SZÁDVÁR CASTLE RUIN – CONSERVATION AND DEVELOPMENT FOR TOURISM
Architect: KELEMEN Bálint
The conservation of Szádvár is unique among the reconstruction-oriented treatment of ruined monuments preferred and prevalent today. It combines the unquestionable methods of classic monument protection with the means of 21st century architecture. The wooded grove ambience of the ruined castle, evolved in the past centuries, has beendeliberately preserved, moreover enhanced.
The imposing ruins of Szádvár are located in the northeastern part of Hungary, east of Aggtelek, in a beautiful untouched forested environment, on top of a 240 m high limestone hill. The castle, with an area of about 11,000 m2, is one of the largest medieval castle ruins in Hungary; a huge, mostly unexplored archaeological site, which is also a nature reserve. The history of Szádvár began in 1260-1270, and there were constant political struggles for its ownership in the late Middle Ages and even in the Early Modern Age. Due to its important role during the Bocskai and the Thököly uprisings, the Habsburg court decided to raze Szádvár in 1686. The ruins of the castle had been gradually conquered by nature.
The first phase of ruin conservation and development for tourism in the ruined castle has been financed by the National Castle Program. Designs for the intervention have been greatly influenced by the methods of ruin characterology, based on the study of the historical and natural characteristics of the site, with consideration to the present level of the related scientific knowledge. A 3D model of the theoretical reconstruction has also been created as part of the scientific documentation.
The base of heritage protection and touristic development has been the establishment of a safe route for the visitors, the stabilization of a 440 m long section of the castle walls and the preservation of the natural environment. When conserving the walls and capping the wall heads, the methods used earlier have been followed in order to achieve a unified look, so the past and present interventions form an organic unit and present an orderly image. Szádvár is located within the Aggtelek National Park, so only those existing trees have been removed which endangered the stability of the walls, the dominant wooded grove character of the site has remained intact. The new walkway for the visitors, complete with benches and information boards, has put the so far neglected Lower Castle on the tourist route within the castle ruins, it has become the reception area of the castle complex, that can be visited freely. The Lower Castle has a rain shelter for the visitors and also a walkway with a parapet, built along the top of the walls in 8-12 m height, from where the canopy level of the surrounding forest can be observed as well. Flights of stairs, built along the track of the historic pulley system used for transporting goods, lead from the Lower Castle up to the Upper Castle, where several lookout points and rest areas have been established. These areas can also be useful in case of various events organized in the castle, such as field archery competitions or castle tournaments. A characteristic, long timber structure serves as a lapidarium, accommodating the great number of carved stone fragments, that had been laying around for centuries in the castle area.
The new elements with modern functions (benches, information boards, rain shelter, etc.) are simple, massive structures, radiating strength just as the furnishings of a medieval castle did. But their design is deliberately contemporary, so it is easy to distinguish the new from the old, in line with the principles of monument protection. The use of oak as the building material serves a dual purpose. It fits into the historic and natural environment very well on the one hand; on the other hand it is a gesture towards the former castle building: as a traditional medieval building material, it provides architectural continuity.