Or how can 100 men build 100 hoses in 100 days
In 1968, Skopje was shook by a
devastating earthquake. Much of the central areas became no-man’s-lands
overnight. The international community– a much too cold phrasing for people who
devotedly and compassionately involved themselves in this city’s drama –
started an emergency project the surprising results of which certainly deserve
telling. A decision was reached that some wooden shacks will be built each 8 by
25 meters. Each country donated a few such homes and temporarily the relocation
problem was solved – or so it was thought. The city has a few hundreds of such
buildings quasi-identical in their exterior appearance, monotonous and
anonymous at first sight but amazingly different as purpose. Across the hotel
where I stood one of the sheds hosed a private constructions enterprise with a
grand view towards the best park in town, extremely well finished inside and
right next to it – the HQ of the most important political party in Macedonia. I
would have never learned this except that in my documentary innocence I took
some photos that worried the guard somewhat. “Politikal party!” he said.
“Small!” I said looking at the poor building with pity. “No, Grand. Numero uno,
house: plan of the ground and those of the floor.
modulation of the plan.
the street – the marriage registry, across the park – the City Hall, two blocks
away – the County Hospital, Drama School, etc. You must not get the impression
that all institutions are housed in such buildings (let it be said though that
they look better inside than most public institutions in Bucharest). Most are
regular homes. The most delightful phenomenon occurred in time: at the
beginning only the poorest inhabitants lived in wooden houses; today to live in
a “shed” is a luxury. The chance to transform, infinitely improve, the small
garden in front of the house and the fact that you live on the ground level
raised the prices and their status. The eagerness to build bigger and more
expensive as well as the temptation to tear down what can be thorn down were
replaced by the pleasure derived from escaping the concrete buildings that the
communist regime had endowed Skopje with, after a most familiar model.
theme we proposed was a home that would be useful to families in need: whether
a family with modes income or refugees. Technically they are called “social
homes” and are destined to those who cannot afford to pay rent or “emergency
home” for refugees and cataclysms victims. Wishing to test a project that may
be reproduced on a larger scale we respected the legal norms regarding
habitable surfaces for our first version of the project. The home we built is
less a classical “home” and more of an utility building that will serve the
museum and the foundation for various events.
imperatives were utmost: it had to be cheap and modular. Regarding an investing
value (complete it will not surpass 10000 Euros if built in house) we can say
that the price will drop impressively if it will be made industrially and if
the materials needed are produced in Romania. We can say a lot about it being
modular: standardized elements lead to uniformity even in combinations. The
warm feelings created by a space modeled by the owner lack here. That is why we
opted for a small module, easily maneuverable and typologically “weak” – its
industrialization can be replaced without loss by the beneficiary’s
semi-qualified work. The structural constraints are minimal and one has the possibility
to “break the shell” in numerous instances – all these leave enough room for
adaptation of shape and façade according to the site, creativity, money,
execution time available, etc. The working model starts from the chosen
finishing materials and mediates between the standard cardboard-plaster plank,
the standard thermo-insulation planks and the cheapest and most common wood
planks. Nothing is lost from the cardboard-plaster planks because all cuts are
down the middle width, the same is valid for the insulation and it is even
possible to make a variant of the model where all wooden elements that compose
the frame have the same length.
363X363 cm (left) was used to the house and also to the church.
is the result of an effort to use a minimum of technology (I am not saying
low-tech because that would involve esthetics and such buildings have none). It
is possible to build the entire house with just a handsaw, a drill and a
hammer. Aside from a few stairs and some of the joints in the modules all
angles are right. All materials used have deadweights calculated so that they
will fit in a Dacia automobile pick-up. We can imagine then a group of 100
voluntaries that will transport various modules for 100 homes in improvised
locations. They can transport and maneuver the materials at a disaster area and
they can build them in maximum 100 days.
are not talking here about an exercise in architecture nor about a very
rigorous essay in economics efficiency but rather about the testing of an
honest work formula. Honesty is what we need for this program. We have to be
honest when dealing with tools, materials and resources. More and more
competent and sad people keep telling us that in today’s Romania one cannot
build for less than 220 Euros per day. What if….