By Federico Sinigaglia & Giorgia Pizzato – Mad’in Europe

European cultural heritage is in danger. Historic houses, medieval walls, mills and castles are under siege once more. Severe weather events, invasive plants and pollution are threatening walls that have stood for centuries. Many of these are abandoned or for sale, because of a lack of means to preserve them. More than 1.000 castles are for sale only in France! Without expert conservation our heritage could crumble, their stories lost forever, and our landscape be changed irrevocably. Many associations around the world and passionate individual entrepreneurs are mobilising to save these invaluable monuments from the oblivion. Their common goal: find solutions to manage, administrate and finally save these sites.

The social mobilization, the results achieved, and the follow-up obtained demonstrate the effectiveness of collective actions towards the restoration and salvage of our cultural heritage. Nevertheless, none of these achievements could be possible without the know-how embodied in thousands of craftsmen and different historical trades that are slowly but constantly disappearing. Hence, the transmission of this knowledge to future generations is pivotal for our society to keep our past alive and move towards the future.

Mad’in Europe has decided to start a series of articles dedicated to historic buildings renovation; process, strategies, business models, and of course… Know how! You are all welcome to contribute by sending suggestions and information at

Episode 1 – Crowdfunding

Only a small percentage of monuments gets funding for restoration from governments through tax credits or subsidies. What about the others? A new phenomenon appeared in the last years. Some monuments are saved thanks to Crowdfunding initiatives. The practice consists in funding a project by raising capital from a large number of people (the crowd) who each contribute a relatively small amount, typically via the Internet. Hence, it allows to donate money to historical decaying sites in exchange for a stake in the project represented by shares or by in kind contribution. In this way, individuals may express their love for history, heritage and at the same time increase local tourism, create economic value and support sustainable business models.

Become co-owner of a castle through Crowdfunding: How does it work?

A good example is given by the partnership between “Dartagnans”, a crowdfunding online platform,and “Adopte un Chateau”. They join forces not only to prevent castles from decaying but also to give them a second life, by fostering tourism, and economic activities. Tangible success of their partnership is the first worldwide collective purchase of Château de la Mothe-Chandeniers, which gathered 27,910 enthusiastic joint owners, from 115 countries.

Crowdfunding is also the solution adopted in the Netherlands by the Duivenvoorde Foundation ( for the construction of a visitor’s pavilion that serves for several functions: reception (ticket sales, information), museum shop, and catering establishment.

Kasteel duivenvoorde
Duivenvoorde Castle – Netherland

The castle, which has roots back in the 13th century, and has been renovated several times through the centuries was entrusted to a foundation in 1960 by Baroness Ludolphine Henriette Schimmelpenninck van der Oye and later on was opened to the public as a museum. Nowadays, the building is offered as a wedding venue and for exclusive business meetings. Donors can buy shares of a perpetual loan of €500, that annually distributes 3% interest and entitles to an annual (family) hiking ticket for the castle’s park and an annual reception at the castle.

Castello sammezzano interno

SAVE SAMMEZZANO! In Italy one of the most important examples of eclectic architecture, “Castello di Sammezzano” is part of a movement called “Save Sammezzano” whose aim is to restore and transform the castle into a museum after it was left to rot for 30 years.

Commissioned during the 19th century by the Marquess Panciatichi Ximenes D’Aragona, it was used since the 70s as an hotel and set of several movies, the most important “Tale of Tales” with Vincent Cassel.

HOW TO FEEL LIKE A “CHATELAIN” ! . Likewise, the Kinloch Castle in Scotland, in the Island of Rum, previously owned by The Bullough family, was restored through a crowdfunding campaign. The aim of the project, managed by the Kinloch Castle Friends Association is to offer visitors the possibility to live as a “chatelain” by occupying some of the castle’s room.

Kinloch castle jpg
Kinloch Castle – Scotland

In addition, a variety of products are available as a souvenir of this experience. Contribution is asked to people not only in financial form but also with voluntary work. Indeed, people can help in the clean up or decoration of the castle’s rooms. Moreover, any fundraising suggestions and skills are welcome including of course craftsmanship how-how.

San gimignano bastione mura

San gimignano mura

ADOPT A ROCK IN TUSCANY ! The town council of San Gimignano , a small walled medieval town in Tuscany which was nominated UNESCO heritage in 1990, launched a crowdfunding scheme to collect funds to repair part of the famous walls which collapsed few years ago. Indeed, the walls surround part of the town giving it a unique skyline. With the hashtag #pietradopopietra (translated #stoneafterstone) the town council allows donors to “adopt” a rock of the walls to save an extremely important touristic attraction of Italy.
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FRANCE – Salon International du Patrimoine Culturel (International Cultural Heritage Fair)  (Paris)

This 25-year-old fair has become not only the oldest but also the leading heritage fair in Europe for professionals in cultural heritage restoration. Hosted in the prestigious Carrousel du Louvre in Paris, this event is a reference in the sector of built, non-built, tangible and intangible heritage restoration and preservation crafts. Every year for 5 years Mad’in Europe introduced some of its members in a collective stand.

CRAFTSMEN:  The modern heroes of our heritage
All these initiatives would not be possible without the thousands of craftsmen involved in the renovation and preservation! Blacksmiths, stonecutters, sculptors , carpenters, carvers, engravers, roofer, restorer of furniture, painters, glass masters, plasterer, floor-layer, gilders, ceramists, cabinet makers… Thanks to their know how in traditional techniques and materials, and to their capacity to integrate innovation, they are the giving a future to our past. Let’s meet some of them !

Thomas brown2

Thomas Brown and his workshop London Stone Carving focus on historical sculpture and ornamental/ architectural enrichments. “Carving stone demands more than a mastery of the craft” declares Thomas. Indeed, the carver must supplement their skills with knowledge of period style, ornament and construction techniques to interpret designs and produce work for any context whether it is traditional, classical or contemporary.

Despond roofing

The smell of freshly cut spruce, fills the tavillonneur’s workshop of Florian Despond. The art of the Tavillonneurs is timeless, but only few craftsmen in Switzerland are still performing it. To create perfect tavillons the quality of the wood is pivotal and only the wood from spruce trees must be used. As Despond suggests, a good tree must have grown slowly so that its veins are tight. It must have very little knots and do not have any splits otherwise the tavillon gets deformed over time.


Enrico Trolese is a professional plasterer that works using Venetian Marmorino: a unique type of lime. This trade constitutes an important heritage of craftsmanship that “I feel compelled to preserve and develop” states Enrico. Venetian marmorino is a mixture of slaked lime and powdered marble. At least eight coating are layered by the plasterer to create that transparent look which is the signature of Marmorino.

Atelier Luciole

Pascale Vallon is a gilder specialized in wood restoration, sculptures and church furniture. Gilding is the process of decorating with gold, silver or metal leaf internal and external surfaces by applying an oil or water based adhesive size to the surface.

Danielle Adjoubel, influenced by her Turkish heritage, designs and creates customized handmade ceramic and porcelain art pieces. Focusing on the Iznik style of the Ottoman empire, Danielle’s artwork featured on: mural panels in houses and hotels, swimming pools, decorative ceramic tiles, vases and original tableware.

Grand Panneau de faïence, composé de 54 carreaux, décor sous émail, pour un jardin
Danielle Adjoubel – Grand Panneau de faïence, composé de 54 carreaux, décor sous émail,

In Sicily, Sammartino e Delfino combine monochromatic and polychromatic colours to create decorative motifs on ceramic objects and tiles, in the full respect of the renown traditional ceramics of Caltagirone.

Michelangela Sammartino - Ceramiche di Caltagirone
Michelangela Sammartino – Ceramiche di Caltagirone

To stay in ceramics, let’s mention the glazed clay tiles and wall decorations by Karina Witkowska. Each design is inspired by nature, Polish folklore and the history of art. “It is said that things change over time, the truth is that we have to change them” states Karina.


Marc Escalier - Belgium

Marc Van Obbergen has over 26 years experience in stairs making. There is no software calculating his works! Everything is still designed and calculated in the traditional way. There is “no need of a computer to make incredible stairs” claims Marc. The layout is drawn on the floor on a real size paper in the workshop and all parts are calculated and designed gradually. Modernity is brought by the style and by the ability to insert metal or glass in the stairs, depending on the wishes of the customer.

Ransy 3

Thierry Ransy, inherited the profession of “parqueteur” (joiner) from his father. His environment-friendly approach merges the design and the elegance of traditional floors and the traditional wood species with new techniques focused to improve the thermal and phonic performances of the parquet floors.

SOME READING: Companion to European Heritage Revivals

Book cover

Turning a so-called ‘heritage revival’ into a meaningful experience can be a real challenge.  This book tells us how heritage can play a vibrant role in creating public enthusiasm for the past and in motivating people to become further acquainted with the cultural-historical foundations of their daily life. It discusses a vast array of ‘heritage revival tools, including games, historical re-enactments, 3D-visualisations, films, documentaries, spatial designs and, most importantly, international heritage routes to foster cultural tourism. (Linde Egberts and Koos Bosma, 2014, Springer and Cham).

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