Contesting Countrysiding - The Lost Country of the Roma

“The truth is that, in the days of yore, the Gypsies had a country. Now they keep searching for it in vain, the wheels of their wagons wearing ruts in the road as they travel them back and forth, looking for a hidden spot of earth somewhere under an out-of-the-way patch of sky. Only in their souls does the hope still exist that one day they will find their country. Then they will gather together from the farthest corners of the world where they have been scattered, and they will never leave it again.” - Luminita Mihai Cioaba, 'The Lost Country'. 

Contesting Countrysiding - South-Western Aerial View expand
Project description

Surrounded by hills, mountains and valleys, and despite its proximity to Brasov and a neighbouring village, the Roma settlement at Garcini is neglected and isolated, socially and physically. The Roma community there exist outside urban and rural development frameworks. This community exemplifies, as Troy Conrad Therrien would term it, ‘countrysiding’, a "funnelling” of “populations into the countryside of the mind.” Contesting Countrysiding is aware of the fragile existence of Garcini, and the social and environmental instability of the landscape within which it exists. It explores movements within this territory (of the Roma, of goods, animals and water), and develops an architecture that interacts with the muddy, frozen ground between the Roma settlement and the neighbouring village. It takes the craft practices for which the Roma were celebrated and provides an opportunity for these practices to be passed on. Workshops for making, farming, and recycling, and spaces for gatherings and social events offer the Roma a place of their own, and at the same time reinforce the dialogue between the Roma and other local urban communities.

Introducing 'Garcini' Village expand
Contesting Countrysiding - Developing the 'Lost Country' of the Roma
Contesting Countrysiding - North-South Section expand
A Retreat for the Winter

The project is located on steep terrain at the edge between the Roma village and the formal urban settlement. The figural morphology of the hill, in which the project is situated, differs from a very steep slope in some areas, to gentler in others. The drawings show how the building follows the shape of the hill and changes according to its figure. The proposal also follows the nomadic behaviour of some of the Roma and so its morphological figure changes according to the migratory and also sedentary families. At certain times of the year, during the spring and summer months, the proposal witnesses the arrival of travellers. Thus, the building allows the expansion of its components, making space for the Roma to build on it, to plant crops and to create trading fairs, and so, involving communities outside their village. As soon as the cold season comes and many of the Roma leave, parts of the building disassemble. The migratory Roma take parts of the building with them and so the empty spaces become ready to accommodate the heavy snow of the winter. Similar to the way in which the snow is falling and melting, some of the lower parts of the proposal dissolve when people migrate and move away from it.

A retreat for the winter expand
Contesting Countrysiding - Western Aerial View expand
Site Plan expand
The Workshops

The workshops spaces are created between the diaphragm and retaining walls. They accommodate activities such as weaving, timberwork, metalwork, agriculture, carpentry, and leatherwork. Since this is a place of craftsmanship celebration, the roof timber structure is manually crafted by the Roma. The smoothness of this structure is in contrast with the roughness of the retaining brick wall. The other workshops are similar to the one illustrated in the image below, however, their heights differ according to the activity they accommodate.

Environmental and Structural Strategies - The Workshops expand
The Weaving Workshop - Interior View
The School

At the upper end of the hill, the main building elevates itself from the ground to allow other programs to be located safely above the ground. On the first floor, the proposal provides a range of spaces mainly dedicated to the younger Roma population. Here, the children are involved in a variety of learning activities and interact with people outside their village.

Environmental and Structural Strategies - The School expand
Section through the School and Market expand
3D Detail expand
A Writer's Space

The writer’s space is completely dedicated to the Roma author mentioned at the beginning of the report. It is a space for her to write and to live in with her family. This place is inhabited continually throughout the year. It is a small part of the first elevated floor and sits partly on top of the diaphragm wall heads. The home shelter includes a writing space with a library, a living space with two bedrooms, bathrooms and a kitchen, a space dedicated to the crafted items produced by the Roma in their workshops, a small reading attic, and a rainwater/snow collecting roof. It is situated above one of the temporary agriculture workshops.

The Writer's Space - Axonometric expand
The Celebration Space Section expand
The Writers Space - Detail expand
A retreat for the winter between the diaphragm walls expand
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