18 Oct 2015

How to box the communist architecture of Brăila in order to unbox a discussion on its heritage

Author: Karl-Emil Sødegren & Sebastian Uthaug

11 communist landmarks of Braila

Denied identity

Braila Box – a research interactive tool

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Coming to Brăila as a stranger from the West can really blow your mind. At least it blew our minds when we arrived as architect students February 2015.

What role can architects play in a city that has been shrinking since the 1990s?

Is a new master plan, a new building, a park or some sort of intervention what the people of Brăila need to improve the quality of everyday life?

Not knowing where to start, nor knowing much about the city, we went to a local bar in search for the local identity of Brăila. The “bomba” was a good starting point as the people sitting there had interesting stories from their lives to share. They knew what it was like growing up in Romania during the hardship of Ceaușescu’s regime. Being in Brăila, not seeing the impact communism had on the city’s built environment is impossible. This became our starting point.

Why is the architecture and design from the communist era not acknowledged as part of the Brăila identity?

It is not hard to see why many people look back at the time of Ceaușescu feeling relieved that it is over. But to deny the past, is not a solution.

We want to play out our role as architects in this field. Like the urban tissue, with its buildings and streets, also the public debate seems to have holes in it. We want to interact with people and then react using architectural tools to trigger a discussion. The goal of such a discussion is to reach a higher degree of awareness towards the post-war modernist architecture in Brăila. To focus the scope of our project, we have chosen 11 buildings in Brăila that are clearly relevant for the project. Furthermore, the discussion of how to live with the communist era, after the fall of communism, is compatible for other cities in Romania and Eastern Europe.

Braila Box

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Through the making of the Brăila Box we have interacted with the people of Brăila in many ways. The aim of the box is still to interact. When we launch the box into the world the aim is to take part in a discussion about the “Golden epoch”, the communist time in Romania. The content of the box is not the limit of the discussion. We have provided a set of tools, a collection of material that can be extended with more urban tiles, more buildings and new ways of exploring the communist city.

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Event Hall – Braila – 1978

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Dunarea Shopping Center

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Thanks to: Catalin Agapi, Florentina Antonescu, Iulian Baciu, Tommaso Battista, Mariana Buruiana, Florentin Coman, Buena Liliana Cristina, Diana Dolco, Emil Dolco, Victoria Dumitro, Anders Sletten Eide, Leonte George, Trufana Ilie, Ion Ionescu, Adrian Mateciuc, Mariana Mateciuc, Alina Medrihan, Iulian Medrihan, Silvia Medrihan, Alina Mircea, Nicolai Mitroi, Alexandru Necula, Aurel Gabriel Simionescu, Alionte Teodora, Marcu Valentin, Iulian Vasiliu.