Informal Urban Development in Bulgaria

Case study: The Faculteta Romani neighbourhood, Sofia, Bulgaria
Meeting and workshop, June 3–5, 2010

ADAPTations 1 in collaboration with Archis Interventions and Frontal (Bucharest)

One of the major challenges in urban development today is to successfully integrate the informal urban settlements that developed on the outskirts of large cities following the collapse of state socialism. In Bulgaria, the residents of such settlements are almost exclusively Romani. This minority community consequently has to deal not only with the severe infrastructural problems typical of informal settlements but also with social isolation arising from de facto ethnic segregation.

To move beyond resentment, racial prejudice and social isolation, and turn these ethnic enclaves into a place for cultural exchange and positive social interaction is the main goal of the project. The project's primary focus is 'Fakulteta', one of Bulgaria's biggest Romani neighbourhoods, located on 180 hectares, on the western outskirts of Sofia. Most buildings there were built without a construction permit and lack basic amenities. It is estimated that 40,000 people live in 'Fakulteta'.

Developing mutual trust between the national and regional governments and Romani community organizations is crucial to realizing effective programmes, community participation and viable solutions. The top-down approach will therefore be supplemented by bottom-up strategies. Urban integration problems and prospects were discussed at meetings arranged with the support of non-governmental Romani organizations and/or residents of “Fakulteta”. Representatives of the municipality as well as local and international professionals from the fields of social and political science, architecture, urbanism and economics also attended several meetings and a workshop, where the current situation, past experience, and future steps and strategies were discussed.