Public spaces, symbols, commemoration

The overall image of a settlement is determined by its natural environment, the set­tlement type, the economic activity, social status, religion and living conditions of its inhabitants. The cultural orientation and tastes of a community are reflected not only in the houses, but also in the various objects situated in public spaces, cemeteries, grave­yards, landscape, confines, and vineyards, such as gates, fences, ramparts, bridg­es, economic and sacral memorials (chapels, belfries, calvaries, sculpture niches, roadside crosses). At the same time, their architectural, plastic style represents the provincial version of high art. Ever since the end of the 19th century, secular, national and political symbols and memorial markers have appeared in community spaces.

In the past, individual villages and microregions had a characteristic architectural image. In accordance with the determinant value system of peasant society, the streetscape of a settlement – apart from the architectural innovations of successive generations – was relatively uniform, but it also carried the signs of social and economic differences. Until the 1920s, the dwelling house was, according to local norms, rather restrained, not so much shaped by individual comfort, and innovations requiring investment were always implemented first on the economic buildings that were really important for the operation of the family economy. (The economic status and work ethic of a family was also evident in the neatness of their homestead.) The size and ornamentation of the gate indicated the wealth of the owner of the plot, perhaps even his craftsmanship. In shape and ornamentation, it fit into the sign system of the community’s material culture. Grave markers made by specialists revealed the religious denomination, gender, age, and even personal life history of the deceased. All of these elements expressed the social and community consciousness of the maker/client.

Since the 1950s, the unique character of the landscapes has been blurred by the spread of the uniform block buildings of the socialist era, and by the „buhera” (finagling, schem­ing) constructions of the consolidation period of the Kádár era. The need to discover folk art that emerged in the seventies was not just fueled by individual desires. Communities that once possessed a strong local or microregional identity were also seeking their place in the modernizing world. Looking back at their lives from a few decades earlier, they re-discovered the potential values in their fading and devalued peasant heritage. A number of public works were created at the artist camps organized by the „nomadic generation” movement. The research of ethnographers and artists aided the camps’ activities that often continued for years. There are examples of the image of entire set­tlements being redesigned, or of woodcarvers collecting and rehabilitating grave mark­ers from all over the country. The use of traditional architecture and decoration is not only related to traditional public objects. Playgrounds that meet today’s needs but are evocative of folk art design are also being built.

The renovation and restoration of historic buildings, sacral or economic monuments (e.g., mills) is an important step in improving the overall image of a settlement. It is rewarding to see individual initiatives in which the native residents or nonnative owners of holiday homes renovate a building, a gate, a homestead in good taste, respectful of its history, restoring the original doors