9th Regional Restoration Camp in Gjirokastra organized by Cultural Heritage without Borders

The ninth Regional Restoration Camp was held in Gjirokastra, Albania. 41 students and professionals from all over the Balkans and other countries gathered in Gjirokastra to learn new skills, and celebrate common cultural heritage. The objective of the restoration camp is to raise the level of education of young professionals from the region, through hands-on work and creating a regional network of professionals.

In a rich blend of theory and practice, participants took in morning lectures from conservation and restoration leaders from Albania, Bosnia, Greece, Spain, Sweden and the UK. Then, they went out to their worksites to put into practice some of what they had been taught, under the careful guidance of a master craftsman and a project architect.

Some of the participants came from regional cultural institutions, many others were students of architecture or engineering, archaeology or heritage management – for most, this was their first chance to work hands-on with the care and conservation of a cultural monument.

During this camp, participants worked at four heritage sites around Gjirokastra, Babaramo house, Skenduli House, Kikino House and the archaeological site of the ancient city of Antigonea. At the Babaramo and Skenduli houses, students worked with wood and stone to restore the entrance gates, giving these buildings a restored touch right from the start. And the design and construction of the entrance gate followed the model of what had been there before.

Another group at the Skenduli house, one of Gjirokastra's finest remaining tower houses, worked to consolidate the lime plaster and conserve the paintings on the exterior of one of the building's two wings.

Two other groups worked at the Kikino house, high on a hill with a sweeping view of the city and valley. There, one group worked with wood; in a delicate operation, they replaced the rotted portions of an upper floor exterior colonnade and secured their work against future moisture damage. Another group worked on consolidating and conserving the painted plaster portions of the wall.

The final group headed across the valley from the city of Gjirokastra to work at the archaeological site of the ancient city of Antigonea. Their goal was to develop a usage and interpretation plan that would make Antigonea alive and accessible to all visitors.

After two weeks of intense but rewarding work and study, the participants received their certificates of completion. But for many of them, this experience was more than just obtaining a piece of paper. It was about encountering cultural heritage in a tangible way, engaging with a local community and forging lifelong connections to people and place.