Romani - BG: Sustainable Strategies for the Integration of Informal Peripheral Settlements in Bulgaria and Europe

Open House (15.–22.10.2010).

Exhibition by Nina Ilieva – ADAPTations_EUS (NY/Sofia), Kai Voeckler – Archis Interventions (Berlin), Catalin Berescu – FRONTAL (Bucharest), David Bergman – MR+E (LA), Ersela Kripa and Stephen Mueller – AGENCY (NY), Selva Gürdo?ana and Gregers Tang Thomsen – SUPERPOOL (Istanbul).

Theme of the Sofia Architecture Week 2010 is 'PERIPHERY IS WHERE I'M NOT'. The curators of the exhibition, fordewind architecture ltd (Ephgenia Hodkevitch & Boris Enev) believe that the major issue when addressing the theme or nature of 'periphery' is the situation of the Roma population. Almost 800.000 Bulgarian citizens are Roma while the total Roma population of Europe is 12 million; Roma are hence the largest ethnic minority in Europe. Yet neither the Bulgarian government nor the European Union is making a serious effort to promote and facilitate their rights to equality and a dignified existence.

The presented investigation made by ADAPTations_EUS in collaboration with FRONTAL and Archis Interventions focuses primarily on 'Fakulteta', one of Bulgaria's biggest Romani neighbourhoods, located on 180 hectares on the western outskirts of Sofia, and home to an estimated 40,000 people. Most buildings there were built without a construction permit and lack basic amenities, a part of the area, named Cambodia, being a real slum. This is often the case with numerous Roma communities around Europe, both in historically inherited situations in the East or in improvised illegal migrant camps in the West. The exhibition presents examples of both situations in order to situate Fakulteta in an European context. However, examples of positive strategic developments in Los Angeles, Rome and Diarbekir presented by MR+E, AGENCY and SUPERPOOL demonstrate new potential for the successful re-urbanisation and social integration of restless peripheral neighbourhoods.

Catalin Berescu (FRONTAL, Bucharest) gave a lecture on the rise of the New Ghetto in Europe and joined in a panel discussion about 'Integration' together with Prof. Andreas Hofer, Technical University Vienna and Victor Lilov, manager of Karandila Gypsy Brass Orchestra. The audience addressed numerous questions to the lecturers and participated into the discussions while the exhibition proved to be popular among the Bulgarian public both in regards with the strong visuals and for a Gypsy dancing and singing workshop that took place inside.