Terra Firma in Transylvania

I don’t think my feet have touched the ground since returning from my fieldwork in Romania two weeks ago. My work with Terra Firma has sent me there twice before, but this time I was accompanied by Ramune on her first visit to the Transylvanian Goldfields. I knew I was in for a bumpy ride (literally), but Ramune quickly learned that our fieldwork would be far more intrepid than usual.

Terra Firma at work in Romania
Ramune doing fieldwork in Corna Valley

Rosia Montana Gold Corporation (RMGC) have appointed us to extend the Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment (LVIA) study we previously carried out for the setting of the historic village of Rosia Montana. Our job is to demonstrate that the proposed open-cast gold mining operations can be acceptable in the landscape context, and integrate with the existing cultural heritage. Considering the nature of extracting the rock from the mountain sides, that’s not an easy task from the perspective of a Landscape Architect. However, this project is a truly fascinating one, bringing into play so many facets of related criteria, (such as sociology, demography, archaeology, biodiversity, economics, mining technology and the science of decontamination techniques) which go to make-up a genuine need for the industry.

Our study has taken a twist that deviates from the original brief to ‘integrate with the existing cultural heritage’. We believe that the landscape will be part of the future cultural heritage, and that we have a unique opportunity to shape it with a Landscape Strategy, which will lead on to Landscape Masterplanning, and eventually detailed design – especially where the future tailings facility in the Corna Valley effectively presents us with an empty and level plane to work on.


Terra Firma study in Apuseni Nature Park
Our jeep on 'safari' in the Apuseni Nature Park

On this occasion, our fieldwork to define the baseline conditions around Rosia Montana involved travelling around the Apuseni mountains, in order to gain a comparative appreciation of the landscape in question. The comparison is truly astonishing, highlighting how neglected and despoiled the landscape at Rosia Montana is after a millennia of mining around the village. The nearby Apuseni nature park is a breathtaking wilderness of vast proportions that I don’t recall having seen elsewhere. It probably remains as wilderness because it’s virtually impossible to get there – as we discovered to our cost having been thrown around in the back of a Jeep for 8 hours on gravel tracks, teetering over the edge of dramatic cliff edges. Oh, and there are bears and wolves there too. Life certainly isn’t dull as a Landscape Architect!

Terra Firma at work in Apuseni Nature Park
Martin doing fieldwork (having a stroll) in Apuseni Nature Park

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