“A Garden is Always and Everywhere about the Relationship between Society and Environment”

In its Museum Keeper section MúzeumCafe has tried to shed light in an unusual interview with a couple on how many professions and concepts meet and sometimes clash in relation to the protection and reconstruction of listed buildings, and within that of historic gardens. Although architect Tamás Mezős and landscape architect Kinga M. Szilágyi do not agree in every detail, with regard to essential matters they both say that everything depends on proportions.

Kinga M. Szilágyi notes that it was the 1982 Florence Charter, an addendum to the 1964 Venice Charter stipulating the concepts of monument protection, which first specified the principles of monument preservation in terms of historic gardens. Culturally and artistically outstanding architectural and horticultural compositions consisting of built and vegetal elements can be declared protected monuments and then they must be preserved. In the case of gardens, reconstruction has to be preceded by studies based on archival research and supplemented with on-site surveys. Hungarian law on monument and heritage protection includes historic gardens as a special section of listed monuments.

According to Tamás Mezős, charters have been made for people who need explicit guidelines. Monument protection experts point to the Venice Charter as holy scripture, yet only three countries have actually signed it. Mezős is in constant dispute with art historians who think that a listed monument must be preserved as an art object. He has a different opinion. As the president of the former Office for Cultural Heritage Protection, he sorted out the deficiencies appearing in the records. When after 1950 the then Town Planning Department of the Ministry of Construction initiated the creation of an inventory of Hungarian towns with listed monuments, it also included the natural environment.

The number of historic gardens is about one thousand and of those some 150 are protected. Representatives of different professional fields consider the concept ‘historic’ differently. Architects have to make buildings usable. According to Mezős monument protection need not address the preservation of gardens using special concepts, because a building and a garden are identical with regard to space creation and function. Yet M. Szilágyi thinks that in practice a garden requires different methods of intervention. In the case of a historic garden it is necessary to think in terms of the ecological system and the dimension of time.

Both of them have been concerned with the development of green areas in Budapest. Urban spaces are made for intensive use and they are not identical with parks. Therefore the present fashion of paving them can be justified according to M. Szilágyi. There is always something that professionals turn to, then these elements become unnecessarily stereotypical and in that those who commission the work play a large role.