Bauska Castle

bauska-bandeau

General overview

Two strategic interventions created physical access to the castle and its new museum for visitors with mobility difficulties, while substantially preserving historic authenticity and heritage attractiveness.  The project also demonstrates how European funding criteria can be a lever for inclusive design. Beyond the project, funding criteria have supported discussion nationally about the accessibility of protected heritage sites.

Main access interventions  :

  1. Construction of a ramp to the main entry
  2. Installation of a lift inside the castle

Location :

Bauska, Latvia, approx. 44 miles (70 kms ) south of Riga.

Description :

  • ruins of a fortress built in 15th century by the order of the Livonian knights
  • a fortified castle erected at the end of 16th century by the dukes of Courland
  • a new museum built inside the castle as part of a major renovation and development programme (2006-2008)

Find out more :

Challenges

Heritage significance and attractiveness

  • classed an architectural and archeological monument of national importance
  • the only example of 15th-17th century military architecture of its kind in Latvia
  • the only medieval fortress in Latvia with an arsenal
  • a rare example of Mannerist trompe-l’oeil mural décoration, sgrafitto style
  • poetic atmosphere of the fortress ruins
  • situated in a nature reserve classed of European importance and on the territory of the old protected town of Bauska
  • national prize for best restoration (2002)
  • membership of the “Best in Heritage Excellence Club” by the European Association of Cultural Heritage (2006)
  • 37000 visitors per year and 55000 online (2013, for a country of 2 million inhabitants)Problèmes d’accessibilité avant travaux

Access challenges

  • inaccessible castle entry
  • inaccessible upper floors
  • uneven pathways

Approach

  • access works were planned as part of a vast programme of restoration and enhancement of the castle, supported e.g. by the European  Regional Development Fund ERAF (2006-2008, 2011-2014). Accessibility of the built environment is a funding condition of European funds.
  • the ambition to preserve the heritage quality of a unique place was at the heart of the project. Access facilities were thus considered as “atypical elements”, or “alien elements” the presence of which has to remain discreet.

Project

Creation of ramps

Only one solution presented itself for an accessible entrance: the creation of a ramp in the courtyard of the castle on the side of the flight of stairs with the smallest drop in height. Creating a new entrance for all on the outer façade would simply have been impossible (sizeable alterations and works would have been involved; the atmospheric effect of suddenly entering the courtyard would have been lost). The ramp runs the walls of the castle façade left to the entry. A small supporting wall in front of the ramp enables its integration. Built with traditional materials and methods, the wall represents a compromise which preserves the historic atmosphere.

Short portable ramps are installed on the ground floor and the upper floors to compensate for the differences in height at the door ledges.

Plan des aménagements d'accessibilité

1 – Plan with the access features: the external ramp and the et l’integration of the lift.

Façade du château et entrée du musée.La rampe et son muret.

2 – Facade of the castle and the entry to the museum

3 – The  ramp and its supporting wall

Integration of the lift

The installation of a lift to provide access to the upper floors required a more sizeable intervention. It was necessary, indeed, to shrink the dimensions of one room on each floor. It was imperative to devise a technical solution, that  would avoid an intervention on the roof. The castle being small, no signage has been installed to inform about the lift. Staff is tasked with informing visitors who might need to use the lift of its existence.

La rampe donne accès au rez-de chaussée, à la billetterie et à l'ascenseur.Vue de l'ascenseur.

4 – The ramp provides access to the ground-floor, the ticket desk and the lift 5 –

5 – Picture of the lift

Conclusion

Accessible pathways will be created during the third phase of the restoration programme to widen accessibility. These will allow a comfortable discovery of the poetic ruins of the adjacent fortress and access to the outdoor bar.

The choice of discreet interventions is most often appropriate for sites with a strong heritage atmosphere. Discretion raises questions however, for example about visibility and signage for visitors with a visual impairment. If signposting can be taken care of by  staff in smaller sites, access information online and on promotional materials cannot be dispensed with.

Players and processes

Players

  • Client : the administration of Bauska Castle and the Museum of Bauska Castle
  • Project Manager: architect Ināra Caunīte (Latvia) and Miloslav Hanzl (Czech Republic)
  • Experts : Ina Līne, exhibition manager

Processes

To respond to the accessibility challenge, the team gained knowledge of accessibility regulations for the built environment and some earlier access projects

Pictures and maps