Stone, being the main building material of Tzoumerka region, crafted a unique particular built environment, which extends beyond the renowned settlement boundaries, comprising a coherent mountain landscape with a strong sense of place. The salient presence of stone, awakens the desire to investigate the local tangible heritage and social history, as well as the intangible heritage of the Stone Craft: the presence and practice of the stone masons and their so called Bouloukia, groups of craftsmen, and helpers who traveled while building (and vice versa), advancing their art and constructing a wide system of knowledge.
This knowledge has been tightly linked to the practice of stone masonry; given the conditions of each particular project, which also constituted an educational process. Therefore, the realisation of the project, the process of knowledge and the teaching of the art, become an inseparable whole. It is a fact that the craft is fading, being displaced by the contemporary building techniques and materials, as well as by the transformation of the economic and social terms, the very things that made it flourish once. A very important aspect of this issue, is that the stone structures themselves – documents of an era and knowledge archives are lost or degraded, after being severely altered by newer interventions.
The restoration of Plaka bridge (which is to strictly follow the traditional building methods) was the reason for us, to rake up the local knowledge and look for the last masons, who are capable and willing to share their skill, as well as the younger professionals who are currently working with stone. On this direction, Boulouki made a list of all the local craftsmen and professionals that could be found at the time around the Tzoumerka region, as an effort to map and assess the carriers of traditional knowledge. Discovering the older craftsmen, whose experience with stone masonry is in accordance with the traditional rules and ways, has been the most exciting part of the research.
Main purpose of this workshop -and also requirement for its success- is the connection with the local community; with its current affairs, its needs and symbolic references. Within this context, an association with the Plaka bridge and its restoration is pursued. The workshop is proposed to take place adjacent to the bridge. The practical part aims at shedding light on every step of the building process, starting from the selection of suitable material and its extraction from the quarry, to the hewing and chipping of the stone and the building techniques. More specifically, the focus will be on the three constructional elements of a traditional stone bridge, i.e. the building of the arch with the help of a formwork, the building of a wall and the construction of the cobbled passage.
At the same time, a series of theoretical and technical lectures by acknowledged academics will take place, supporting the practical part. The workshop is addressed to local stone masons – who will be invited to participate without a fee, but also to individuals, who are interested in traditional architecture, architectural heritage and cultural heritage management. Following the open call, 16 participants will be chosen. Additionally, during the workshop, subjects regarding the promotion and prominence of the monument and restoration site, as well as the landscaping of the surrounding area and improving the access to the monument will be discussed. The ideas and proposals that might emerge, will be presented by the participants at the end of the workshop and will be submitted to the stakeholders.
Furthermore, the workshop is proposed to serve as a motive for young professionals and researchers from all around Greece and abroad, to get in touch with other aspects of the local traditions. Visits to sites of cultural interest and interaction with the activities of local communities is suggested towards this direction. Besides, the cultural association of Prosilio has already offered to include a screening within the workshop area, during their annual summer film festival.
Another objective of the workshop is to contribute to the mobilisation and preparation of the local human resources, considering the upcoming restoration, in order to make the best of the multiple opportunities that an occasion of such importance has to offer. In other words, apart from the unique opportunity to showcase the art of stone masonry, the restoration project offers a fruitful ground for the stimulation of the local community and the beginning of a discussion concerning the needs and development prospects of the region. From this point of view, the restoration site of the bridge can become the meeting place for craftsmen and academics, students, local residents and bodies, making this attempt a communal acquisition of many different groups.