How to Breathe in a New Life into “Houses on the Hills” 

As in other peripheral areas, the mountainous Idrija-Cerkno region has been facing the problem of emigration for years, which has led to the consequent deterioration of the buildings left behind. Isolated farms, workers' residences and townhouses rapidly lose their original charm and image if they are not properly maintained. How can we prevent the residential heritage of our ancestors from disappearing and preserve the cultural landscape and the traditional knowledge associated with it? As part of the House on a Hill project at the ID20 Institute, we are thinking about solutions and developing plans to effectively connect entrepreneurship and cultural heritage.

How to Bring a House on the Hills into the 21st Century?

At the ID20 Institute, we want to define and test a comprehensive support service for private investors in the identification, purchase, interpretation, renovation, and management of the built residential structures with cultural heritage significance in the Idrija-Cerkno region. In 2022, we prepared an inventory of potential buildings for renovation and connected with building owners interested in cooperation. We are preparing a business model, a marketing plan, and a marketing campaign to present the facilities to the world and prevent further deterioration. The House on the Hill project is about preserving residential heritage; it offers an opportunity to breathe new life into overlooked buildings and bring them into the 21st century.

Miners’ house Giser in Idrija. Photo: Nejc Menard

From Miners’ Houses to Secluded Farms

Over the past years, the ID20 Institute has put much effort into renovating the miners’ house Giser in Idrija. With the help of teams of international volunteers, we took care of the essential protection of the house and its surroundings. We want to add other buildings to the success story of the revival of the house Giser. In the past months, we combed urban settlements and rural areas all over the region and identified potential heritage buildings. The buildings were selected based on the building's heritage elements; we inspected protected and unprotected buildings. Additional criteria were also related to the authenticity of the architecture, location and access, placement in the space, building physics, ownership, and the estimated assessment of the necessary input. The list of buildings suitable for renovation includes four houses in Idrija and another five buildings, mostly isolated farms, in the surrounding rural area. We have identified an additional six houses in the Cerkno region that would be suitable for renovation. Many buildings on the list have the status of protected farms or are listed in the Register of Cultural Heritage, which is why their preservation is even more critical.

The secluded farm in Sevnica pri Reki. Photo: debelakau_mako

Returning to the Countryside

With the project, we are targeting a segment of international buyers who are ready to invest their capital in our region and, at the same time, contribute to the preservation of heritage homes. We want to present the buildings with the most significant potential to investors and help them renovate the facilities and add creative solutions, thereby contributing to the preservation of rural settlements. Tendencies to return to nature and revisit traditional living patterns have accelerated again during the COVID-19 epidemic. With the closure of public life, the big cities became confining for all those who did not have the opportunity to retreat to the periphery. The shutdown of life was less significant in smaller towns, but in the countryside, things went on unchanged. This realisation has led many people to think about establishing a second home, which allows them to retreat from the busy urban life to a more laid-back, natural, and peaceful environment. The House on the Hills will make this a possibility.

The Republic of Slovenia and the European Union co-financed the project from the European Regional Development Fund, the Ministry of Culture, and the Centre for Creativity.