitalization of manors, curiae, castles, summer houses and villas;
14) Under the auspices of and in cooperation with the Ministry of Culture, Ministry of Tourism, Croatian National Tourist Board and county tourist boards, to launch a well-thought out national project of sponsored renovations and revitalizations for the most valuable manors and summer houses as well as to launch culture tourist routes or castle routes.
15) To stimulate the inclusion of manors, curiae, castles, villas and summer-houses into the tourist offer, especially in the high-class hotel-catering service industry;
16) To prepare for using EU accession funds by participating in various European projects.

Head of the Croatian part of the Villas project, main researcher of the project Urbanistic and landscape heritage of Croatia as a part of European culture


Cultural heritage, preserved and managed in an appropriate way, can play a decisive role in spatial development. This is the focus of the VILLAS project. Its main aims consist of improving and revitalising the aesthetic and economic aspects of architectural heritage by creating an evaluation model and defining a compatible re-use strategy tool, according to the planning criteria and spatial policies of the CADSES area – an area which contains a great diversity of protected built environment status- as well as planning compatibility with the common needs and problems of the target regions. In the long term, the project is expected to have a positive effect on the regional communities and economies through the increase of knowledge, cultural tourism, investment possibilities, etc. and the amelioration of juridical instruments at a national and European level in a wider sense.

The project procedure is divided in thematic work packages, the outlines of which are defined by multilevel analysis and data collection, evaluation models and re-use plan design, development of territorial partnership through pilot actions and networks. Network construction and promotion activities ensure the dissemination of the outputs and the extension of the project impacts beyond the target region limits.

The origin of the project is the need to preserve and upgrade the cultural heritage of the area, which is one of the most relevant components of historical identity, both from a national and European point of view. In the CADSES area, the few historical buildings in good conditions are underused and not efficiently valorised; the remaining majority is now in an advanced state of degradation. These problems derive mainly from the lack of promotion, abandonment and scarce resources. Most of the buildings are not effectively used. Changes in life-style, fragmentation of landholdings and portioning have led to a lack in private funds for conservation, and also public funds are often constrained to alternative allocations. Management policies of historical buildings can be reviewed in theory and practice and conservation of heritage buildings can be helped by some economic re-uses. So new typologies of legal restrictions can be defined and different levels of purposive use of the buildings identified. The new forms of economic use must respect the historical and artistic characteristics, and there should be a sustainable and efficient economic reuse. It can be made possible both by obtaining financial funds for the building maintenance, and by providing economic benefits to the territorial context of the building, while maintaining the historical and architectural features of the ancient mansions.

The main project objective is the PROMOTION OF CULTURAL HERITAGE AS A REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT ASSET ensuring cultural heritage protection, survival and promotion in line with sustainable development ideas, using common methodologies, defining integrated strategies, which range from land planning to sustainable restoration techniques.

The following are further related strategic objectives:
1. Better the effectiveness of resource allocation policies for the renewal and valorisation of cultural heritage architecture in the Cadses area through the classification of potential evaluated economic uses, the definition of new typologies of legal restrictions, the upgrading of juridical instruments and establishment of common management methods.
2. Increase the number of investments in the field of cultural heritage architecture and to attract location decisions for businesses encouraging the development of new Public Private Partnerships (PPP).
3. Create the preconditions for the development of sustainable cultural heritage tourism by increasing the level of knowledge, upgrading and reviving spaces and sites and by the creation of a new network, which will spread cultural life in the EU

When thinking in terms of the broader geographical context, such as the one in which the CADSES countries operate, the project aims at having a considerable impact on spatial structure. The spatial development impulses generated by the project include: the intensive relationships and interdependencies which will emerge between the project partners and therefore improve integration through the creation of the network and of the activities themselves. By using a common methodology the weaker areas of the EU can improve their conditions even though at a different development condition. Preservation and deepening of regional identities and maintenance of natural and cultural diversity of regions and cities is a common issue for all the CADSES countries, for which this project can provide an exportable and integrated model for all areas and stakeholders.

Raffaella Lioce

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