The Ambulance for Monuments is racing to save the past from ruin.
On a scorching summer day in the remote Transylvanian village of Micasasa, 39-year-old Romanian architect Eugen Vaida is busy coordinating a team of volunteers helping to breathe new life into a centuries-old castle on the brink of ruin.
“It’s in an advanced state of degradation and it’s a monument of national importance,” Vaida, who in 2016 launched the Ambulance for Monuments project, told The Associated Press.
The Ambulance for Monuments has a simple task: to race around the Balkan country, giving critical care to as many historical buildings as possible that are in an advanced state of decay before it’s too late.
Since it launched, Ambulance for Monuments has rescued 55 historical structures, including medieval churches, historic fortification walls, old watermills and ancient UNESCO World Heritage Sites, from descending into complete ruin. Situated in a broad valley at the foothills of the Carpathian Mountain basin, the dilapidated 16th-century Brukenthal Castle, which was once home to influential aristocrats and used as a primary school until just after the turn of the century, is one such endangered building being revived by the project.
The castle is one of several hundred monuments in Romania in a state of advanced degradation. Over the years, poor state management, weak legislation and a lack of funding have all taken a toll on Romania’s impressive heritage, Vaida says.
“In the last 30 years, it’s not just that communities have abandoned buildings, but also the support of the state was very, very low,” Vaida said.
Civic initiatives like the Ambulance for Monuments are stepping in to help preserve what they can. The project’s aim is not to fully restore buildings - since that would require expertise that isn’t available - but to rescue as many “immovable monuments” as possible from being lost to history.