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Home Sweet Home Away from Home


Augustin Ioan

08.03.2011
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În 2003, după ce am depus la CNCSIS proiectul descris într-un din săptămânile trecute, am scris şi unul pentru o finanţare externă. Cred că sintetizează destul de exact problema şi cred, de asemenea, că poate fi, încă, făcut. Poate Alina Florea, care, ca doctorandă a mea, lucrează exact pe această temă, va ridica mănuşa şi va demara cercetarea. Nu este doar o miză autohtonă. Amintiţi-vă pavilionul SUA de la Venezia din 2008, integral rotit împrejurul temelor de mai jos (dacă nu şi ilustrat de cei citaţi drept repere). Aşa că...

HOME SWEET HOME AWAY FROM HOME:
Towards a paradigm shifting in the production and appropriation
of private places / spaces. A CEE contemporary response?

Housing: re-emerging problems?

While having a consistent contribution to the modern definition of public / social housing, especially thanks to the pre- and post-war examples in Austria, but also due to the former Communist countries, C&E Europe appears to be in need of long delayed, forward-looking and consistently critical reinterpretations of their housing needs. A new paradigm of estrangement (through major fluxes of migration between cities and countryside, between West and East) is bringing forth weird hybrids of housing.

Alternative (re)Sources

Emerging philosophies of public and private spaces are to be used in conjunction with / applied to empiric data gathered on the topic, in order to formulate answers to a real social question: how can people still dwell together in relevant, meaningful ways?

Concepts that have rather recently landed in / from humanities, social sciences, sciences as such (mathematics, genetic biology, physics) as well as in / from urban and architectural studies, such as extreme otherness (altérité radicale), rhyzom and rhyzomatic space(s), placelessness, smooth vs. striated spaces, self-similarity and fractality and also many others are all useful tools in questioning existing urban projects of collective dwelling/social housing, as well as in projecting future ones.

Particularly, I am interested in alternatives to "traditional" houses and housing, such as:

1. Faceless homes by way of "terraforming", i.e. colonization or conversions of non-housing spaces such as Scotland's churches, Vienna's gazometers, Budapest's mills and their most extreme examples of squatting (Bucharest's unfinished Communist megastructures of the 1980's creatively and adaptatively [re]used by homeless people). The emerging product was at times called "re-architecture" (S. Cantacuzino) and - as a growing mass of such converted pre-existing spaces is put to work, it definitely needs a critical assessment from the point of view of providing dwelling.

2. Restructured housing projects (mass housing projects being redesigned from the point of view or their policies, social milieu and infrastructures).

3. Unsettled homes by means of:
a) bi-location (homes at "home" and homes "away from home" - as well as the trajectories that keep them together, of contemporary (e)migrants from Eastern Europe to the west;
b) temporary sheltering and / or mobile housing (short-term rentals, squatting, live-and-work combined structures, ephemeral houses), for those living on the trajectory of their migrations, be it social, professional, inter-national or a combination of the above, or for emergency / disaster sheltering that needs a quick response from public and national authorities. The investigation of "low-tech" responses involving the minimum work skills of interested individuals and communities, as well as scarce resources at hand, be they on-site, ready made, recicled post-industrial left-overs (metal scrap, cranes, concrete infills) or natural materials articulated in simple, intuitive ways.

An on-going research project

My proposed research project deals with both theoretical and practical aspects of contemporary dwelling. While designing pilot projects for affordable emergency sheltering structures in Greece, Turkey and Romania, I was also able to work myself, both theoretically and practically, around concepts like "extreme housing" or "disaster relief sheltering" (advanced by architects and artists like Gans & Jelacic, Marjetica Potrc, Cameron Sinclair with www.architectureforhumanity.com, or www.habitatforhumanity.org, and our Habitat and Art in Romania Foundation http://har.ong.ro) which, while extremely seminal, were mostly confined by their authors to gallery projects or installations, and to the lack of a strong theoretical background. Extreme housing is thus to be investigated and informed during my research period as embodied by fringe experiments in housing, dealing with other spaces ("Des espaces autres", M.Foucault) and with reinforced social aims.

Also used in my research project is the concept of hyper-housing (or "living al[on]g a trajectory", a concept of [re]movable housing suggested in my book The Poverist Manifesto, or New Urbanism (an American, community-based planning theory and practice). There is an obvious interest in discussing and reformulating ideas about what dwelling means today in a global world, with important (economic and disaster) migrations and how such emerging social conditions influence previous concepts such as "community", public / private place / space, privacy and intimacy and so on. While alternatives to the "traditional" understanding of private and collective dwelling are emerging in the whole world, there are degrees of intensities in the patterns of migration, of social changes (unresolved or re-emerging ownership issues, state or public involvement in the problem of social housing as policy makers, regulators or even players in the market of house production) that make the case of C&E Europe a region where the paradigm shifting of collective/social housing seems to be slower than in the western UE and the US.

Targeted social groups

In investigating the extremes of contemporary housing, I am looking for ways to address the question of habitation for those in emergency needs - from homeless people to poor or disadvantaged groups to people struck by disasters - and, in doing so, to also provide alternative answers to questions that were seldom asked in our part of the world before 1989: housing and migration (dwelling along trajectories) is probably one of the most radical change in contemporary CEE when compared to pre-1989 conditions. While 3b) is a question to which my ongoing research project is already providing data and accomplished pilot projects (one sponsored by Cultura 2000 with Habitat and Art in Romania Foundation), I am now focusing on points 1) to 3a), with the expectation to come out of this research with enough data and conclusions that would enable me to identify the needs, the resources and the projects that would successfully bring them together.
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