Quaderni della Casa Romena di Venezia IX, 2012 Head Up! Romanian National Participation in the New Gallery of the Romanian Institute for Culture and Humanistic Research at the 13th International Architecture Biennale Venice
Romanian Cultural Institute Romanian Institute for Culture and Humanistic Research in Venice
AUTHORS: Silviu Aldea, Marius Cătălin Moga, Camelia Sisak, Tamás Sisak (Atelier MASS) COMMISSIONER: Monica Morariu DEPUTY COMMISSIONERS: Alexandru Damian, Bogdan Tofan CURATOR: Silviu Aldea IllUSTRATIONS: Alina Bradu EDITOR: Arhitext design Foundation DESIGN & DTP: Faber Studio PUBlISHER: Romanian Cultural Institute IN PARTNERSHIP WITH: Atelier MASS, Arhitext design Foundation ORGANIZERS: Romanian Cultural Institute, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Romanian Institute for Culture and Humanistic Research, Ministry of Culture and National Heritage, Union of Architects
Foreword Since 2010, Romania has participated in the Venice Biennale – both at the Art Biennale and at the Architecture Biennale – with two national projects: one in the New Gallery of the Romanian Institute of Culture and Humanistic Research and the other one in the Romanian pavilion from Giardini del Castello. Together with «Play Mincu: the Architecture Stamp», the «Head up!» project offers a different interpretation of the «Common Ground» theme proposed by Sir David Chipperfield for the 13th edition of the Architecture Biennale from Venice, 2012. The national participation of Romania in the New Gallery of IRCCU will build a virtual utopian world by recreating clouds on earth and land in the sky (ceiling), through which the possibility of some solutions to universal problems arises. Even though the exhibition of young architects Silviu Aldea, Marius Cătălin Moga, Camelia Sisak and Tamás Sisak includes references to the Romanian architectural landscape, these are dissolved / included in the «soft utopia» concept, which I recommend as a general model of reflection on the problems of the contemporary world. Here I want to emphasize a unique fact, and I do not know whether it has ever happened before in the case of other countries’ participation in the Biennale: the young authors of the «Head Up!» project were part of the team that won, with the «Superbia» project, the 2010 competition organized in Bucharest for the New Gallery space. Therefore, it is the second time they have represented Romania – in two consecutive editions! – at the Architecture Biennale in Venice. This fact is extremely significant, demonstrating the tenacity / perseverance but also the value of the young architects’ team, the continuity of their intellectual and professional preoccupations.
But it also proves something else: the opportunity and transparency of the national competition for assigning the Romanian representatives to the Venice Biennale, in the proposed formula practiced by the Romanian Institute of Culture and Humanistic Research from Venice. Last but not least, it shows the effectiveness of the institutional philosophy of the Romanian Cultural Institute, through the objective of promoting emerging names from Romania through international cultural opportunities in countries where its branches perform their activities. Therefore, «the return» of these young architects to the New Gallery – the exhibition space of the Romanian Institute for Culture and Humanistic Research in Venice (Cannaregio, 2214) – represents a double tour-de-force: for the authors who already raised the challenge with their previous participation in the Biennale as well as for the host institute, which monitored the project then with institutional instruments (number of visitors, echoes in the massmedia), creating new expectations and objectives for the present project. On behalf of the Romanian Cultural Institute, I wish the «Head Up!» team good luck at the 13th Architecture Biennale and in the future. Horia-Roman PATAPIEVICI President of the Romanian Cultural Institute
Head up! is at the same time a gesture and an encouragement. It is a corporal movement and a slogan or an invitation to look up, to raise the look from the contingent over constraints and limits. It implies invoking shadows of the future, introducing dreams into the mind, creating illusions and utopias, inoculating trust and hope. It is an invitation into a space which is not located in or on the ground but in another land, of desire and unlimited possibilities, in the antechamber of dream, in which current problems find future remedies. It is an invitation to climb the ladder of utopia in order to reach the soft clouds of imagination. It is a rejection of the usual lamentations connected to social and economic conditions of the present, of the current situation in Romania. It is an invitation to dream of positive scenarios, of a future to which you can look with your head up. For us, the «ground» is invoked in the exhibition precisely through its absence and denial. The exhibition space is visually marked by immateriality and imponderability. The tangible silhouettes are covered by cloud material. In this new ground, access paths can be opened towards an alternate reality, and, at the same time, a curative reality of today's Romania, through a series of soft utopias. Although these utopias are rooted in the tangible Romanian territory, they transgress national boundaries and are constituted by a «Common Ground» through the need to offer solutions to universal problems related to ecological, social, technological, spatial or urbanization preoccupations.
In the mirror above the head, through a series of circular openings, the view provides access to another world, of an imagined Romania, illustrated through a series of utopian projects. The breaches of the dream plan represent precisely the escape or the returning into the tangible, a tangible in which the future is possible or has already happened. The circle is an archetypal shape, marking passing, aspiration and elevation (like Alice, the visitor falls into the future). Symbolically, it represents access to an impossible world, that of the dream which becomes reality. The body of the exhibition is formed from a series of studies already formulated by architects from Romania. More visions on new ideas for solving some local subjects are reunited in order to describe a possible history of the future. The selection of projects is oriented towards the creation of a theoretical tool, which is soft utopia. This is situated in a concrete field of application, both cultural and spatial (in the present case the Romanian one) and tries new roles for nature in the urban environment; at the same time it outlines a specific aspect of contemporary Romanian architecture. Themes such as making communist housing neighbourhoods greener, the discovery of urban agriculture, vertical nomadism, megavillage (the disappearance of the difference between metropolis and rural), the healing of the periphery, nature as parasite over the urban, or even the violent revenge of nature, create the language of this type of utopia. Silviu Aldea – Atelier MASS
The exhibition mainly has two parts, separated by the plane of a horizontal mirror. The visitor steps into an amply illuminated space with vague limits, which creates the sensation of floating. A layer of clouds at the floor level (smoke laboriously created with dry ice) offers the illusion of total detachment from the tangible and the actual stepping on a material of the sky. The mirror amplifies this sensation: looking up, you can see yourself stepping on clouds.
To dream, to consciously propose the imaginative and programmed exercise of removing external limits, of thinking new architecture and utopian solutions is a necessity in Romanian reality, as the architecture of Romania has not had the opportunity to perform this exercise of creative escape or innocent play, either due to the official gag from the communist period or due to the post-socialist economic conditions. Therefore, the veritable Romanian utopia, that project through which forbidden spheres of reality are washed by the asperities of technical constraints in order to produce new, shiny, blinding shapes, was almost impossible for more than 7Â decades. The sole authorized utopia took the aggressive face of totalitarian paranoia, of panoptic control and of social engineering. The selflegitimising of the system was done through and with the complicity of architecture and architects, seduced by the power surplus in order to promote personal agendas and tastes. The ideology and architecture association produces intoxication and toxicity in the soft ground of the soul or the contingent one of the city. However, the violent collapse of the oppression did not mean the fertilisation of the theoretic land for the appearance of the utopian exercise; on the contrary, the regained liberty created confusion and ambiguity. Romanian lamentation was built around the same argument of financial restriction creating apologies for the lack of guidance or involvement. The hesitation is maintained, and Romanian architecture advances with difficulty (with too much difficulty) in the felt of chaotic practices of the post-socialist society. The power randomly dispersed towards new actors generates fragmentation and joint property and the felt of the architecture is perforated by accidents and contradictions. This phenomenon produces a conceptual haemorrhage and an erosion of trust in one's own project. Utopia is invited to open new access paths, in order to re-generate possibilities. The utopian antidote fills the holes of reality and offers a new whole, a history of the future in which deficiencies are selfcompensated, the ideal habitat proliferates, the voids retire in order to make space for vegetation, the imbalances are smoothed or, on the contrary, they are pushed until cataclysm.
Utopia becomes necessary in order to unblock architectureâ€™s discourse, its curative invocation. For this reason, we invited a series of architecture offices from Romania to imagine the possible future, in order to write this still non-existent history. Various proposals outline a certain type of specific utopia, and that is the soft utopia. This is placed in an actual field of application, both cultural and spatial (the Romanian one) and investigates new roles of nature in the urban medium. It applies local solutions to some punctual problems and it is grafted in the folds of the existent reality and its roots intertwine in the loose soil in order to create a strand of contemporary Romanian architecture. Soft utopia starts from observations of the present reality that offer surprising possibilities for utopian situations caught in the StudioBasar contribution, they offer pragmatic and concrete solutions to malfunctions of collective living quarters through the project of those from FOR, or they approach the healing of the recent periphery through the SUPERBIA initiative. ROA propose a fantastic trip in a more abstract medium of housing, in which ideal situations are normalised, in which differences between interior and exterior fade and the metropolis is humanised. The travel theme, more exactly the nomadism theme, is researched by UpgradeStudio, and then, the imagined future is radicalised in shapes of healing urban parasites. Last but not least, the scenarios proposed by Blipsz and Ioana Arion return in the identifiable geographical space, however in a distant temporal horizon: human society must reinvent its consumption practices, or, overwhelmingly, nature will produce healing through destruction. Therefore, soft means living in the architecture plan, complementary to the hard material of the building. And the soft utopia works with this permeable and reactive material that evolves in time, dies or aggressively avenges. Silviu Aldea â€“ Atelier MASS
1. Utopia is a very slippery notion as it can be understood in many ways. Over time it has had many interpretations, starting from its most radical and imaginative forms (see unrealistic), until the social engineering of totalitarian political projects or the disillusion of concrete projects. Can you give a personal definition of the concept of Utopia? Etymologically, the notion of utopia comes from the Greek language – «ou-topos», which means without place, anywhere. In the original context, the word did not have any connotative meaning. Gradually, it became more specialised and ended up designating a species of the fiction genre. In a pejorative sense, it designates any idea that is too advanced, too optimistic or lacking realism, that seems impossible to accomplish. An immortal attempt to create the perfect society, utopia is an illusion, an unreality, a chimera. The definition therefore exists and we can assimilate utopia into a type of project that is imaginary, fantastic and unachievable because of objective conditions. By extension, we can say that an architecture project is a utopia, because such a project implies vision, projection, perspective or conception.
Invariably thinking about the meaning of «utopia», thoughts fly to the fantastic worlds of Victor Hugo or Studio Ghibli, worlds which, miraculously, become fragments of reality once in a while... Recently, we were laughing while reading the title of a new book that is not published yet, signed by Keller Easterling: «The action is the form. Victor Hugo’s TED talk». I wonder what Hugo could also tell about the future now when modules of his utopia became reality? And especially, how would he transpose his utopias into 20 minutes of TED? From within the profession, we are still fascinated by the wonderful utopias developed by ARCHIGRAM, ARCHIZOOM, CONSTANT NIEUWENHUYS or SUPERSTUDIO in the 60s-70s; «moderate utopias», as they called them back then... Utopias based on impressive formal gestures, fabulous mega structures which, almost all of them, functioned as flexible networks. Utopias of today are much less radical. We are focusing much more on technology, from robotics to shape-generating algorithms, to electronic systems for managing and controlling cities, to matters of sustainability and ecology. Utopia, as an attempt to generate a perfect society, is more and more rarely met. Is it possible for capitalism to have succeeded in forging a perfect society? Or have we just lost our faith that cities or architecture could do that?
Architecture is one of the most powerful mechanisms for imagining the future, as the discipline of construction, the expressivity of material and infinite configurations of spaces are always oriented towards the future. Architecture itself is a utopia. Eternally, by its constructions, trying to transform any place into a better one. «The action is the form» says Keller Easterling. The new architectural utopias leave the forms at the end, in order to concentrate on actions and strategies. The new utopias are ironically more pragmatic, more real. We already know that dreams can come true, and we bet all our money on the new architecture: information. Can utopia, therefore, be defined? Utopia is essentially any project; it is the incipient state of any approach: rearrangement of information, relations between what is seen and what is said, between what is done and what can be done. 2. Utopia generally aims to find future answers to current problems. For the moment, which are the stringent aspects in a utopia? What problems do you believe require visionary solutions as soon as possible? The most stringent aspect in a utopia is finding correct answers, but also the incertitude that you will be able to do that. The process of searching for correct answers is a project itself. The fish inside the fish. Many times, this smaller fish ends up getting sick or even killing the fish that contains it. For greater ease, is it possible to replace utopia with dreaming? If we eliminate the pressure of finality, utopia would be the perfect definition for anything related to ideas, projects and fantasies. How could we rank these utopias, so to prioritise the most necessary ones: qualitatively or quantitatively? As architects, we would probably answer «qualitatively», but what happens when the majority or the quantity imposes the rules of the game? It would be ideal to answer the quantity by quality so that afterwards, the majority can naturally choose quality. The formative process is difficult due to communications difficulties with the quantitative mass. Choosing the quantitative approach can be easily refuted. Politics and art, as forms of knowledge, build fiction. Both, on these suffering areas.
3. How often can you afford to «dream architecture» and how complicated does this process of escaping from everyday practices and reality become? As I was saying above, any project is a utopia up to a certain point. Imagination is a human feature by excellence. Precisely the process of escaping from the quotidian is the easiest step to be done. However, at what point do chimeras reach their purpose? They have their merit in the architectural process, but what will the concrete result be, if they do not overlap with reality? We aim to dream in a pragmatic and anchored manner; to identify needs and to transform them into opportunities, to build utopias on themes in which we believe and to imagine a result that is possible to obtain through sustained effort and enthusiasm. Quotidian reality sometimes offers the pleasant fight with the unpredictable, with dogmas or the mentality. We will never know immediately in which points we are wrong or we do not make ourselves understood, and our dream about architecture is rooted in the society in which we live. A more appropriate version of this question for us would be: Do you ever stop dreaming architecture? Many years ago, Priscilla Chapman (in the article Plug-in city) said: «The terrible thing in England is that architects are so overintellectualised and self-critical that they are afraid of taking a step for fear it won’t be right». Utopias are projects that are ideally free from those pressures. There are beginnings, or manifests, or cartoons, or the simple illustration of some dreams. They can be the best only at the moment and they have the wonderful quality of instigating to dialogue and action. They are based on information. Ephemeral and full of sap, utopias are always present in a healthy creative process.
4. Today a concern regarding the integration of nature in construction is often noted: the classical opposition between urban and natural is dissolved to produce new hybrids. What roles does nature acquire in the context of the city you imagined? Landscape is the infrastructure from which any built environment begins. Buildings represent abstract objects introduced into the landscape. Human activities and actions are those that weave the two worlds one to another. Nature is perfect; it does not need our abstract objects. Moreover, it also has the ability to forget them relatively easily. We, in turn, are fundamentally connected to nature. Imagination, emotion, joy cannot exist in the absence of nature... manâ€™s roots are in nature. Romanian archaic myths present us the man as being part of it, being created and fed by it.
These hybrids, buildings, ensembles or just clusters of urban activities look back with melancholy towards models that once functioned, and longingly to the future, in the hope of a possible reconciliation between the worlds that compose the urban universe. It is interesting how the mineral urban establishment, with its mineral activities, naturally attracts nature with all its benefits between its walls.
Each stage of our cities had another approach with regard to nature. Many of them disagreed. However, most of the time, they overlapped. For us, this overlapping of layers of cities presents a charm and an extraordinary potential. In Romania, this tangle somewhat orchestrated by layers brings us close enough to a zero point. This fact leaves much room for utopia. We believe that one of the most interesting answers to the problem of reintroducing nature into the city would be infrastructure. And by infrastructure we are not limited to transportation means and production, but to the entire fabric on which our buildings are positioned. On the other hand, micro-farming is one of the ancient practices of citiesâ€™ inhabitants. Many of them were forcedly separated from nature and brought to places where they still live now. Because micro-agriculture worked until then, it can be a landmark or a model. Is it possible for the Romanian city to offer the opportunity to practice micro-agriculture on a large scale? It could also thus answer a need for belonging and identity also, in a mass of identities mixed until uniformity. Nature could contribute, including to the reconstruction of a local group identity.
5. There is a state of deep anchoring in the contingent in Romania that leads to difficulty in dreaming the future. Why and to what extent is a utopia necessary today in Romania, after more than 60 years ofÂ absence? Being always broken into pieces as small as possible and spread everywhere, we lost our ability to control our future. We are no longer able to read the overall picture, or to act as independentÂ communities. The contingent is the partial result of a sum of individual or group dreaming. We can imagine a chronological line that brings the point of the current moment as close as possible to us in real time. If we were to put together all the dreams of humankind, they would gather perfectly into what we see today around us at every point, successively. We eliminated here the erased objects, and we remember only visible results. It is too much to say that dreaming was absent. At the most we can say that the results are few, and the most visible ones have a negative character. But this automatically suggests an accumulation of utopias that were just imagined... and which remained in their pure, imaginative state.
We would avoid singularly naming utopia for Romania and we would prefer to imagine a range of fields, languages and interests in which they are imagined. We dream of an entire network of interconnected utopias. We wish for utopias that constructively mobilise, incite to dreaming and open eyes. We wish we could use the time line as support. Flow and continuity should be generated. 6. We are trying to identify some elements that can connect the idea of utopia with the peculiarities of the Romanian space. In your opinion, what would those elements be that can define a Romanian utopia? The specific Romanian aspect could be the utopia of social engineering, although it is unfair to restrict the area of socialism to the local area. Even today, Romania is roaring with dreams that would wish for a change of mentality and perception. And we, like many others, longingly imagine a better society. Concretely, we live in partial realization of a dream. Our contribution could be planting new dreams. Their correctness is questionable due to the fact that these dreams usually represent cultural loans from societies with different histories and profiles. Its specific aspects and identification can intervene here. It is a prolonged process, like a puzzle that must be completed by solving the pieces in time. It is not guaranteed that we will finally see an image. Therefore, these punctual projections that cannot build the perfect utopia remain, but they can only be part of an ample process of history. As history sifts by itself, independently from our force, the defining aspects of time, the enthusiasm of the initiative concretised in information remains. ARCHIGRAM utopias remained the utopias of ARCHIGRAM, in the lack of a political system that could put them into practice. They would have become the utopias of Great Britain in the case of the existence of such a system. In order to orchestrate the acceptance and the embrace of any type of utopia, first we need vision and the ability to understand the overall picture. Therefore, we cannot currently speak about Romanian utopias, but only about utopias of a few Romanians. 7. Starting from your current concerns in the field of architecture, if we were to write a future history of the possible, how do you imagine Romania in a utopian vision? In what time horizons could these prophecies be concretised?
The fight with recognition in time and the memory of a utopia in a history of the future is as difficult as it is exciting. Because the certitude of history as an independent selection mechanism does not exist, management through visions of the present remains. We accept the challenge and we are in full process of dreaming. The possibilities are unlimited for the current moment. Romaniaâ€™s image could still depend on what we all propose now. In a utopian vision, we imagine Romania as a place of collaboration, an environment favourable for dreaming and generating networks of pragmatic, complete utopias, with echo. We are still left with the rigorous construction based on dreaming, information, effectiveness (preferable in its complex meaning from the electronic networksâ€™ world) and practical utility or the architectural process of a vision with correct foundations. 8. In what way do your projects perform this exercise of imagination and what are its utopian elements? The architecture or construction of a vision is based on a set of analyses of the context and its history. Closing the circle by analysing the past for a future result, always having the present in the circle is problematic. Most of the time, the past works as an extremely useful vast database, as a reference. However, to what extent does a future project remain utopian when it is based on the analysis of a utopia? To what extent does the credibility of information survive, being about a utopia? How correct would the rethinking of new value systems and functions be when the base is the result of a utopian engineering? Is it possible to have as a starting point another utopia? The grey neighbourhood, this utopia of Romanian social engineering, can receive two interpretations. The vision directly transformed into a social project based on oppression; this version has been over for a long time and seems to be in a full process of erasing the tracks with time. The second and the most dangerous is utopia that is based on the change of behaviour, of mentality, perception and ideals. Resetting the man in order to be controlled â€“ this is still active.
The proposed project was created following a collaboration with the inhabitants of such a neighbourhood of TimiĹ&#x;oara and it represents a pilot-strategy that answers through some solutions that are well integrated in the context of basic needs: rehabilitation of a urban structure in collapse, resuscitation of the community spirit, optimising the energy system, as well as an economic strategy that offers financial value to the above. It covers a period of 30 years, starting with a dialog and small design and architecture competitions. Project phases are correlated so as to complete one another and for the strategy to function even from the beginning. The centre of attention is moved from individual apartments to common courtyards. Each courtyard, together with the buildings surrounding it, will receive aesthetic characteristics, atmosphere, functions and its own development methods. Around them small communities will form, and the neighbourhood will become a network â€“ in its turn integrated into the higher network of the city. All rehabilitation procedures are planned so as to produce more interior space, smaller expenses, incomes, workplaces, education, new social housings, diversity, spatial quality and a feeling of belonging.
The involvement of inhabitants in the realisation of the project, in the maintenance and life of the neighbourhood, is the central idea of the solution: the process of identifying the problem, finding solutions, assimilating consequences on a long term, and constant education of inhabitants so that they can fully understand the offered solutions and the manner in which they function are very important steps for this strategy. Rehabilitation of such a neighbourhood by increasing its habitation capacity, by involvement, education and recreation could become a sustainable opportunity for a city to improve both the living standard and the quality in general without occupying newÂ territories.
1. Utopia is a very slippery notion as it can be understood in many ways. Over time it has had many interpretations, starting from its most radical and imaginative forms (see unrealistic), until the social engineering of totalitarian political projects or the disillusion of concrete projects. Can you give a personal definition of the concept of Utopia? Utopia is a projection of the present into a non-space, in which social problems find their answer in liberating technologies that remove physical constraints. Utopia summarises the criticism of the present, the rebellion of the limit and the power of hope. It is the decompression space of concerns and stringent needs or of aspirations. However, utopias are limited and activated only by current experiences and knowledge. Architecture builds dreams and allows us to live them, inhabit them and to bring them closer. Utopia, in all its meanings, from unrealistic or fantasist, to curative vision of the future, contains a magical dose of attraction and fascination. This fascination comes from the utopian project’s ability to leap from the contingent in order to step into the dream. And the dream is always seductive. Therefore, if we are to consider utopia in personal terms, it is connected with all forms of dreaming, and from this new position, utopia has countless possibilities of manifesting itself, as each project entails more or less dreaming. Consequently, the dream quantity can trace the delimitation mark between project and utopia, and this limit resides within everyone. What may seem utopian to us may be perfectly realistic for someone else. However, an essential difference persists between dream and nightmare, and the architectural utopia may pass from one area to the other, as political utopia often did.
Therefore, utopia is a dream; it implies the falling asleep of the rational (that is, of limits) and the awakening of conscience. On this new porous ground, ideas receive fresh but superficial roots and produce very colourful but fragile flowers. Like the dream, it is volatile, and its shadows stimulate desire. 2. Utopia generally aims to find future answers to current problems. For the moment, which are the stringent aspects in a utopia? What problems do you believe require visionary solutions as soon as possible? We can do the opposite. Instead of asking ourselves which are the problems that obsessively haunt the current society, we can take a look at current utopias or at publicized discourses. They are the consequences of these stringencies. Therefore, we can observe the neo-ecologist obsession (just a fashion?) or the one of globalization (with both its aspects: dissolution of national states or regional guerrilla) and the erosion of the real by the virtual environment. The appearance of bio-powers and the humanism of postmodern society brought a revival of utopia. The future is the battlefield of imagination with overpopulation, resources depletion, pollution, global warming, natural disasters, urban nomadism, the virtual and media etc.
Atelier MASS 22
Contemporary utopias are placed at the congruent point of these types of problems, and their stringency seems not to be understood. It is up to everyone to preoccupy himself / herself with the aspects that interest (affect) him / her the most. 3. How often can you afford to «dream architecture» and how complicated does this process of escaping from everyday practices and reality become? We do not think that it is a question of frequency or rarity, but rather one of permanence, in the sense that you have to dream the whole time and then to wake up. Therefore, architecture must be continuously and everyday dreamed, and in the same manner awakening must also be practiced. Dreaming and awakening go hand in hand and both are equally beneficent and necessary. If dreaming implies a voluntary act, awakening may happen in two ways: natural or forced.
Together with the occurrence of perspective, nature was limited to a decorative, passive role in the urban ideology, a role which unfortunately was also adopted by the modernist movement. What seems interesting today is precisely the re-negotiation of its position within the city, but also its relationship with architecture. Nature is used as construction material (green roofs, green walls etc.) or it becomes architecture itself, as in the case of Anne Holtrop’s floating island. After the fascination of technology and new construction materials that dominated modernism, after the formal exuberance of postmodernism, both – technique and aesthetics – are searching for new originality resources. The living material (either natural or artificial) constitutes a new material for the architecture concretization, and, at the same time, it offers a new expression type.
Natural implies a normal process of dissemination and bringing the idea into the tangible. Most of the time, the contingent may impede this dreaming process (regeneration), from which it becomes a personal responsibility but also a healthy habit. Contests occasion this type of healthy dreaming in order to keep the mind awake. Forced - when the reality is manifested in a revanchist manner, producing disappointment. Unfortunately, the forced awakening produces distraction and disorientation, and the quotidian practice of architecture in Romania is therefore spotted with such syncope and events subject to hazard, which leave you awakened-by-force. In this case, it becomes difficult to dream and it implies a process of forgetting. However, this phenomenon also produces an opposite effect that is a positive one: the early awakening produces the desire of resuming the interrupted dream. In other words, in Romania the need for dreaming is in relation with the reality, one dreams more difficult and shorter but with more passion. At the extreme pole utopia appears: a dream from which the awakening is not necessary. Hence its irresistible charm and ease with which the imagination allows itself to be covered by white fearless dreams. 4. Today a concern regarding the integration of nature in construction is often noted: the classical opposition between urban and natural is dissolved to produce new hybrids. What roles does nature acquire in the context of the city you imagined?
The natural creates the possibility of a transitory, changing architecture, subject to some natural rhythms, an architecture that is able to systematically regenerate and renew. Its language is timeless and temporary. If we have to think in this manner, the reintroduction of nature into the city is a normal consequence of the continuous search within architecture. Therefore, for us, the living (the vegetal) becomes active, it enters the house or literally climbs on the house, it does not just stay incorporated in the framework of the window, as a beautiful view orÂ decoration. The archetypal pattern of the village represents today a lost housing ideal. Nostalgia is neither productive nor realistic. On the contrary, the critical analysis of this pattern and the decomposition in elementary constituents allow creating some new urban forms again: MegaVillage. The urbanization and the densification continue, and the city stops being the opposite of the village; the differences are transformed into resemblances.
5. There is a state of deep anchoring in the contingent in Romania that leads to difficulty in dreaming the future. Why and to what extent is a utopia necessary today in Romania, after more than 60 years ofÂ absence? Firstly, utopia is a current necessity that does not take into consideration a certain national territory. A generalized crisis of society confusion is noticed, of a lack of landmarks in contemporary thinking, in the deafening polyphony (quarrel) of criticism and in the hesitations of everyday practices. Art and architecture are on autopilot in this passing (towards what?) of the post- condition. In such periods of disillusion and fumbling utopia is needed more thanÂ ever. It implies a self-criticism: for seeking utopian solutions you must identify current problems and acknowledge physical, economical, social, theoretical boundaries etc.
At the same time, the dream means a fantastic trip in a land of imagination, and imagination offers trust and vision, and vision offers direction and courage. It is a rejection of negativism, of lamentations and of fears that hold us in place, a cult of hope, of opening new roads and possibilities. On the other hand, utopia is materialized in a graphic form and this allows the communication of its opportunities to the others and their involvement in a flow of ideas and dreams. It becomes a collective dream that moves the contemporary blockages and ignites the discourse, raises questions and criticisms; it creates sensation and makes you wonder. Thinking is a necessary process, and especially thinking free after 60 years, after the oppressive gag of an absurd regime and the post-socialist joint property.
There is a Romanian utopia, accomplished, related to power and its ambitions of social engineering. But there is also the possibility of a future one, of a new one that seems much more interesting and more attractive to us. The phenomenon is somehow natural; looking forward allows detachment from the past. In our opinion, a Romanian utopia is connected to reusing some origin housing typologies, some archetypal forms connected to the soul of a certain place and to enhancing the natural landscape. 7. Starting from your current concerns in the field of architecture, if we were to write a future history of the possible, how do you imagine Romania in a utopian vision? In what time horizons could these prophecies be concretised?
6. We are trying to identify some elements that can connect the idea of utopia with the peculiarities of the Romanian space. In your opinion, what would those elements be that can define a Romanian utopia?
A first desirable utopia in Romania is connected to re-finding the community sense. Presently, it is located in a state of dissolution following the recent traumatic experience. A series of ghosts haunt our current spirit, from which this need of future utopia arises. In a first phase, the future is materialized by removing shadows, by participation and coagulation, through civic networks and constructive expression, through dialog and honesty, through openness and interest; basically, a rehabilitation of a fragmented spirit, a surpassing of disillusion. We think that this utopia flickers and waits around the corner (maybe we are too optimistic). It is possible, and its sole pronunciation produces curative effect, of relaxation and smoothing. This could be the first page of the history of possible, the premise and the plot of the narrative, subsequently sprinkled by trials and difficulties, sometimes failures and mistakes, but also triumphs and victories. At the ending of this interesting history, we find the balance between built and natural forms, between humanism and technicism, between future and past, between desire and Romanian reality. 8. In what way do your projects perform this exercise of imagination and what are its utopian elements?
Possibilities are countless based on the way the temporal horizon departs, thus we can speak of different types of utopia based on the distance from the current moment. Through the ÂŤSuperbiaÂť workshop we imagined the forthcoming, in which the community from the post-socialist periphery re-finds the cohesion which is necessary for producing the healing of urban holes and for replacing them with active public space. The field left to chance becomes the contact surface, the emplacement becomes a place, the landscape street, the soil garden and the site becomeÂ playground.
In the distant future plan, the city takes a leap back to the roots and the distant future and the mythical past are mixed until they can not be distinguished. Future and past â€“ both are thrown into a super-time in which the need for progress does not pass over the obstacles of the past, the new inhabitation does not replace the old one, the urban does not destroy the landscape. MegaVillage is a romantic (to be read un-realistic) vision in which the silhouette of the technical urban re-finds the serenity of the agricultural rural, and through which a reiteration of the socialeconomic pattern defining Eastern Europe is proposed. A sky-line of farms and agricultural activities is re-found in the densities of a metropolis in which urban shapes do not affect the landscape but they create it: landscape in landscape and built geography.
The efficient vertical development at great heights reaches the sensorial and symbolic side by dimension, scale and technologization. The holes define the space in the same measure through continuity and elasticity, being able to be negotiated by different social groups. Architecture is plastic; it is situated in a continuous process of deformation following constant pressures from users and external factors. Therefore, metropolises are ruralised again, archetypal, soft as materiality, integrated in the landscape up to the fading of delimitations. The human spirit is reinserted into materiality, being tactile and vegetal. Therefore, human settlements of future Romania become glocal, natural-technical and hyper-analogical.
Images Pages 23â€“26: MegaVillage Pages 27â€“28: Superbia Workshop
1. Utopia is a very slippery notion as it can be understood in many ways. Over time it has had many interpretations, starting from its most radical and imaginative forms (see unrealistic), until the social engineering of totalitarian political projects or the disillusion of concrete projects. Can you give a personal definition of the concept of Utopia? We would have enjoyed being able to give such a definition, but it is somewhat complicated to be able to synthesize in the abstract way of words experiences as diverse as the ones suggested in the question. In any case, we believe that each project, no matter how interesting, tedious or rapacious, can be interpreted as a utopia with limited scale: it designs a new world on the pre-existing one. And the distance between this world and reality embraces a utopian space. Thusly, the concern to manage utopia (possibly to stop it), is sometimes more pressing than the enthusiasm to cause it. 2. Utopia generally aims to find future answers to current problems. For the moment, which are the stringent aspects in a utopia? What problems do you believe require visionary solutions as soon as possible? We prefer local solutions to the visionary. We believe there is already an inflation of information accumulated and processed in the last period, under this standard of technological visionary. On the other hand, counter-reaction to this technological universe, of the type of any passéism, could not set any personal space, easy to assume or to implement.
This is why precisely this negotiation line between technological vision and the nature of identitary type of reality has a great potential for understanding the built environment. 3. How often can you afford to «dream architecture» and how complicated does this process of escaping from everyday practices and reality become? Always. Probably solving this equation between what beneficiaries, constructors or even authorities expect from an architect and what the architect hopes from the profession, can be decided only by practice. But what we believe to be really complicated to manage is the distance which the activity of an architect has taken to the one of building, a mediated distance, of course, of drawing sheets, memos or previous measurements. Maybe dreaming architecture is the messianic premise of this profession, but we are not convinced that this presumption can justify the many material or moral errors that architecture is capable of. 4. Today a concern regarding the integration of nature in construction is often noted: the classical opposition between urban and natural is dissolved to produce new hybrids. What roles does nature acquire in the context of the city you imagined?
Indeed, dichotomous logic defines structures by the relations of assimilation or elimination and of closeness or distance. City versus nature is a type of ideal construction, impossible to reformulate in the type of civilisation we live in. Now networks are instruments that make the world possible. Delimitations, forms, enclosed spaces lost their relevance in relation to communication systems, either electronically mediated or not. We imagined nature as one of the possible alternative infrastructures, a pre-existent, but reconfigured one through the type of valuation that we allocate for it. For example, the highway is one of the powerful spaces of current civilisation. This form manages to configure a general system of the exchange, as neutral as it is versatile. Can we learn from the neutral environment of the exchange to configure a neutral environment of housing? Living in a garden rather than in a construction and rethinking the house-garden relation beyond a binary system inside-out... This is what we wanted to transmit through the nostalgia of simple housing,Â inÂ nature. 5. There is a state of deep anchoring in the contingent in Romania that leads to difficulty in dreaming the future. Why and to what extent is a utopia necessary today in Romania, after more than 60 years ofÂ absence?
Contingency could be understood in two ways somehow different: first, contingency as utilitarian space, poor but effective and rational, projected on the reality to control it; conversely, contingency as a cultural space, that of effective living, of results rather than of premises. We believe that such an approach allows a different kind of dream, not necessarily opposed to the reconfigured image of an orthogonal reality. Therefore, we believe that Romania has suffered in the last years because of too much utopia. And it is not necessarily just about communist utopia and the construction of socialism. We can speak about fascist utopia, with its legendary rulers and its mythical stories, with mioritical lands and prominent bloodlines that still haunt the Romanian space. But we hope that the immediate values of the quotidian can reconfigure these totalising illusions.
6. We are trying to identify some elements that can connect the idea of utopia with the peculiarities of the Romanian space. In your opinion, what would those elements be that can define a Romanian utopia?
7. Starting from your current concerns in the field of architecture, if we were to write a future history of the possible, how do you imagine Romania in a utopian vision? In what time horizons could these prophecies be concretised?
We somehow mentioned them in the previous answer, but we could not make exhaustive claims. However, what we notice to be really exceptional in the Romanian example is the impressive building of the Palace of the Parliament, a utopia of a gigantic and monoblock space, the representative of an entire ideology. This impressive example by scale and devotion is multiplied today in the Cathedral for the Salvation of the Romanian People building, another symbol at the scale of the entire nation, just as large and empty in significance.
We believe that in the field of architecture it is necessary to accept the level of poverty which the medium level from this state has at its disposal. We are somehow trained to understand, to appreciate and possibly to copy the Western architecture type. And still, not often can one say that we are succeeding. There can be multiple explanations we do not risk to lean on, but certainly the economic level has a great impact on the configuration of the cultural one. And from here, on many states of discrepancy in the constructed environment in Romania. It may not seem utopian, such a comment brought to actuality, but the state of dreaming that is inevitable to the profession cannot omit such deficiencies. And the professional ideal cannot be the improvement of a certain state, but rather its undertaking from the point of view of the culture and the architectural practice.
8. In what way do your projects perform this exercise of imagination and what are its utopian elements? Our «PLAI» project (possible typologies to live in a house with courtyard) started from a few punctual findings, but evolved towards a practical and applicable step. Early findings took into account the success of standardised housings, which are massively promoted by multiple popularisation magazines. The base of this type of habitation was sustained by clients’ request both for standard projects (time effectiveness and design cost), and for avoiding risks implied by a design process (guaranteed final result). On the other hand, although we have nothing against the withdrawal of the architect / architecture before this type of social pressure, we acknowledge that the current built environment realises an extremely tedious type of habitation. The client of such houses is not willing to pay attention and time to details which can improve the way of habitation he chose: to live in a house with a garden.
The basis of our project is to offer an alternative of habitation as a type of possible development of the city that would recover closeness to nature. The run from the metropolis, from the default countries of great technologised densities became an extremely transparent dream for almost all social classes. But the semi-densified typology of the periphery betrays it in its essence, that of living «in a house with courtyard». For this, we chose to directly relate to the typology of rural habitation, still present in the collective memory, a house where all senses are required by the contact with the personal garden. In this sense we proposed a typology of minimal, modular, prefabricated housing, taking advantage of the benefits generated by technology and seriality, but as flexible as possible. Each module contains minimal spaces that push towards the use of the un-built space around. For this, objects such as the spring, the fountain, the table or the bed in the yard, the cradle or the tree house support the proposal to use the whole area of the yard with activities that cannot be subsumed to architectural programs. Purchasing a smaller or a larger number of modules could be tested through a game (PLAI), the technical and urban rules of which could be helping users negotiate the space, yard, landscape and leisure necessary.
«The journey of Phileas told by himself» is an important step in the entire approach because it makes possible the glimpse of the potential such housing can offer. The nature as infrastructure becomes a background and a necessary tool at the same time. The act of building can lose some of its preciousness through the decision of standardisation, while nature remains the only real measure of the quality of the habitation environment. At the same time, in the story of Phileas the limits of utopia as a viable instrument are also specified by expanding the state of dreaming to a planetary level, from the image of a periphery to the uniform occupation of the city...
1. Utopia is a very slippery notion as it can be understood in many ways. Over time it has had many interpretations, starting from its most radical and imaginative forms (see unrealistic), until the social engineering of totalitarian political projects or the disillusion of concrete projects. Can you give a personal definition of the concept of Utopia? «You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete» (Buckminster Fuller) The notion of utopia, rejecting the scholastic definition, is assimilated as an almost «intangible» vision projected in a sufficiently far away future so as to position it far from absolute pragmatic reality. Its informational consistency and detachment from the referential, the lack of a precedent for such a situation disturbs and hinders our judgement, makes utopia seem intangible. Utopia germinates in a fuzzy land, somewhere between the limit «earthly» and science-fiction, surrealism, fairy tale etc. In fact, utopia is sold as an intellectual germ, to underline the manner in which it operates. For generations we grew up with the books of Jules Verne and Isaac Asimov, with the movies of Stanley Kubrick (2001: A Space Odyssey), Steven Spielberg (E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial), Andrei Tarkovsky (Solaris), Terry Gilliam (Brazil), Fritz Lang (Metropolis), James Whale (Frankenstein) and many others. These references, in different measures, come closest to the creative-heuristic sense of the concept of utopia. Such ideas have inspired many scientists and served as a fuel for many discoveries.
Utopia is not a panacea for urban or architectural problems, or of any other nature, utopia does not offer solutions, nor does it even serve as an example. Many times it is radically or wrongly interpreted. This is also the reason for which, over time, being interpreted and used ad litteram at an exacerbated scale and without continuity perspectives, it has produced bad results among which obsessive totalitarian ideologies are also noticed. Utopia, per se, raises questions, requires a revisiting of preconceived values, creates controversies and incites us to dialogue and creativity. Utopia is a mobilising instrument that serves a superpotent nucleus, a necessary stimulus that can take us from the monotony of the same architectural language with a primarily financial scope. 2. Utopia generally aims to find future answers to current problems. For the moment, which are the stringent aspects in a utopia? What problems do you believe require visionary solutions as soon as possible? Regardless of the level of the approach, starting from global level and going up to local or even particular level, those situations, environments, conditions, spaces that become «out of sync» (do not work according to their time anymore, end up outdated, anachronic) are stringent candidates for a utopian vision. The degree of interaction of those «out of sync» environments with the environments of human interest is the basic criteria according to which some become «critical», therefore primary, and others are «postponed».
Upgrade Studio 36
We could enumerate a series of utopias such as: utopias of infrastructure, utopias of the streets, utopias of urban public spaces, utopias of housing, green utopias, social utopias, educational utopias, medical utopias etc., but just as valid, or even more interesting, would be nonspecific utopias, proposals that do not treat a certain problem, but create new connections, rethink whole «pieces» of human physical complexity, the creative process being especially boosted here.
And yes, this «naïve», «detached» creativity, apparently lacking in immediate constraints, is the one that can inspire the most impressive solutions to the most serious and dramatic problems of human society. 3. How often can you afford to «dream architecture» and how complicated does this process of escaping from everyday practices and reality become?
I started in university a few experimental projects which escalated over time and colleagues and even university professors, one in particular, were interested and were co-opted, the project «FOB-Flocking over Bucharest», realised within the workshop of Dorin Ştefan – being presented overseas in the context of many architecture conferences. Also at that time we trained in a series of international competitions, most of them searching for utopian visions, competitions where we managed to obtain prizes and special mentions. Probably this international feedback maintained our «dreaming» state even though financial reality often tried to bring us «back to earth». Since the foundation of the upgrade.studio office, we tried to define a direction almost entirely focused on research in architecture / urbanism and on searching for new answers that would allow the operation of updating, improvement, evolution, metamorphosis; in fact, synthesising the «upgrade» process we assumed as modus operandi. For some time we became more and more preoccupied with the results of computational simulations as an architectural-urban investigation instrument. By condensing the two instruments, utopia and computational simulation, a new approach and architectural research perspective entered into the area of our concerns, prefiguring an exceptional potential which we hope to exploit soon. 4. Today a concern regarding the integration of nature in construction is often noted: the classical opposition between urban and natural is dissolved to produce new hybrids. What roles does nature acquire in the context of the city you imagined? In the current context, when the urban environment is invaded by «concrete» – that matter which «builds» the dreams of real estate promoters – green space becomes secondary, therefore dispensable, which can be decimated over time. The way in which nature can claim its urban «heritage» is rebranding.
Nature or green matter utilized as a construction material in mass can change the urban paradigm by becoming an «invader», building urban colossi (ex: functional hybrids as green bio-plants, in the project «ShukarLand»), by technologically negotiating with the built tissue suffocated by concrete («UrbanBy-Pass»), offering curative, reinvigorating or even aesthetical solutions, but more than anything offering solutions of substantial reduction of maintenance costs, which could pique the interest of investors (with reference here to green energy generated and captured from the photosynthesis process of each performance, which was considerably increased by scientists, among the other green technologies that were already being used) and, last but not least, offering solutions for reducing noxious urban emissions, solutions that could increase the degree of urban climatic comfort. 5. There is a state of deep anchoring in the contingent in Romania that leads to difficulty in dreaming the future. Why and to what extent is a utopia necessary today in Romania, after more than 60 years of absence? Horia-Roman Patapievici speaks in The Discernment of Modernization about the manner in which scientific modernisation was achieved between Roman Empires. «The passing from one theory to another is done without critical discussion, without debate, without opposition: passing from one theory to another by discarding the previous theory. Professors do not ask why Aristotle was good on Monday, Descartes on Tuesday, and Newton is good starting from Wednesday until the next change. Students, in their turn, forget on Tuesday what they learned on Monday and, generally, they have the memory which is dictated by the last theory that came from Paris, London, Vienna or Berlin» (Horia-Roman Patapievici) We have an inherited mentality imposing on us that any form of creativity must be validated a-priori by central European culture. You can see countless examples with producers, actors, Romanian writers who, from the moment they receive European recognition, have an explosive success in their own country also. As the communist mentality is also supplemented, it is not surprising how the Romanian architectural product is found today in most cases self-censored, uncompetitive internationally, under the governing of a cold pragmatism.
In such a hostile context, utopia, as an exercise of dreaming, ease, and daring, seems to be the most effective in releasing the profession from destructive self-censure forms. Massive digital information and «real-time» cultural and professional interaction at the international level, with the help of new technologies (cloud computing, video conferences with any technologised corner of the world, instant filesharing solutions, communication, professional interaction and information web platforms etc.) produce cosmopolitan architects, architects that can be as well-informed as the European, the American or the Asian, having the same professional tools. With such luggage, Romania can dream of a competitive future. 6. We are trying to identify some elements that can connect the idea of utopia with the peculiarities of the Romanian space. In your opinion, what would those elements be that can define a Romanian utopia? For Romanian utopias, we have considerable material, given the fact that many of the environments for which we did not borrow models have problems of adaptation, are in that «out-of-sync» state mentioned above. Over time, these states have sharpened, becoming recognisable elements, even, ironically, authentically Romanian values. Precisely for this reason, these state-problems must not be cosmeticised or simply improved, but they should be used as main subjects in utopias that are mobilising and generating feedback.
We should mention the streets and the neighbourhood as sensitive values of the organic urban tissue, the Romanian village with specific traditions, which is at the moment under threat of dissolution, the specificity of organic urban tissue before communist urban interventions and coexistence of these two contradictory types of tissues, the situation of Rrom communities (including the nomadic ones) and many other Romanian particularities that should be identified and valorised. 7. Starting from your current concerns in the field of architecture, if we were to write a future history of the possible, how do you imagine Romania in a utopian vision? In what time horizons could these prophecies be concretised? A utopian vision of Romania described in a spontaneous exercise, without clear temporal considerations, would have a hybrid infrastructure that should be effective, fast, spatially redefined from a technological and organizational perspective, divided into layers of utility, physically and structurally differentiated (supply strand, public transportation strand, material and informational exchange strand etc.), and appropriately interconnected and branched.
At the end of these branches, or situated in important poles on the branches path, like nodes that influence the system in control, would be a series of production centres – bio-technologically advanced farms – with personal research and development cells (R&D). These centres would have a polarising character, would generate a reaction – under the aspect of impact – similar to the massive urbanisation of the '60s and '70s, but in the opposite direction, not to the detriment of rural areas, but in support of their reactivation, would consequently revisit the paradigm of housing and of density by creating houses of individual-migrating type with functioning characteristics of cluster or parasite type connected to the finely branched infrastructure, would have a cultural and social importance (real-time interaction with the cultural and intellectual environment, with holographic artistic representations), and would reintegrate the idea of nature, of agriculture, in art and the culture of society with a scientific-artistic approach. Cities would be rebalanced, saved from over-population, would reconcile the organic tissue with brutal communist interventions (after all, they also constitute the Romanian urban genotype) by physical expressions of mediation generated by computational analyses. Also in the cities, we found spaces and independent institutions of public, artistic, and recreational expression or an environment of free expression of the will and ideas of the members of society, a space equivalent to the space of free American expression, in front of malls, conceptually and spatially reconsidered.
Professional environments would offer hybrid solutions that would support the inter-professional exchange and would constantly interact with the educational environment for the mutual benefit, refreshing and updating the professional environment on the one hand and offering a practical frame of learning to the educational environment on the other, fighting for a hybrid professional formula: concomitant education with the practical reasoning of a living and of a career. Utopian Romania would offer scientific or cultural international landmarks of any nature, including architectural landmarks that would reposition the national value and, together with it, credibility and international influence would also be affected. Or any other vision… that is utopian, of course. 8. In what way do your projects perform this exercise of imagination and what are its utopian elements? The Nomadic Rrom had, by their organisational form, a marginal relation with the rest of society’s systems, and this removal has persisted until today. Their situation raised our interest, trying, in a utopian manner, with two different projects, to redefine the lifestyle of the Nomadic Rrom in the current context, with minimum interventions so as not to alter their culture and intrinsic values. The first project, «Perpetuum Mobile», in which we approached the issue of the Rrom people, was appreciated with a special mention in the contest 2nd Advanced Architecture Contest with the topic «Self-Fab House», organised by the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia (IAAC).»
The Nomadic Rrom have a versatile character as a collective entity; more exactly, the Nomadic Rrom adapt extremely easily to the conditions of the «road» (to the environments through which they pass), but the values of their culture take precedence over the values they discover. They describe a private parametric system. Patapievici speaks in Discernment of Modernisation about modernisation through «graft» and modernisation through «throwing away». The first is the case of central cultures, with a healthy base, and the second is specific to the periphery, to the cultures adopting the pattern of the central ones without passing it through their own critical filters. Even though, technologically, a certain success can be observed in this second case, from a spiritual point of view the procedure is a failure. It is the case of Eastern Europe and it is also the case of Romania. Then the question is: if a peripheral culture wants to evolve, what options does it have? Can we speak about a redefinition of existing values, of a metamorphosis with minimum loss? Certainly, such a procedure requires time for a transformation that is as natural as possible, which is not forced and requires an intrinsic analytic support.
In this context, our proposal tries to answer the needs of Rrom communities, the needs of the tribe (the organisational form specific to their culture), in a manner as responsible as possible towards the environment and their culture, helping the Rrom people to use their own know-how and their own lifestyle together with a few accessible ecological principles in order to create a mobile habitat that can be adapted to their lifestyle any time, anyhow and for as long as they need. The emphasis was put on low-tech and low-cost solutions that can be obtained based on their habits of indirect «recycling». The main intention is that of promoting a new image of the same identity, a sort of rebranding, a GREEN version, a non-stigmatised version. The second project in which we approached the issue of Rrom people, «SHUKAR LAND_Vertical Country» (shukar means «beautiful» in Rromani language), realized in collaboration with DEGRAPH29 studio (architect Dania SFARGHIU and architect Tudor SFARGHIU) was selected within the International Skyscraper Competition contest, 2011 edition, organised by eVolo platform, focused on advanced technologies, sustainability and innovative design in relation to the concept of vertical density.
Images Page 37: Perpetuum Mobile Pages 38–43: SHUKAR LAND__Vertical Country
«SHUKAR LAND» proposes a social utopia for integrating the Rrom population in Europe. Based on extreme European reactions towards the Rrom community, the question of ownership and responsibilities of Rrom communities was raised. Rrom do not have institutions at the European level to defend their rights, they do not have a territory to which they belong, they do not have an appropriate literacy level nor the support for obtaining it, and they seem not to be able to escape this vicious circle. «SHUKAR LAND» tries to mediate the conflict, by avoiding the solutions of the type «ghetto», through collaboration between the Rrom communities and the communities of the European Union through an ecological formula. Accepting this cohabitation between an entity and another one comes together with offering a mutual benefit and it is a survival lesson found in nature. The symbiosis formula uses minimum prints from the land of European countries within large cities and capitals, representing a «spread» territory which Rrom can appropriate, where they can organise administrative structures and where they can express their cultural values, representing at the same time green bio-energy generating plants in these strongly polluted cities.
The new Rrom territory is developed vertically as a continuous landscape (a mathematical pattern which has the property that, starting from one point, you can reach any other point without obstacles and without the help of ladders). All this territory is the support for a series of eco-technologies from which cities within their perimeter benefit (hyper-photosynthesis, accelerated water purification, collection, filtering and storing rainwater, systems for capturing wind energy through Venturi tunnels etc.). The «SHUKAR LAND» territory is unrestricted; it is the territory where Rrom people can manifest their nomadic lifestyle and their culture, where they can unify their values and qualities, exposing them to the rest of the world. Rrom people do not belong to anyone and are not perceived as parasites anymore. Nomadic Rrom will travel freely, as they have been accustomed to do for centuries, migrating from one territory to another in a «federal country» disseminated in the entire territory of Europe.
1. Utopia is a very slippery notion as it can be understood in many ways. Over time it has had many interpretations, starting from its most radical and imaginative forms (see unrealistic), until the social engineering of totalitarian political projects or the disillusion of concrete projects. Can you give a personal definition of the concept of Utopia? That is, what is Utopia and what does it do? If we think fast, a Utopia was a book written by Jules Verne. Or a Utopia was also the City of Flowers in which Habarnam and his friends lived, or The Jetsons from the cartoon. At first sight, all are Utopias from the past that built a suspended future, sometimes futuristic but already outdated and which paradoxically works as memories from a consumed time. If we think a little harder, a Utopia is about a future changed for the good as compared to the unsatisfactory present, a state towards which we tend, but about which we do not know when or especially if we are going to reach it. Just like when we were young and the future was still far away, at the chapter to be continued. We did not expect it, but now it’s over, the future has come. Therefore, we cannot speak about utopia as a future projection anymore, as about a dream. We are interested in what is going on here and now. We are interested in how we can intervene in the everyday process. 2. Utopia generally aims to find future answers to current problems. For the moment, which are the stringent aspects in a utopia? What problems do you believe require visionary solutions as soon as possible?
For us, utopia is not an order. Utopia is not a good for sale. In a world where everything is bought or sold, in which things around us are transformed into products and people into consumers, making a utopian proposal means to do something for free, instantly accessible to anyone and potentially unnecessary, but that can work as a treatment, in which everyone can participate. Therefore, a utopian project cannot impose something but it must reformulate already existing trends. 3. How often can you afford to «dream architecture» and how complicated does this process of escaping from everyday practices and reality become? We are not making here a clear distinction; we do not know precisely what is real or a dream in the architecture we practice. We are rather interested in obtaining a balance between the construction of events in the public space, the construction of texts and the construction of buildings. In the case of design, the dream is anyway one of the essential ingredients, without which architecture remains just a craft. In the same way, with the performative installations, we dream the architecture of public space, but we dream it on the spot, directly on the site, as the test model of a possible state that has the necessary scale and force to influence everyday reality. In these moments, our utopias are not only future projections, but are really happening, taking place.
Studio Basar 46
4. Today a concern regarding the integration of nature in construction is often noted: the classical opposition between urban and natural is dissolved to produce new hybrids. What roles does nature acquire in the context of the city you imagined?
7. Starting from your current concerns in the field of architecture, if we were to write a future history of the possible, how do you imagine Romania in a utopian vision? In what time horizons could these prophecies be concretised?
In the dramatic moments of conflict, war, natural calamities or even deep crisis, the inhabitants of the cities return to forgotten urban practices that come from the early development of the cities, a time in which nature in the city meant food. Therefore, for us, the utopian ingredient in the hybrid relation between the city and nature is not necessarily the ecological movement only in its aspects of landscaping, traffic, pollution or moderate consumption, but especially in the area of socio-community practices that develop around the production, care and food consumption as the product of the city, reversing the paradigm of food’s anonymity as an industrial and technological product and including it in the circuit of urban culture and human nature.
We do not imagine anything. The future is the same.
5. There is a state of deep anchoring in the contingent in Romania that leads to difficulty in dreaming the future. Why and to what extent is a utopia necessary today in Romania, after more than 60 years of absence? We need utopia as an antidote in order to fight an inherited latent state of disgust, manifested through phrases of the type: «we are an endless string of lost generations» or «Romania is a beautiful country, what a pity it’s inhabited». 6. We are trying to identify some elements that can connect the idea of utopia with the peculiarities of the Romanian space. In your opinion, what would those elements be that can define a Romanian utopia? The change of perspective: from a collection of disadvantages to a mix of added values that have made us see Bucharest as a tolerant city, where co-habitation between objects, subjects and programs implicitly works, where urban solutions of the type between-time generate continuous familiarity and adjustment and where projects do not necessarily stay unfinished but they remain open to natural evolution.
8. In what way do your projects perform this exercise of imagination and what are its utopian elements? Because utopia was used so much as an imaginary projection that is ideal but unrealizable, and therefore illusory as an organisational form of society that does not take into account objective realities, it came to the point that utopia became a pejorative adjective that can describe an attitude that is dreamy, useless and harmless, being an idealist, bright but tyrannical behaviour. The modernist project abused – as in the case of scientific communism – Utopia, by blunting and devaluing it by imposing, often brutally, the possible utopia. Therefore, it was not the ingredients of these utopian projects that were wrong and led to the failure of the approach, but the method by which they were implemented. With the fall of the Iron Curtain, a new generation of super-modernism architects resumed the utopian approach of modernist vanguard by rather taking the architectural form, without the social content, producing new utopian-pragmatic approaches – actually, utopias with a neoliberal flavour, that completely devalued the concept of utopia, transforming it into one that is unapproachable. But the economic crisis from the last several years has also triggered a social and cultural crisis, a deep and cyclical crisis of the globalised capitalist system. In such moments, society is looking for solutions, visions and new formulas of organization, and when on the streets people are saying «the world is not fair!» utopia suddenly becomes once again a tool with which hope is sought and proposed. Probably the necessity of utopia is found here and now, in these historic moments of respiro, moments of suspension between an old, devalued system and a new system, searched and placed on more equitable bases.
For us, utopia represents that state of between time which we discovered by probing the substance of the city of Bucharest and which we developed through a series of projects realised in the name of the public space.From this series, the project «In Between Bucureşti» is also a part, a manifesto in a utopian manner, ironic and even anti-utopian – in the sense of utopia as a vision of the future, of the perception of the city – that does not aim to dream of another Bucharest, but wants to offer another perspective and other quantifying criteria of what already exists. «In Between Bucureşti» is a dream about the present placed between concrete and immediate reality and the future ideal and illusory projection. Between these two extremes, «In Between Bucureşti» proposes a vision of Bucharest from here and now, in which concrete facts are present and reassembled in a utopian, futuristic and magical manner. Thus, the utopian ingredient from the project is the possibility of paradoxical and simultaneous existence and of such urban situations. Therefore, it becomes utopian to see the current Bucharest not as a failed, impossible city, being in a dead end, but as a fascinating, paradoxically free and dynamic city. «In Between Bucureşti» is not just an abandoned utopian project, but also a form of research that aims to investigate instruments of the utopian manifest, its relevance in architectural practice and its relation to the contemporary Romanian context.
«In Between Bucureşti» is developed in two directions, following the communication form and typology of message transmission. First «In Between Bucureşti» is a wall poster: a comment-poster at the address of this graphical method of communication, often used by the architectural vanguard of the '60s and '70s, towards which it remained closely connected and together with which it gradually devalued, currently reaching only an appearance that sustains a content exclusively commercial, even inside architecture magazines, by which sponsors, producers, or distributors support the appearance of those respective publications. In this way, «In Between Bucureşti» aims to reaffirm the Poster as a cultural expression, as a theoretical tool of critical reflection but also as a publicly accessible element, specific to pop culture, that also makes a reference to contemporary Bucharest and its streets permanently covered by a thin layer of paper. The fantastic story from «In Between Bucureşti» is illustrated in an axonometric drawing done by hand, and the text is written in the manner of Romanian newspapers’ advertisements that offer fee charging services for guessing the future, expressing this way the typological approach through reference to the concrete practice of vanguard utopias, which were drawn by hand and accompanied by seducing texts promising a better world in which all our problems will be solved, guaranteed.
1. Utopia is a very slippery notion as it can be understood in many ways. Over time it has had many interpretations, starting from its most radical and imaginative forms (see unrealistic), until the social engineering of totalitarian political projects or the disillusion of concrete projects. Can you give a personal definition of the concept of Utopia? For us, utopia has a single meaning and that is of nonsense, apparently. Many times we perceive utopia as a manifesto that gives rise to new questions. A utopia must be radical, must cause controversies and contradictions. It is unexpected and unpredictable. It causes the appearance of new ideas that could be transposed into reality in order to transform the perception of reality known theretofore (preconceived). We think that in a utopia we can discuss absolute ideas, about absurdity, self-criticism. It is a necessary mental exercise in order to start any project, regardless of its scale. We can say that it is an instrument that helps us maintain a high level in designing. A utopia is an un-built architecture. 2. Utopia generally aims to find future answers to current problems. For the moment, which are the stringent aspects in a utopia? What problems do you believe require visionary solutions as soon as possible?
The first problem that comes to our mind is the one of ground occupation; the form a city should have, the way in which it is organized and where its boundaries are. The gradual disappearance of the rural environment is a phenomenon that can strongly affect the way in which a city is developed. The question is: do we need only cities? Can cities live without the rural environment? If we consider that a city can be self-sustaining then we will have to ask ourselves whether we can be deprived of vernacular architecture. Will there still be the notion of tradition? How can the tradition of a city or a new metropolis be identified? Maybe we will reach standardization of cities… In the hypothesis in which the delimitation of the city will be reached in order to keep the rural environment separated, new preoccupations with the manner in which cities will be transformed will emerge. What will be the city’s limit, where will the green space start and what form will the rural environment have? A rough selection will be made for maintaining the protected buildings in order to make space for the city’s densification. How will architectural values be preserved? How will the rural environment be transformed?
Bozin & Szekely 52
3. How often can you afford to «dream architecture» and how complicated does this process of escaping from everyday practices and reality become? To «dream architecture» is the first thing we do. We always start a project by allowing ourselves to dream it and we try as much as possible to keep it in this direction. It is probably the only way of having an ideal architecture and a clear concept. Different difficulties emerge along the way, but if even from the start there was a more consistent and logical line of thinking, the project will not «suffer» major changes. We do not see these obstacles from quotidian reality as a bad thing, but rather as an exercise that, step by step, composes architectural work. We are aware of the fact that, in order to evolve, both experiences considered correct and the ones considered wrong are necessary. It is true that each individual (client) may have good ideas that can be capitalized upon, but the vision of an architect is needed in order to avoid incoherence or inconsistencies in architecture. We consider that it is necessary for the specialists to have their say in order to improve the environment we live in. 4. Today a concern regarding the integration of nature in construction is often noted: the classical opposition between urban and natural is dissolved to produce new hybrids. What roles does nature acquire in the context of the city you imagined? Maybe the most important role. However, this does not mean that the urban environment is subject to the natural environment. The cities will have to integrate in their complex system and in the natural environment. Maybe the most beautiful example would be that of Central Park in Manhattan. Even if the natural environment is clearly geometrically delimited, we cannot say that it is artificial, due to its positioning and dimension. It is a fragment of nature perfectly integrated into the urban system and that can function independently, creating at the same time powerful connections with the city.
Lately, more and more buildings, especially public ones, have tried to integrate natural elements in order to give the impression of an ecological construction. Many architects, and not only, turn to these «tricks», by introducing vegetation into the building, in order to obtain an ecological image. For us, the building should be integrated into nature and not the other way. We could say that the natural environment integrated into a building loses its natural characteristics and tends to become artificial. If nature (through an inner courtyard) helps with better functioning of the building from the point of view of air circulation, for example, then this finds not only an aesthetic role but mostly a functional one. 5. There is a state of deep anchoring in the contingent in Romania that leads to difficulty in dreaming the future. Why and to what extent is a utopia necessary today in Romania, after more than 60 years of absence? Indeed we can notice in Romania an increased pragmatism when we speak of «constructing» a building, an urban space etc… There are different trends for stimulating architects, by organizing large-scale contests, but unfortunately projects are stopped after the contest ends. This could probably be a good start, an exercise for architects to reduce this difficulty of dreaming the future, in a freer manner. We could have a utopia today in Romania. A utopia organized through international contests would raise the interest of architects from everywhere. 6. We are trying to identify some elements that can connect the idea of utopia with the peculiarities of the Romanian space. In your opinion, what would those elements be that can define a Romanian utopia?
This means that utopia should be contextual, but most of the time utopia comes as a reaction to a general phenomenon and it is not necessarily related to context. It is very hard to identify a defining characteristic of the Romanian space. It has been influenced and shaped over time by different cultures. We could say that the rural space has a strong «tradition». We observe that this is the most often frequented by tourists interested in discovering authentic architecture and nature from the country. For us, an analysis of the un-built / natural space, which has a charm and which we consider to be authentic, would be interesting. The positioning of some buildings in the natural context would create a powerful image, which could be exploited. The natural Romanian environment would receive a new form of arrangement. It is a way of conserving the wild, virgin space. It is very hard to find this characteristic in the rest of Europe. We insist on this subject not because we deny the country’s architecture values, but because we are convinced that this can change man’s perception of the space he lives in. Maybe it would be the fastest method of educating and training the eye. Sadly, we are in a period in which only an expert eye can appreciate the existing cultural values. This is why we will have to find new methods of representing our values.
7. Starting from your current concerns in the field of architecture, if we were to write a future history of the possible, how do you imagine Romania in a utopian vision? In what time horizons could these prophecies be concretised? Most cities have approached at a certain moment a utopian vision, some of them trying to resolve the problems of rapid densification and circulation; it has even been attempted to build some cities from scratch. The result was sometimes positive, and sometimes the conclusion was reached that it was a failure. The example of Paris is relevant, of flagstone planning, in which the alley / the pedestrian’s space is clearly separated from the traffic, on different levels. Here, it can be noticed that initially it was an idea that deserved to be accomplished, only to later conclude that it was a forced / unnatural gesture, people paradoxically avoiding such spaces. In Barcelona for example, a more aggressive approach in urbanism – the introduction of street network proposed by Cerdà – functionally resolved several problems of the city. We consider that each utopian vision has its own consequences, some positive and others negative.
Currently, we think that first of all, in Romania, approaching architecture as national brand would have an initial impact on society of changing people’s mentality. A preoccupation more focused on the vision of a public space, of a public or even a private institution, would improve the quality of everyday architecture. We cannot estimate the required period of time, but instead we can analyze societies that have already tried such a process. 8. In what way do your projects perform this exercise of imagination and what are its utopian elements? We think that a utopia exists at the foundation of each of our projects. Utopia is an abstraction of a reality to a bigger scale as well as to a smaller scale. We try to discover new methods of approaching architecture, of doing something more radical, new, we could say something invented. We want to discover a new way of perceiving and organizing a space both from the inside and from the outside. A great importance is played also by the context in which the site of the building that is to be constructed is found. In our relationship with the client we simulate discussions with a connotation as utopian as possible. This helps in reaching the peak of the idea. Involving the beneficiary in these exercises helps us to communicate more easily during the following designing phases.
Images Page 53: Exhibition Pavilion Page 55: The Sensorial Museum Page 56: Private Residence
1. Utopia is a very slippery notion as it can be understood in many ways. Over time it has had many interpretations, starting from its most radical and imaginative forms (see unrealistic), until the social engineering of totalitarian political projects or the disillusion of concrete projects. Can you give a personal definition of the concept of Utopia? Utopia is an experience, most of the time of the near future, with roots in the present. An exercise we usually perform is the development of some scenarios, starting from the present, from the current manner in which things are going, towards an image of the future, introducing more factors. We often get to more scenarios, and by these, we hope for our messages to be intercepted more success fully by the target audience. It also depends on the design, as an operatingÂ method. Utopian and dystopian messages are meant to start a process of selfevaluation in each person, planting the seed, through which each individual can ask himself essential questions and, implicitly, by this process, develop empathy. Also, in order to achieve some objectives, a shock is often necessary, which can appear as extreme dystopias, that is, exaggerated utopias. If we are planning to live longer on Earth, we must remove the dirty clothes we are wearing.
2. Utopia generally aims to find future answers to current problems. For the moment, which are the stringent aspects in a utopia? What problems do you believe require visionary solutions as soon asÂ possible? There are two points where some visionary solutions are urgently needed, and these two themes go hand in hand: social utopia, always sought over time, and the one of balance in the relation between man and nature. The capitalist system is extremely viable from an economic point of view, but both problems imply prices much too high. The gap between social classes must be stopped, without return to communism, but rather by rediscovery and development of democracy in the true sense of the idea. Together with the balance of social forces, we trust that noxious effects on the ecosystem can be also reduced, even cancelled. These two aspects, although for the moment they seem quite remote utopias, must intervene as soon as possible. And there would be too much to say about how they can be achieved, variations being infinitely and eternally discussed. Only the immediate economic interest is not aligned to these ideas.
3. How often can you afford to «dream architecture» and how complicated does this process of escaping from everyday practices and reality become? Everyday reality and routine put more and more pressure on our calendar, but this situation amplifies only the necessity of escaping in «architectural dreams». Although many times, precisely by eliminating architecture, these adventures become exciting. Moreover, escapes do not have a rule; they do not take place according to certain standards: they can hit us during the night, under the shower, working at a «real» project, or eating a sandwich. Their externalisation constitutes again surprise sources, sometimes on paper, such as a drawing, text, poetry, music, or movie – as it happened in 2010, when, together with colleagues from Austria and Hungary, we went through an entire series of unique events, producing short movies. We believe that dream – architecture – utopia experiences are very constructive, helping with the personal development of each person and therefore, we try to escape as many times as possible, and these escapes become increasingly nonconformist. We hope. We sometimes have the opportunity to design «innovative» and «progressive» buildings at the edge of local conditions and possibilities – by far not the only purpose of architecture – and we afford to develop ambitious architectural or urban concepts, at the level of «competition». And compared to everyday professional practice, musical succession, the world of movie-making, of contemporary art, of exhibition curatorship, of cultural event organisation, research, even urban design in its true sense, ideas regarding regional development and interest towards niche tourism are all fantastic and utopian domains, which we hope we will all embrace, or one by one, in the future. 4. Today a concern regarding the integration of nature in construction is often noted: the classical opposition between urban and natural is dissolved to produce new hybrids. What roles does nature acquire in the context of the city you imagined?
Beyond well-known and overused green terms («sustainable», durable, environmentally friendly, energy saving, renewable resources) regarding nature’s relation with the built environment, in which, obviously, we also believe, we relate to nature as a supreme force, to which we must conform the rhythm and direction of the development. Only by humble but intelligent subordination, from the perspective of knowledge, can we tend towards balance. Utopian?! The purpose is not the domestication of nature, but reintegration within the natural system. A possible way would not necessarily follow sophisticated technologies, but the analysis of the cognitive heritage of our ancestors, especially from rural, traditional areas, in a more normal contact with the natural environment and in accordance with a more profound understanding of its laws. In the scenarios drawn by us, the relation with nature occurs in two situations: our direct dependence on it, increasing in the urban ecosystem together with resource depletion, respectively the version in which we fail and end up as only a passing chapter from history. 5. There is a state of deep anchoring in the contingent in Romania that leads to difficulty in dreaming the future. Why and to what extent is a utopia necessary today in Romania, after more than 60 years of absence? This problem can be reduced to Maslow’s classical pyramid of needs, according to which a state of dissatisfaction is created when certain needs that are gradually ordered are lacking, from the primary ones to the superior ones, culminating with respect and self-achievement. Our society was for a very long time concerned with the accomplishment of needs of first primary steps, and then again in the communist regime, and now we celebrate the peak of the possibility of their accomplishment – compared to the West, that «can afford to dream». However, it is not all about money; it is also about education, culture, spirituality, the extent to which you can detach from the immediate reality. Imagining a utopia is a beneficial exercise, containing at the same time the criticism of the present, as well as the search or the creative impulse for finding solutions. The fact that we do not dream leads us more easily on the beaten tracks, depriving us of the effervescence of innovation, the risk of repeating mistakes being persistent, while creativity opens valuable shortcuts to accomplishment.
6. We are trying to identify some elements that can connect the idea of utopia with the peculiarities of the Romanian space. In your opinion, what would those elements be that can define a Romanian utopia?
7. Starting from your current concerns in the field of architecture, if we were to write a future history of the possible, how do you imagine Romania in a utopian vision? In what time horizons could these prophecies be concretised?
Some of the important problems in this space are represented by an error inherited from the previous regime, the solution of which requires utopian visions, and namely the individual – community and private – public relation. These seriously distorted concepts are elements specific to our society and are at the base of many malfunctions of the present. Unfortunately, the so-called period of «transition» did not bring the result we had hoped for from this point of view, a strategy of social and community education oriented towards this direction being nonexistent.
Romania, in the short term: the crowded landscape of populist ideas implemented with a poor understanding of the idea of development, by the «leaders». Historical urban markets are transformed into perpetual media circuses with scenes and giant screens, surrounded by stands on arenas with parking areas, malls, high-rise office buildings, banks and gas stations, everything under the dome of a cathedral as large as the country, tricolours, which gather on the underground highway, financed by Europe, all the population to take loans and to give them as alms to politicians, sellers of money and football on one hand, and on the other with remade starlets, while listening to «manele» music, smelling of Romanian sausages and getting up to our knees in slobbery, spat-out seed shells, electoral pamphlets and magazines with discounts.
A prominent positive aspect for the Romanian utopia is the wealth of elements that were not destroyed by the activity of «modern» man, especially those of nature and traditions, the way of life that is here and there timeless and, very important, self-sufficient, still alive, respectively the paradoxical relation with the rural way of life of the urban masses of first or second generation.
Romania, in the medium term: after depleting resources, dominated by basic needs, returns to the rural and self-sufficient way of life, which still persists in the memory, the conscience and habits of the population. An advantage before the Western communities, much more distanced compared to this vital knowledge with regard to freedom. Even cities’ representative historical central sqaures are included again in the natural agricultural circuit. The effectiveness of solving the needs of survival imposes cooperation at the community level, at least for the idyllic period lacking in temptations to express individualism. Romania, in the long term: the State, an obsolete and introverted form of territorial and community organisation, excessive between the natural level of life organisation at the regional and continental level, will disappear. 8. In what way do your projects perform this exercise of imagination and what are its utopian elements?
In this regard we have studied scenarios of urban development in the conditions of performing, or not, the balance between the division of labour and self-sufficiency, within the urban anthropic structure – currently unbalanced in an extreme measure. We are probably still far from the explosion of the problem of ensuring the population's basic needs, yet perplexed by the perpetual consumption of speeches, ideologies, opportunities, chances, work, work, work, for others, and again consumption. We agree with the agitated but peaceful present, at least here and now that is just a passing moment on a historical scale, and the structures realised by mankind will be easily assimilated on the natural system’s evolutionary scale. We propose an episode from the future, which evokes two «utopian» possibilities: the balance with or without our species. The future will be green anyway. In what concerns us: we want to oppose less and less resistance to the assimilation of buildings designed by natural phenomena, both in the short term of structure usage, and in the long term of gradual disappearance.
The personal interest of the blipsz! team / AREA3 towards urbanism is manifested in a cynical attitude, artistically or pseudo-artistically assumed, with various occasions. Besides the concrete aspects related to the relation between the natural urban phenomena, apparently chaotic and infrastructure, regulation, administration, urban economy and socio-cultural aspects, we also find at least as interesting the semi-conscious subjective exploration: of the consequences of the permanent undermining of regulations, for imposing the individual interest, the harsh to grotesque character of political populism in «urban management», similarities between the urban atmosphere of communist and capitalist excess, the transformation of the urban system in the perspective of complete loss of control over the ecological balance.
1. Utopia is a very slippery notion as it can be understood in many ways. Over time it has had many interpretations, starting from its most radical and imaginative forms (see unrealistic), until the social engineering of totalitarian political projects or the disillusion of concrete projects. Can you give a personal definition of the concept of Utopia? Any utopia is launched from an idea. By its very nature, utopia is a purpose without concrete means, a trustworthy content, but without a definite form and for this reason it becomes difficult to comprise, to program and to frame in a real time and space. It can be an imposed illusion, unrealistically close, but at the same time incalculably far in time. The fascination of a utopia comes from the fact that it cannot be framed in a human time, which makes it extremely plausible. Utopia has the (dis)advantage that it cannot have defects, being something yet inexperienced, untouched and unaccomplished. The notion of utopia contains the energy of the beginning, the lack of fears and limitations, but the lack of failures as well, which makes it vulnerable. Also, utopias have a feeling of concept; they contain traces of creative impulses which, once decanted, can be transformed into real solutions. However, in each utopia the real composition of objects, of society or of the universe is found, finally becoming a distortion of a real time and space.
It becomes more and more difficult for the world to fit into its natural limits and man makes this mission even more difficult by continuously modifying these limits and usually in an irresponsible manner. Just like an assaulted natural body, it becomes a matter of time until the earth will react. A step forward would be for utopias to find future solutions to future problems, thus trying to completely break the connection with a concrete reality. The concrete problems of our time are: the need for identity of the society, communication and relationship needs and more and more often virtual needs. Here you can open a way with infinite possibilities, practically a transfer of utopias in a virtual environment, which could cancel all current barriers. 3. How often can you afford to «dream architecture» and how complicated does this process of escaping from everyday practices and reality become? By the nature of my profession, I dream it when I am not asleep. As long as it maintains a certain dose of freedom, this process can be the only alternative by which you can recreate the entire world around you, adding drops of utopia.
2. Utopia generally aims to find future answers to current problems. For the moment, which are the stringent aspects in a utopia? What problems do you believe require visionary solutions as soon as possible?
Ioana Arion 64
4. Today a concern regarding the integration of nature in construction is often noted: the classical opposition between urban and natural is dissolved to produce new hybrids. What roles does nature acquire in the context of the city you imagined? Nature is transforming itself from a secondary character with incidental part (used many times just because it looks good on the generic) â€“ into a main character, filmmaker and eventually a spectator of its own show. Just like any early phenomenon, current interference with the natural in the urban area still has many weak points, being an attempt which has failed so many times that it tends to alter the very concept. Forced naturalisation of the urban has in its being something of the forced urbanization of the rural from the communist period. We can try such mixes, but they will always retain deep roots of specific characters and insurmountable barriers, with all the creativity available. Naturalisation of the urban must occur, as the name suggests, naturally. Some isolated catalysts risk changing the general perception of the future of such a world, not necessarily through the results but rather in the light of the receptors of these results. IÂ believe that our society (unfortunately, I am referring here only to the immediate limits of our city, country, area) has not reached such a high level of urbanisation and technologisation to feel the need of a return to nature.
The first transformation is so close (from the natural to the urban) that such a return at this moment (orchestrated and coordinated) would be perceived rather as an involution and cannot be but awkward. Nature will automatically follow its course at the moment society becomes saturated by evolution and technologisation. We still have some serious steps to take in this direction. For this reason, nature from my works is not such a hybrid, is not something programmed but occurs naturally, abundantly, almost violently. With a little sad humour, a utopia in a minor key is also the fact that here, nature has intervened over the current situation of the city (in reality far from having reached the urban and technological saturation which I have mentioned above). 5. There is a state of deep anchoring in the contingent in Romania that leads to difficulty in dreaming the future. Why and to what extent is a utopia necessary today in Romania, after more than 60 years ofÂ absence?
Any repetitive thing becomes a second nature of being. The population has created over the years visible limits (created both by themselves and by others), in the beginning imposed by the system, and afterwards self-imposed. Once this process has been performed, a sustained major and long-lasting effort is necessary for opening the closed mechanism and for unleashing the imagination. A community becomes controllable in the moment in which it does not have its own ideas, when it does not know how to dream anymore. These dreams are at the basis of evolution – by the advancement of utopian ideas, by the awareness of obstacles, by their refining and by overcoming obstacles. 6. We are trying to identify some elements that can connect the idea of utopia with the peculiarities of the Romanian space. In your opinion, what would those elements be that can define a Romanian utopia?
Contrary to the generalized belief in which any normal matter applied to the Romanian context could seem a utopia, I believe that it could be a good moment for Romania to have «normal utopias». For the moment, a utopia seems to be normality. Romanian utopia does not call to mind grilled sausages and beer, does not make noise and dust, does not push and does not disturb. It is something that either functions normally, or it does not have people. Apparently, the problem of the Romanian space is not the space – and this was so epically described also by the famous cogitation that «Romania is inhabited». Utopia is something desirable, therefore I believe that a lot of utopias of each of us can create in a first phase a national utopia that in its turn could generate gradual changes, in the national spirit and then in the context of space.
In order to offer a utopian vision of Romania related to the built space, it is necessary to analyse the users of the space, being defined through them. Notions of common sense, innovation and creativity can be sequentially applied, from the social level to the built level.
The first step is for each of us to create our own utopia, to imagine our Romania such as we did not dare to imagine (see question 5). Every one of us, some even several times. Thus, we can create an entire range of (im)possible Romanias. All that is left to do afterwards is to search for solutions. We create questions to find solutions. In order to not go so far as in my current works, in which people have disappeared completely, I would create a Romania in which context (built or natural) is not modified; this time the ones modified are the people and the system. People are the ones who have the power to create spaces, objects and attitudes; therefore, we must start from there. However, history tought us that social utopias remain (in the best case) at this stage. Countless attempts to apply and concretise them have not had positive results and for this reason it seems extremely difficult to appreciate a time horizon of some possible concretisations. Not even changes of generations seem to be able to solve problems, for with new people, new problems and prophecies also come, therefore it is well to try to take ideas and to materialise them as long as they are still current. Concretely, if we are to relate to architecture, at this moment the predominant feeling is that it is separated from man. In fact, the rupture is bilateral and architecture becomes less and less important for the end user. It becomes a small component of an oversized system. Unlike nature, architecture is not created by itself. It is more than the built object, it is the creation of a context for life and therefore, proposals can be liberalized. Anyone can imagine the desired context. It takes a double responsibility and taste for creation – the professional’s role starting from here. Also, and unfortunately, a utopia of Romania is the programming and dividing of the system’s activities, the transformation into a fluent mechanism in which everyone knows his part – sufficiently – and does not have the feeling of self-sufficiency.
8. In what way do your projects perform this exercise of imagination and what are its utopian elements? Considering the points described above, a space is most plausibly defined by its users / inhabitants / creators. It is difficult to distort a context as long as it is subject to continuous alterations even by the ones using it. In order to have this full power of changes, the first thing eliminated was the human element, so that utopia tends to become almost unachievable. We do not have any factor that can modify in a programmed manner the course of things. We do not have people in the system, and it can naturally increase and can be presented to us in its true attractiveness. Also, together with the disappearance of man, time becomes irrelevant. Utopia is timelessly placed, which makes it even more plausible. The freedom to not have the constraints of time allows the development of an unrestricted abundance and natural variety.
Marius Cătălin Moga
Marius Cătălin Moga was born in 1980 in Turda. He studied at UTCN Faculty of Architecture and Ecole d'Architecture de Grenoble. He has worked at Planwerk and BAU, Cluj. Currently he is an assistant at UTCN Faculty of Architecture and founding partner of Atelier MASS.
Silviu Aldea was born in 1980 in Piatra Neamţ. He has started his studies in Architecture at UTCN and graduated from Ecole d'Architecture Paris La Villette, France. He has collaborated with several offices in Paris and Rome, among them Feichtinger Architectes and Massimiliano Fuksas Architetto. Currently he's a PhD student, assistant at UTCN Faculty of Architecture and founding partner of Atelier MASS.
Camelia Sisak was born in 1982 in Sibiu. She studied at UTCN Faculty of Architecture and Ecole d'Architecture de Grenoble. Currently she is an assistant at UTCN Faculty of Architecture, collaborator at its magazine and founding partner of Atelier MASS.
Tamás Sisak was born in 1981 in Târgu Mureş. He studied at UTCN Faculty of Architecture. He has worked in several offices in Braşov and Cluj, among them MCUB. He has participated in several workshops including with Eduardo Arroyo in Óbuda, Hungary. He was the leader of the architecture workshop at XVIth Minimum Party in 2011. He is a founding partner of Atelier MASS.
(www.f-o-r.ro) Alexandru Cozma and Oana Simionescu started working together as students, in the Faculty of Architecture in Timişoara. Starting in 2008, we were part of the BIG team from Copenhagen, for a year. Here we actively participated in several projects of the office, most of them competitions. This experience definitely shaped us in many respects. In early 2010 we started coalescing as a FOR – a platform for creation, an information medium, a tool for construction, a strategy. «FOR» is a preposition, a conjunction, and an idiom – a link between two parts, a conclusion, an attitude. A beginning, part of a larger image, significance. An international word. In Romanian, a place for public debate or, on the contrary, an individual's consciousness. We use FOR as a work platform for various competitions or voluntary projects with which we choose to occupy our time. For us, it represents a lifestyle – one that we live with great pleasure, together with anyone who finds inspiration and motivation in this.
(www.ateliermass.ro) Atelier MASS is an architecture office formed in 2011 by four former college classmates (Silviu Aldea, Marius Cătălin Moga, Camelia Sisak, Tamás Sisak). The first years of practice happened in various architectural offices in the country and abroad. We found ourselves in the competitions we took part in together due to our interest in projects that do not enslave us in routine. Important for us is the application of a collaborative working method with people from other disciplines, which, we are convinced, leads to the spreading of ideas and to the transgression of some restrictive disciplines. Each of us is involved in various related professional practices of architecture, such as research, teaching, cultural projects by means of the MiniMass association or editorial projects.
(www.republicofarchitects.com) Emil Burbea, Oana Coarfă, Alexandra Liţu, Radu Ponta Initially conceived as a meeting space for the mutual passion of various people, the Republic evolved unnoticeably towards a design studio flavored by the manifold approaches, interests and concerns of its members. Out of the initial expectations remained the stress placed on the different experiences and interests of the members and collaborators and the belief in the potential of the contradictions to push the projects into areas otherwise inaccessible to each on an individual basis. These meetings reappear together with the involvement of the team and its collaborators in competitions or in their own research projects. Their mutual interest focused on the condition of the contemporary city, the modern one, the historical one or on the outskirts with respect to the urban regulations, with the dwelling traditions or with projections of nostalgia through imagination.
UPGRADE STUDIO (www.upgradestudio.eu) Upgrade.studio is a platform for experimental architecture and urban analysis recently established by two young designers: Claudiu Bârsan-Pipu and Oana Maria Nițuică. Its main objective is to use a wide range of interdisciplinary studies based on the complexity theory and artificial intelligence in developing new approaches to the design challenge. The proposed visions seek to challenge the current limits of the design process, particularly stressing the social aspects and the role of technology and information in the development of architectural and urban organisms. Upgrade.studio developed in collaboration with Dorin Ștefan an interdisciplinary study of urban and social dynamics of Bucharest: FOB Flocking Over Bucharest, study which was presented at some international conferences of architecture and urbanism: – «London Festival of Architecture», 2008 or «Tel-Aviv Yafo: Old-New Metropolis», Tel-Aviv, IL, 2009. The upgrade.studio team won the first prize of «Taiwan Tower International Conceptual Competition», and the third prize in the final phase of «Taiwan Tower International Procurement Competition» (together with Dorin Ștefan+D.S.B.A. and Mihai Bogdan Crăciun), as well as the distinctions of «eVolo Skyscraper Competition» and of «2nd Advanced Architecture Contest» and took part in a series of international competition together with DeluganMeissl Associated Architects from Wien, AT and Rasmussen-Brunke from Hamburg, DE.
STUDIO BASAR (www.studiobasar.ro) studioBASAR was established in 2006 by Alex Axinte and Cristi Borcan, both as an architectural studio and a Search-and-Rescue team. In the past several years, studioBASAR has developed several chapters of the «Search-and-Rescue: City» project, as a strategic search that investigates the dynamics of contemporary Bucharest. These chapters' aim is to adapt to the local urban conditions by developing negotiation tools, and at the same time by drawing attention to marginal and trivial topics such as banality, improvisation or illegality as active ingredients of the local urban culture. The projects of studioBASAR range from art installations and urban research to competitions and different typologies of residential and public buildings. studioBASAR was part of the «The Seductiveness of the Interval» project as the Romanian Pavilion at the 53rd edition of the International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia 2009; the pavilion was rebuilt at The Renaissance Society Contemporary Art Museum in Chicago, 2010. studioBASAR published in 2010 the book Evicting the Ghost. Architectures of Survival, that examines a specific phenomenon of recent Romanian urban and social history: nationalizations – retrocessions – evictions, and was awarded best architectural book at the 2011 Architectural Annual of Bucharest.
(www.bozinszekely.com) Founded in 2010, the Bozin Szekely Architects architectural office aims to improve the quality of architecture in Romania and raise it to an international level, realizing that the potential of this country is not fully exploited or brought to its true level. We are two young architects who have accumulated several years of experience in Romania, Switzerland, France and Belgium, after graduation from the Faculties of Architecture in France and Switzerland respectively. Our collaboration with different architectural offices or various architects contributes to the adaptations and improvement of the vision of the period in which we live. We’re trying to transform our utopian visions into reality. The way in which architecture presents itself will have to be more complex than ever. Therefore we choose to study each project to the last detail. We are competitive and motivated to face future challenges of any kind.
BOZIN & SZEKELY
BLIPSZ (www.blipsz.ro) «What’s a boy to do if he’ll never be a gangsta? / Anger in his heart, but he’ll never be a gangsta» tUnE-yArDs Blipsz! was formed from design studio teams, as far back as college. Pawkily: different personalities, but with a sense of humor and with similar music taste; maybe (with a similar taste) also concerning architectural interests. Problems appeared from the start, but we participated in all project competition calls. We skipped a few steps of professional knowledge, simultaneously launching the AREA3 Association and s.c. blipsz s.r.l., we met a handful of truly special colleagues, we missed – not our fault – opportunities to enrich ourselves by designing / planning before the «crisis», some of our houses ended up in banality, in other cases we missed out on going to the field / on site when the most important details were being cast off. But we have been driven onward by a few more experienced colleagues and persevering beneficiaries. We have also had our own flashes. Blipsz! and AREA3 are now in the coloured magazines, with thick pages, for architects. The involuntary leader (The Frustrated Visionary), the Cautious Technician, the Lazy-ass Finisher: lucky bastards or lucky losers? Let us be lucky, but aware of our own strength, proactive and more persevering. From now on 8 hours per day, closed during the weekend: for the best results.
It was cast in our dish that we are naive, concerning the current conditions of «performance» in the design market: but isn’t really the market disfigured and isn’t really the good intention, a condition of naivety, the only way to recover? Instead of the clubs chalked up by the dinosaurs of the guild, our hope in the future turns toward today’s children and teenagers. Better riding a bike than caught in traffic with a jeep. So: if you are cool, we’ll make you a house you have never dreamed of. IOANA ARION
Graduate of the Technical University – the Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism and of the University of Art and Design – the Faculty of Visual Arts, – the Graphics section from 2010, she attended the classes of the Visual Arts – Advertising Graphics master program. Ioana Arion manages to position herself between two different perspectives: a concrete, physical one of architecture and the other one, virtual, imaginative, of graphics. Maybe that’s why each topic debated contains elements from both directions, which amplify each other. Her works can be called graphitecture, they can be seen as an overlay of ambivalent, complementary layers, through which the real elements of architecture can create and compose artistic images. Both approaches are at the beginning of their formation, of her career; this allows her a certain freedom of approach and a utopian freshness.
This publication is a part of the Head Up! Project presented at the New Gallery of the Romanian Institute for Culture and Humanistic Research in Venice – ROMANIAN NATIONAL PAVILION AT THE 13TH INTERNATIONAL ARCHITECTURE BIENNALE 2012
Copyright © The authors for the concept and catalogue content © The contribuitors for their respective interviews and images © The authors, artists, contribuitors, and photographers for the reproduction of their work © The Arhitext design Foundation for the layout and graphic design of the catalogue © The Romanian Cultural Institute and the Romanian Institute for Culture and Humanistic Research in Venice for production rights
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior permissom from the copyright owner.
is s n :
pu b l i s h e r : ed i t o r :
Romanian Cultural Institute
Arhitext design Foundation
sc i e n t i f i c e d i tors : gr a p h i c d e s i gn : fo r e w o r d : te x t s :
Corina Bădeliţă, Alexandru Damian
Silviu Aldea, Ioana Arion, Atelier MASS, Blipsz,
Bozin & Szekely, FOR, R.O.A ., Studio Basar, Upgrade Studio il l u s t r a t i o n s : tr a n s l a t i o n :
pr o o f - r e a d i n g :