THIS PLACE IS PRETTY GOOD: 9 architectural approaches to Braila

BRAILA LABORATORY (Part 2a)

Press Release 30.07.2015

Monday, 3 August,19:00

Danube Waterfront, Braila, România (inbetween the city hall and Împaratul Traian St.)

The Bergen School of Architecture in collaboration with “Ion Mincu” University or Architecture and Urbanism – Faculty of Urban Planning and with support from the Braila Municipality, have the pleasure to invite you to the exhibition: “This place is pretty good: 9 architectural approaches to Braila”, which presents 6-month long exploration into the urban potential of Braila.

Using the city of Braila in Romania (a post-industrial, post-communist city with economic and population decline) as the field of operation, an international group of students and teachers has been exploring forms of operational capital that go beyond economy to develop architectural approaches. As such we have been working both in the studio in Bergen and on the field in the city to explore and ignite latent potentials derived from the particularities of the context - latent potentials such as the creative potential of users, the undervalued Communist era heritage, new forms of micro-urbanisms, an abundance of space and building stock formed as a result of economic and demographic contractions, etc.

As part of our field work, we have sought ways to test and calibrate the architectural approaches through direct actions, such as built interventions, participatory processes, interviews or presentations - a dialectical process where performance forms a way of thinking and doing architecture and is a central part of the process of "how to" maximize the affect with limited means.

Composed of two parts, the exhibition presents the results of the master course “Braila Laboratory. In search of architectural approaches within a shrinking city” and the follow-up summer workshop (22.07-05.08) led by the Bergen Arkitekthøgskole. 

 


 

THE LIFTING UP OF A PREFABRICATED CONCRETE GARAGE ON THE DANUBE RIVERFRONT DRAWS ATTENTION TO THE HIDDEN POTENTIAL OF ROMANIA`S URBAN REALITY 

BRAILA LABORATORY (Part 2b)

Press Release 10.08.2015

On the evening of Monday, August 3, 2015, those who happened to stroll along Braila's riverfront encountered a curious and novel exhibition entitled "This place is pretty good" which showcased 9 architectural student explorations into the latent potential of urban situations encountered in Braila such as the creative potential of individual pursuits in affecting collective space, the undervalued Communist era architectural heritage, new forms of micro-urbanisms and an abundance of space and building stock formed as a result of economic and demographic contractions. The exhibition, created by an international team of students and teachers, also saw the inauguration of a new pavillion on the shores of the Danube river -  a prefabricated concrete garage raised on four white steel columns - which attracted the attention of the passers-by, raised many questions as well as eyebrows and made headlines in the local newspapers for days on end.

A pavilion or a monument? A beacon or a roof? A garage on a table? The exhibition entitled "This place is pretty good" celebrates the way in which the people of Braila create social centers around private or privatized spaces such as garages and the courtyards of apartment blocks.


Typical apartment block courtyards structured by prefabricated concrete garages
Photo: Vintila Voda 

By reusing and repositioning this everyday object, the authors sought to create an urban intervention that taps into and makes operational a latent urban potential present in Braila, as well as in other Romanian cities: the controversial phenomena of individuals physically appropriating collective space through the ad-hoc placement of privately-owned prefabricated concrete garages in public spaces.

In doing so, the garage is elevated, both physically and symbolically - physically by outlining a new and open space that is able to accommodate diverse and spontaneous activities on the Danube riverfront and symbolically by transforming a simple and mundane object into a monument to the private initiatives prevalent in peripheral urban areas and implicitly its social impact on the city.  


Garage in private courtyard prior to being relocated  
Photo: Cristian Stefanescu 

The garage numbered 11 sits on the Danube riverfront halfway between the civic and social center (City Hall) and the historic center (Trajan Market). In its precise location, the lifted garage might be the host of a spontaneous stand selling food or act as a reststop and place of shade, it may arise curiosity as an unique structure or merge with the other roofscapes along the riverfront and become invisible.


Garage being lifted on steel structure 
Photo: Andrea Spreafico 

Raised above the ground, the individual space of the garage is transfomed into a collective one, a space for the city, an infrastructure able to accommodate a variety of activities. By the end of the inauguration evening, the reconfigured garage had already hosted an exhibition about the city, a film projection, a cooling zone spraying mist,  a bbq grill and cold beer tap, a watermelon stand and many discussions.


Garage as self-built housing unit 
Photo: Patricia Tsunoushi 


Garage as architect designed house
(Bragadiru house by AbruptArhitectura)
Photo: Cosmin Pavel 

 


Garage as private wood workshop 
Photo: Cristian Stefanescu

Since its appearance in the early 90's, the prefabricated concrete garage has become a place for the expression of private initiative by establishing an individual approach to structuring public space, thus highlighting not only the need for organizing such spaces but also the creative potential and beneficial diversity offered by such individual actions.

The raised garage becomes an an artifact – an item of cultural, social and historical significance  - which tells the story of how peripheral spaces can act as social centers for everyday life, a story valid for cities in Romania and elsewhere that articulates a global discussion about initiating and sustaining participatory processes as a way of working in architecture and urbanism.


Painting of steel structure on the Danube riverfront 
Photo. Cristian Stefanescu 

The exhibition “This place is pretty good” – 9 architectural approaches to Braila was conceived by an international team of tutors and students from the Bergen Arkitekthøgskole (BAS), Norway in collaboration with the University of Architecture and Urbanism "Ion Mincu" - Faculty of Urbanism (UAUIM), Romania and support from the Braila Municipality. It is the outcome of a summer workshop held in Braila between July 22nd and Aug 5th, 2015. 

 

More information about the project will be soon made available at www.urbanmarkers.ro

The project is financed through the EEA grant program PA17/RO13 Promotion of diversity in culture and arts within European cultural heritage. The program is a collaboration between the Arts Council Norway and the Ministry of Culture, Romania.  


 

SUMMER WORKSHOP PROCESS 


Garage 11 in original location: Private yard 


Measured drawings of garage 11


1:1 testing for the position of the garage structure


Measuring the ground level for placement 


Group design session for the garage structure 


Verifying steel structure at the fabrication plant 1


Verifying steel structure at the fabrication plant 2


Transport of garage 11 via crane and truck 


Positioning of steel structure via crane


Positioning of garage on top of steel structure (perfect fit!)


CNC cut plywood components for exhibition plinths 


Assembly of exhibition plinths 


Plinth with project model


Touch-up painting of steel structure