Over the years, we have acquired a great deal of experience in the surveying, planning and implementation of the refurbishment of historic buildings and of projects in historic monument environments. Our planning work has included the refurbishment of the Gerbaud Office Building on the Budapest city-centre square, Vörösmarty tér, the extension of the German Embassy in the Buda Castle District, the refurbishment of the Várkert Bazár, the façade and roof reconstruction of the Wellisch Palace, the former Ministry of Public Administration and Justice, performed in connection with the renewal of Kossuth tér, and the refurbishment and renovation of the Ballet Institute (Dreschler Palace) on Andrássy út.
The first step of planning buildings is to get acquainted with the legal regulatory background relating to the given building and its environment. In general, Act LXIV of 2001 on the protection of cultural heritage applies to historic buildings. The local authority town planning and construction regulations as well as the zoning plan contain the concrete prescriptions and limitations relating to the given building.
In general, the annexes of these regulations list the buildings and areas that are protected. The type of protection may vary considerably: National protection – individual monument, area of historical significance – World Heritage Site, area of historical significance – World Heritage protection zone, municipal individual building or area protection, local or district individual or cityscape protection, building of artistic value, protected or registered archaeological site. Beside all this, the zoning plan may prescribe that certain buildings or building parts be maintained or demolished, or the street façade maintained if the building is to be demolished.
Depending on the type of protection, the authorities responsible for issuing the construction permit may differ from the usual authorities. The construction permit procedure may require that the Heritage Protection Department of the Construction and Heritage Protection Office act as specialist authority and, in certain cases, the permit of the Heritage Protection Authority is required for the construction work, according to Government Decree No. 393/2012 (XII. 20.) on the regulations related to the protection of archaeological heritage and historic monument values.
Work performed on protected buildings without a permit or not in accordance with an issued permit is punished according to a separate piece of legislation, Government Decree No. 191/2001 (X. 18.) on heritage protection penalties!
After clarifying the regulations and prescriptions, the work may begin, which first of all means the surveying of the building and research into its history.
The survey is a record of the present geometry of the building, which is not especially a feature of historic building work; this must be performed before refurbishing or extending any existing building. The documentation may consist of a ground plan, façade drawings and cross-sections, if required. In addition to “traditional” measuring methods (measuring tape, theodolite), we now also use the technology of the 21st century like, for example, laser distance measurement, photogrammetry, orthophotographs, laser scanners, based on which even 3D computer building models can be created.
Apart from geometrical dimensions, it is also important to record the condition of the existing building. Condition surveys usually include a survey of the supporting structure (statics), the wood material and the building’s structures, for example, in the case of damp and mould.
Architectural historic research documentation
Historical buildings require the special task of drawing up the architectural historic research documentation, which includes:
- a review and presentation of the most important publications related to the historic building in question
- source research, searching for period documents, plan drawings, maps, photographs, picture postcards using the resources of the Forster Gyula National Heritage Protection and Property Management Centre, the Hungarian National Archives, special collections, and museum sources
- a detailed building description
- an inventory of the features of historical value in the building, systemising them from an architectural historic point of view
- the detailed survey documentation already mentioned
- an architectural history and plot history summary
- a list of the literature and sources used
- proposal for further research, for the preservation and management of the features of historical value documented in the inventory
- summary evaluation, a summarising proposal relating to the maintenance of the historic building.
In the construction permit decision, the Heritage Protection Authority prescribes or may prescribe various site inspection visits by the representatives of the authority to take place during the construction work to continuously check the observance of the requirements or to verify on site conditions that cannot be determined during the planning.
Not expressly belonging to the issue of historic buildings is the question of archaeological sites, but as this also is a heritage protection task, we mention here that if the construction site is a registered archaeological site, the heritage protection (archaeological) authority must be involved in the permit procedure. The authority may prescribe an excavation before the construction is started, the costs of which must be borne by the developer, and this may involve a delay in the start of the construction, which may be quite significant.