Turning tradition into Futures

Can future development – both societal and economic profit from including knowledge of cultural heritage into present-day projects and innovations. We at HLB think so, and have showed how to in Norwegian settings. This time we visited Timisoara, Romania to discuss if such opportunities could be pursued also there

December 09. to December 12. 2018, Rhys Evans and Johan Barstad from Høgskulen for Landbruk og bygdeutvikling (HLB) carried out a visit to colleagues at the Polytechnic University of Timisoara, Romania (UPT).  The visit vas financed and carried out through the RO-CULTURA program – a programme aiming at cultural Entrepreneurship, Cultural heritage and Cultural Exchange between Romania and Norway (the EEA-grants, see more at www.eeagrants.org)

The main intentions of the visit was to network and to discover common interests that can be pursued together to create projects and other forms of cooperation. Specifically we had an aim to look at potentials regarding the traditional water-management traditions. Both countries are at risk for flooding, in need to ensure water quality and accessibility both for consumption, irrigation and sewage/renovations.

We know from research that there often is a lacking between the knowledge of what ought to be done, what are best practices – and what is eventually implemented. We also know that best practice often is determined more at the technical-biological level rather than at the politico-societal level; solutions are often suggested without emphasizing what in fact is feasible, both from an economical point of view and from a societal: what are stakeholders willing to accept).

But this is not a new situation. Such water management have been necessary since way back in time. In fact, various means for water management are seen as one of the cornerstones our societies and cities are founded upon.  Thus we met for a two-day workshop in Timisoara with the intention to discuss if and how traditional knowledge, local cultural-based ways of finding solutions could be identified and lifted up to enlighten the present-day discussion.

The Bega river flows through Timisoara. Even if this is not the most flooding-prone of waterways in Romania, there still are histories and traditions connected to flood-risk management. In our discussion we decided to look further into if and how the hinterlands and the agricultural lands upstream of the city have been involved as an area for dikes, for polders and possibly for preventive flooding to save the urban area. This is a highly relevant subject to study and both HLB and UPT are members in an COST action focusing on this issue (www.land4flood.eu).

Our home region, Jæren, is in many ways similar to the flatlands around Timisoara. Rivers flowing through a variable landscape, from mountains/hinterlands towards the ocean through agricultural areas and finally cities and towns as it reaches the coast. Here we also find traditional methods for flood control and prevention.

It was therefore decided that we will pursue this and develop into a collaborative application. We will aim both for the EEA-grants financing, building a project that will fit into the coming calls, and we will extend our collaboration to include also other European countries to address future calls on the European level.

In addition to this issue, we also spent considerable time to discuss other potential ideas:

  • Collaborating in developing a technical museum highlighting the experiences at the faculty of communication sciences and the faculty of civil engineering as the University turns 100 years. Timisoara will become European City of Culture in 2025, and it would be desirable to mark tis by having a museum opened. We agreed to continue this discussion and to see if and how HLBs methodology of societal entrepreneurship and repurposing might be applied.
  • A potential project to raise awareness of the city of Timisoara as a center for industry; to describe the industrial culture from more than a century back, with a focus on the remains of buildings and sites around the city. Try to identify cultural elements of particular interest/relevance, elaborate how the tradition can be transformed and brought into present day/future development
  • Using new technology to build better models and higher quality documentation. There is interest in building knowledge on using 3D-laser measurement technology to learn more about traditional activities, e.g LADAR etc. to look for remains of hidden cultural elements. This is especially interesting when exploring traditional water-management technologies, as many may have been covered and are no longer viewable with the open eye
  • Rhys Evans of HLB brought our experiences with using local cultural aspects to build new commercial/civil opportunities to the knowledge of our colleagues. E.g how we have worked with local boat-builders cultures and traditions to enable e.g. the North sea ring for traditional boats. We will together discover if there are viable avenues to pursue these also in the Timisoara area.

Further, we had two days of interchange and discussions on a general level, meant to teach us from HLB a bit more about life and culture in Timisoara. We did a walking tour of the city where we could keep on the discussion while seeing the elements of interest. This ‘walking seminar’ was highly successful, as we could stop and discuss whenever a point of interest occurred.

In the daytime – at our walking seminar – we could revisit the cathedral
A view of the market with the cathedral – at night











View from the airport – large flatlands stretching in all directions. Agriculture and long traditions of water management


The final day we had time left after arriving at the airport. We ended up sitting by the window admiring the wide flatlands, and discussing how the landscape embeds itself into the mindset and cultural aspects of a region. This is one issue we absolutely would like to pursue in a future visit.



Bryne, December 2018

Johan Barstad