Waking a cultural Sleeping Beauty

Once upon a time, the Constanta Casino in Constanta on the Black Sea, eastern Romania, was so magnificent that it won the admiration of Russia's Czar Nicholas II.

Today, more than a century later, the rafters are home to nesting pigeons which flutter around the chandeliers, while the marble floor and elegant sweeping staircase are covered in the birds' excrement and feathers.

In hopes of restoring the emblematic Art Nouveau monument to its former glory, an association of Romanian architects, Arche, has had the casino placed on a list of the most endangered sites collated by heritage group Europa Nostra.

It is also organising concerts and lectures to encourage residents to reappropriate and make use of the site.

The mobilisation of support to save Romania's heritage is encouraging to Ms Maria Berza, an expert in cultural policy.

For too long, architectural heritage was treated as a "cultural Cinderella", she said. Today, it is more "a Sleeping Beauty, which is just waking up".

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 16, 2018, with the headline 'Waking a cultural Sleeping Beauty'. Print Edition | Subscribe