The Grenade Agreement on the protection of the European Architectural Heritage – which is operative in Hungary since 1990 – turns the task of defending our architectural heritage into an elementary task of regional and urban planning.

The most important statement of the International Charter for the Protection of Historic Cities, adopted on the Washington General Assembly of ICOMOS in 1987, is the fact that it handles the whole of the historic settlement as a unified historic monument.

Since that time, additional aspects have been invented in relation with the protection of our built heritage, and these justified the convocation of the Krakow 2000 Conference. Let us quote some of its theses respecting historic settlements:

1        The historic city is an organic unity, and its values (that facilitate life) that deserve protection are carried together with its inhabitants and those creations that are serving them.

2        The protection of the built heritage – taking into consideration the above statement – means latitudes more tasks than “classic monument protection” that concentrates only on individual buildings of outstanding value and their close environment. The new approach requires new, different methods. Among these new methods, the widespread enumeration of values and their local protection is of signal importance. It appears as a task of the local community and the local governments with their crucial participation and with the involvement of the widest possible range of the local society.

3        Along with the protection of material constituents, the protection of the intangible, spiritual elements and the “genius loci” is similarly important in a historic city.


With reference to all the above, it is intended to outline those new aspects, methods and instruments that has been applied by the Office for Monuments and Architectural Planning of VÁTI in the city of Debrecen, East Hungary, in the fields of settlement value research, protection and the conservation of settlement characteristics conveyors.


The working material titled “Historical environment, development of the city, cityscape features and protection of values” has been elaborated for the city-planning of Debrecen in 1998. It comprises the following chapters:

Ÿ         Settlement history

Ÿ         Changes in regional role

Ÿ         Most characteristic features of the society in the city

Ÿ         Development of the city

Ÿ         Changes in the physical dimensions of the city

Ÿ         Cityscape features

Ÿ         Monument protection

Ÿ         Local protection of values

There has not been any basic research for the preparation of the inspection material, we based it on the ample source material that was accessible.

At the inspections of the physical dimensions of the city, the first (1782-85), second (1829-66) and third (1872-84) military maps of Debrecen served as a basis, whereas the analysis of the consecutive maps appearing in a 30-year period on average (1910-1936-1967-1998) has been actuated by computer. (Figure 1.)

As a result of the inspection and as its most important achievement, we might state that the area of Debrecen – originating from four villages in the XII-XIII. centuries and circumvallated later on to form a 2-kilometre diameter circle – has reached its twenty-fold from the 1740’s to present times, whereas the number of inhabitants has not grown accordingly.

This tendency is still tangible, since unjustified building activity in the outskirts of the city continues, whereas claims occurring – regarding e.g. the inner city which is waiting for rehabilitation – would be easily answerable with the utilization of the actual intra area. This situation is further aggravated by the fact that the greatest loser of this expansion is the so-called Nagyerdő (Great Forest), north from the city. A 3-kilometre wide belt has already been sacrificed for the extensive growing.

The stormy history of the city – which results partly from its location –, the wars as well as fires occurring every 2-3 years till the end of the XIX. century and the accelerated development from that time, the new border-location after World War I. all played important role in the evolvement of the present structure and building stock. The latter period brought some advantages as well, the city turned into a university center this time, which is justified by the fact that buildings of the medical university are just being placed under national protection. However, the war and the accommodation of refugees caused emergency situations as well, the signs of which are still discoverable.

Bombings in WW II. as well as disrespectful architectural interference with the traditional city structure in the 1970’s are also tangible in the changed city structure and building stock.

The characteristic analysis – which is perhaps the most important inspection from the point of view of value protection – has been actuated in the preparation phase of the urban structure plan (masterplan) in 2000. This analysis served as a base for the „Programme for the protection of the cultural-historical and architectural heritage”. Results of the characteristic analysis are illustrated on a 1:100.000 scale outline character-map, which facilitated a due overview of characteristic buildings that served as a basis for the forthcoming regulation and protection.

In case of Debrecen, the character analysis discovered the following basic characters:

1. Inner city character

1.1    City center character

1.2    “Civis” (civic) city character[1]

2. “Taksás” site character[2]

3. Villadom

4. University district character

5. Blocks of flats character

6. Garden-city character

6.1 Traditional garden-city character

6.2 New garden-city character

7. “Kertségi” character[3]

7.1 Western “kertségi” character

7.2 Trans-rail “kertségi” character

8. “Külsőségi” character[4]

As it can be seen from this classification, names of peculiar features have an important accent in the arsenal of protection and in the apprehension of the “genius loci”, because using these well-known local names of the individual settlement parts with unique values is the best to identify an individual physical-spiritual environment through the memories of inhabitants, and this solution is perhaps the simplest mode of reaching the widest possible range of the local society.

Those typical characteristics of the built heritage, that must be conserved for the future, are thus rooted into the collective memory of the settlement, beside the cool memory of the computer.

As a continuation of the works, analogically with the cityscape and monument survey of Debrecen the 1950’s, part of a national survay which covered 78 cities in Hungary, VÁTI completed a digital map with about 300 available photographs that were taken with up-to-date computing methods for the character analysis. This map enables quick and easy retrieval of the individual sites and their distinctive characteristics.

It is an additional curiosity that the same map also contains – with easy handling options on the computer – 93 photographs taken in 1951 for the “Cityscape and monument analysis of Debrecen”. This enables such comparative analyses that must have an important role in the decision-making procedure concerning rehabilitation and cityscape planning as well as individual architectural decisions in the future.

The computer-processed CD, which consists of the value protection chapters, cityscape analysis preceding the definition of characters, introduction of the method and the present state of the city along with that of the 1950’s, is an easy to use valuable document for the after-ages.


A few more words on the protection of the architectural heritage of the city:

In Debrecen, the program registers a relatively large number of locally protected buildings for national monument protection, contains the draft of the value protection regulation, concerning lists and the digital map that facilitates easy overview of the present and planned protection level of the built heritage in the city. (Figure 2.)

Along with protection, the program has an offer for the introduction of a modern building-registry system as well, because the classification of the buildings has been done in Debrecen as an experiment, along with the preparation of the masterplan and with the cooperation of our office, in accord with Swiss methods geared and adapted to Hungarian circumstances.

The Swiss technical information system, called RECENSEMENT based on the individual inspection of buildings, has been attached to the character analysis.

This value-classification method was first introduced to the Hungarian experts in November 1998 on a work conference organized by the Hungarian National Committee of ICOMOS, in the framework of a presentation by Swiss experts, whereas the Debrecen testing was the first Hungarian actuation. 

The essence of the method is that a pre-made form helps the analysis of the buildings. Filling in starts with land-register data, which necessitates the examination of land-office registration data, since authentic data can only be retrieved from these sources. The following step is local data recording: inspection of the exterior of buildings, photographical documentation and classification of peculiar features with the aid of icons placed on the pre-made digital form. This facilitates computerized data processing and unique value designation.

Buildings are classified into seven categories. The first category comprises buildings of national importance. The second category means such buildings that require further research for their national level protection. Buildings worthy of measures for value protection steps form the third category (translated to Hungarian circumstances, this is approximately equal to the level of local protection). The fourth category consists of buildings well fitting their environment. The fifth contains those cumbered with some problem, whereas valueless buildings form the sixth category. Those requiring unconditional intervention belong to the seventh category.

Following value estimation, results of the survey are presented to the owners through a slideshow. The local government is also represented at this presentation and copies of data sheets are handed to the owners. Registration of the building in Switzerland is based on the categories and those falling in the first three categories will be inserted in the federal (national) register, in accord with the Swiss public administration. After affirmation, the fact of protection is officially published and the owners are informed in a resolution. Protection lays certain charges on the owners, although they have an opportunity to gain financial assistance for the rehabilitation and due maintenance of their buildings.

The system provides further assurance, since breaking down buildings belonging to the first four categories is prohibited.

In the canton of Vaud (Switzerland) a number of app. 70 thousand buildings have been analyzed for the past 20 years, and their data sheets are now accessible. 70 per cent of the survey costs has been paid by the Swiss state, whereas the local governments have provided 30 per cent.

According to their experience, filling in required 1,9 hour on average and the wages added up to 10 per cent of the total registration costs. Provision of the professional supervision required one to one and a half man-power.


As of Debrecen, this city only had to provide half-year accommodation and office allocation for two Swiss colleagues in two periods, in exchange for valuable analysis data on 678 buildings in that most valuable area of the city, which is the richest in architectural values deserving protection. (Figure 2.)

The Hungarian translation of data sheets and help documentation necessary for their filling-in has been prepared in the first phase of adaptation, in 1999. As a practical application of the method – with the aid of this data sheet – in 1999, about 100  buildings were analyzed and documented in the monumental environment of the Calvinist Great Church.


Buildings were classified into seven categories accordingly. After adaptation, the gained categories – adjusted to the Hungarian circumstances – were as follows:


Category 1: Nationally protected, monumental buildings

Category 2: Locally protected, worthy of national protection

Category 3: Locally protected

Category 4: Buildings well fitting their environment or worthy of local protection

Category 5: Having certain qualities, though not excellent

Category 6: Uninteresting

Category 7: Not fitting into their environment


As a continuation of the work in 2000, the total analysis of the monumental environment has been accomplished. The map-processing of classified buildings gives an outline of the monumental environment of the Church and discloses strategic fields of intervention, serving as thorough assistance for tasks concerning rehabilitation.

For the provision of quick access, the computerized processing of data sheets – containing digital photographs – has also been done; these can be attached with the digital map.


VÁTI – also from its own resources – is presently working on the development of the method, aiming at the facilitation of computerized data sheet filling in at the locations (by notebooks) and of data retrieval by icons on the data sheets. (Figure 3.)


Figure 3. – Digital data sheet

This development does not essentially change the structure of the data sheet, the first series of data remains to be administrative data as outlined above. Then follows the value estimation and a list of planned measures, and finally, the type of the building with its present function and condition.

Among the factual features of a building, the most important is the orientation of the elevation, but the mode of building and the number of floors are also recorded. Thus we reach the architectural characteristics: pressing a certain button of the “data sheet”, the computer records the type of the roofage, the material of the roof, information on the roof windows, it “describes” the appearance of the façade, the type of ornamentations, the form of doors and windows, their ornamentation and framework. Digital photographs of the building can be attached to the data sheet and individual features can also be recorded within this digital form.

In accord with the international declarations concerning historic settlements, our aim is to develop such a new instrument that is capable of a widespread enlisting of values and – within Hungarian circumstances – of the total data recording of monumental buildings and total building stock in their environment, as well as of the processing of the evolving data base, founding a new practice in our country. This might as well mean a new market area for VÁTI.

Computerized administration – in case of consistent data recording – with the facility of data retrieval through categories or icons, opens up new perspectives in the field of value protection.

The method under elaboration, which is adaptated to Hungarian circumstances, is probable to be in request on behalf of the National Monument Office as well as the local governments.

Experiences of the Debrecen testing are utilized at the development of the data sheet.


The opinion of the Swiss colleagues is worthy of thinking over. Their general impression is that documentations in Hungary that they witnessed have been very precise and well archived, but these documentations are not connected into a working structure.

It is enough to refer to the above mention cityscape and monumental surveys from the 1950’s, which preserve unreproducible information on 78 Hungarian cities in some plan archives and records, on a state of the buildings almost 50 years ago, after the war and before the socialist recovery work. This issue is almost forgotten and unavailable nowdays.


It is also to be mentioned that the western countries – like Switzerland – that work consciously in the past 15-20 years on those methods that are by now essential to any actions concerning renovations, have already elaborated such software solutions that are capable of analyzing financial possibilities to be used in the individual renovations.

They perceived well in advance those presently seen processes that lead to the upvaluation of the built heritage and their large-scale renovation.

According to Swiss data, more than half of the building-trade consists of renovation and maintenance work. They have developed the so-called EPIQR method, which – apart from the aesthetic renovation of buildings – aims the renewal of the energy-consumption of the building, the processing of occurring wastes, also keeping in view the need for increasing the comfort of flats under renovation. In the first phase, all possible fragments of data are collected, which enables a diagnosis of the general condition of the building. Then the amplitude of necessary work is analyzed and financial effects of the planned interventions are juxtaposed.

It is an important aspect that after the renovation, energy consumption of the building should be as minimal as possible, whereas interior comfort of the flats must be the highest possible.


Finally, let me add some thoughts to the integrated conservation.

The short overview of the introductory part shows the process that is tangible through the change of the concepts of architectural heritage, overall and holistic interpretation of the built environment, local protection of settlement segments that consist of after all everyday buildings, upvaluation of the connection of the settlement and the landscape.

The value of such a wholly interpreted heritage is further increased if buildings that are traditionally taken as monuments are also present in the architectural environment.

This process might have been triggered by the appearance of residential areas in the 60’s and 70’s, which might seem to be spiritless with its uniform features, causing a surge in efforts for the protection of the local environment as a counter-reaction.

Thus, the architectural heritage has gradually turned into a part of the cultural heritage and the „European Charter of Architectural Heritage” introduced the concept of integrated conservation in 1975, whereas the above mentioned „Grenade Agreement” complemented it with the definicion of various forms of the architectural heritage.

The new approach – with the need of the widest possible involvement of the local population – facilitated the appearance of more general, overall value protection conceptions. A stricter connection has been founded between culture and environment, drawing attention on the principle of sustainable development, compelling to make a balance in the rate of conservation and new building.

Therefore, integrated conservation is a combination of renovation and rehabilitation. Its aim is the general improving of life circumstances, and the development of the local economy, employment and private investments. These are accompanied by social flat building programmes, the conservation of the values of the built environment, preparation for the reception of new functions and the appearance of new economical, social and cultural values.

Integrated protection deserves systematic planning and the consideration of the cultural and economical capabilities in the actual building stock. This facilitates the conservation and reinforcement of the actual social, economic and cultural infrastructure. The trust of investors can be gained through active planning policy, strong political commitment and common participation.


Integrated protection is that way – contrary to those interpretations referring to the protection of all elements of our environment – a conservation form integrated into development, which requires the adoption and application of those new methods and instruments that are introduced through the example of Debrecen, and which have turned into compelling needs even in our region by present times.



- Erzsébet Harrach: Preparatory works for the local protection in Switzerland
(A helyi védelmet előkészítő munkák Svájcban)
Műemlékvédelem (“Monument protection”) periodical, 1999/2

- Bálint Orosz: Methodology presentation and professional discourse –
Debrecen, 14th December, 1999.
(Módszertani bemutató és szakmai véleménycsere)
Műemlékvédelem (“Monument protection”) periodical, 2000/2

- Bálint Orosz: Geographical Information System (GIS) in the research of the urban character
(Térinformatika a települési karakterkutatásban)
Falu Város Régió (“Villiga, City, Region”) periodical 2000/8



[1] The name „civis” means those (not too many) citizens who had civil profession but had to deal with agriculture too and had the vote.

[2] The name „taksás” refers to certain sites that were given to villains who had to pay an annual fee for site. This amount was called „taksa”.

[3] „Kertségi” refers to an area that was previously a vineyard system.

[4] The name „Külsőség”  refers to the outskirts of the city and the surroundings settlements


List of illustrations

Illustration 1. Changes in the physical dimensions of the city – Debrecen

Illustration 2. Debrecen, inner city– National and local territorial protection

Illustration 3. Digital data sheet



In sound accord with international declarations, the Monument Office of VÁTI applies new methods and instruments in the investigation and protection of settlement values, and in the definition of characteristics conveyors. These new methods were introduced on the example of a Hungarian city, Debrecen. The character survey of the city has been discharged in 2000.

VÁTI attached about 300 available photographs, which were taken with the help of up-to-date computing instruments for the character analysis, to a digital map. A 50-year-old photographical documentation of the value survey of the city has also been attached to the same map, and all these has been documented on a CD, together with chapters on value protection.

Thus the present state of the city can be juxtaposed with that some 50 years ago, which is a valuable document for the after-ages.

Along with the value surveys, VÁTI participated in the introduction of a modern building-registration system as well. The technical information system, which is based on the preparation of data sheets through the individual survey of the buildings, this Swiss method of “RECENSEMENT” has been adapted and tested in Debrecen.

VÁTI – also from its own development resources – is presently working on the development of the method, aiming at the facilitation of computerized data sheet filling in at the locations (by notebooks) and of data retrieval by icons on the data sheets. Data sheets can be connected with the digital map of the city.

This new instrument is capable of a widespread enlisting of values and – within Hungarian circumstances – of the total data recording of monumental buildings and total building stock in their environment, as well as of the processing of the evolving data base, founding a new practice in our country.

Integrated conservation – a conservation form integrated into development - requires the adoption and application of these new methods and instruments, which have turned into compelling needs even in our region by present times.