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Architecture for the poor 



Augustin IOAN

architect, essayst





One of the most serious issues of the contemporary Romanian society is the non interest whatsoever for the social houses, within the true meaning of the word, i.e. houses for those assisted by community – whether big/national or rather local. Any concerned has been shown also for the buildings on the edge of disaster, in a country that is hunted by acts of god, such as earthquakes. This is why, form time to time our governors or local counselors are caught off guard by any cataclysmic phenomenon; the answer they come up with is merely lamentable: for the ones affected by such misfortune houses are indeed built, but on very high prices and why do not say it very ugly. And out of this alleged strategic preoccupation there results one solution, which is responded to in an enticement manner, with callousness and no perspective intended. Do we need earthquakes as those from Turkey or Greece, in order to understand why such a study must be done? 



The wooden church (starting from the left): plan and the pantocrator tower plan, as it was created. On the right, the plan of a possible extension, using the same modular system.



Here, we did it. The HAR Foundation together with the Bucharest University for Architecture and Urban Planning “Ion Mincu” and with the Valcea County Museum supported by our foreign partners the Timmerdraget Company from Sweden and the R.G.I. from Italy and also with the help of external financing (The 2000 Culture Program of the European Union) and some other institutions with which we collaborate. Actually this is not much, literally: it is a pilot-project meant to demonstrate that it is possible to openly build not only extreme decent houses, but also religious houses, for those less fortunate ones, where they could anchor their gloomy souls while in poverty or trauma. In such moments we do not need only forests of emergency houses as happened in the above-mentioned countries hit by similar catastrophes, but also some locations for the commencement of new small communities. 

Since any other criteria then those of the cost effectiveness and common sense (i.e. modulation, proportion, adequate scale and efficiency of the used material) seems of no importance, we do not whish to be jugged for more than we have intended. We did not want to solve here and now, the reality issue of vernacular tradition, whatever interesting as it may sound. Nor did we intend to praise the spirit of the location – of any location – there is no time for caprices while in crises situations. We simply created a pre-manufactured wooden system made up of four squares of 3.63 x 3.63 m, describing four cubes having those sides; out of this we created a house and a church. That’s it.   









The wooden church construction in progress.


Consequently, with modesty and wisdom – we believe – we have managed to offer for those who really are interested, viable, cheap and mostly spiritually reasonable solutions. We are also aware of the fact that since they do not bring any money for political groups or any commissions for intermediaries, our house and church will not become so popular. 

The life we are living is not one of generosity or Christian self-giving (or at least one of the social-democracy). Now, it is the time for wolves and vultures to take action, at least while there is still something left to be captured or grabbed hold of this country. But, when the time comes and we so badly need such locations, we would like you to know that we did not sit doing nothing when we were supposed to work, as they did, that we did not build houses for the newly rich people, while those who live beyond the limit of poverty are dealing with merely unbearable circumstances. And thus, that we were no part of the general indifference, either of the right or left side.



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