Creative Residency at Bánffy Castle, Bonțida, Romania – the first of two weeks

The Big Day has finally arrived; the Crafting Stories international creative residency programme has started on Monday, 30 August 2021. On the first day, the participants, architects and visual artists from Spain, Albania, Ukraine, India, and Romania acquainted themselves with the site that was to be their home for the following two weeks, the centuries-old Bánffy Castle in Bonțida, as well as with the decades-old activity of the organisation safeguarding it, the Transylvania Trust. Aside from the story of the castle’s architectural evolution and the stories of the people inhabiting it, certain key aspects were brought to the forefront:

  • the layered nature of history’s imprint on built heritage, in our case on the castle, as what was once new and an innovation is now part of the past, upon which an ever newer layer of “keeping up with the times” settles; however, this is what keeps heritage buildings relevant, by infusing them with identity and life via constant change and adaptation;
  • the impact, the myriad of feelings and impressions such buildings or places are able to elicit, through which people craft their own stories regarding their encounter with them;
  • the speculative nature of crafting stories, whether we are talking about a building’s history, a family’s history, or about imagined stories with imagined people, playing out in the real-life settings of heritage buildings and places;
  • how important stories can be in giving a building or a place meaning, a point of connection, a bridge between the then and now, the us and them.

The second day started with sketches of project proposals, followed later by a game with words and ideas evoked by Bánffy Castle. This is how a set of keywords was gathered, organised around concepts such as feelings, time, architecture/forms/space, to be embodied through materials in objects, through which the creators will weave their own stories and impressions into the story of the castle: these objects and installations will then invite people to play, to feel, to explore, to look beyond the layers of the past and to craft their own stories, to be taken home as keepsakes, acting like the madeleines of Proust.

During the following days, the project proposals started to take shape and to evolve, the participants also having the painstaking task to try and work out all the practicalities and details of their envisioned realities. This is, however, a necessary step in order to achieve their goals. In the meantime, they also had time to relax, to develop new friendships, to enjoy the stillness and beauty of the castle’s site, as well as to broaden their minds by exploring future possibilities with Daniela MAIER (director of the ScenaUrbană initiative aiming at reactivating urban spaces and returning them to their communities) and by learning techniques of the past, such as the wet collodion photographic process from the 1850s with Andrei BUDESCU (University of Art and Design, Cluj) as well as mural decorations and specialised techniques (fresco, sgraffito, marmorino) with Kovács István, one of the craftsmen working on the castle’s restoration.

While the first week was dedicated to learning, feeling, contemplating, and planning, during the second week we look forward for these thoughts and impressions to take shape, to become real – the imprints of creative minds in a setting full of stories to be discovered.