One of my current obsessions is the link between fashion/lifestyle and architecture. I will probably explore further the issue in a future blog and maybe analyse in depth the architectural inspirations behind some of the most striking creations by a few modern fashion designers. In the meantime, if you happen to be around London next week try not to miss the debate "Evicting the Ghost" at the ICR/Romanian Cultural Institute. The event will focus on totalitarian space and its post-totalitarian uses.
Chaired by Daniel Serafimovski, Senior Lecturer at the Department of Architecture and Spatial Design, Metropolitan University London, the event - part of the “New Bucharest Market” project presented by the Romanian Cultural Institute at the London Festival of Architecture 2008 - features three interesting lectures: “Occupying the Totalitarian Imagination” by Malcolm Quinn; “Architecture and Politics at the Foundation of Foundation” by Jonathan Lahey Dronsfield and “Evicting the Ghost” by Studiobasar’s Alex Axinte and Cristi Borcan.
While Quinn, reader in Critical Practice and research co-ordinator at Wimbledon College of Art, will explore the idea of imagination behind totalitarian regimes in relation to the ambition to occupy both tangible and intangible dimensions of time and space, Dronsfield, lecturer inTheory and Philosophy of Art at the University of Reading, will analyse the theme of metaphysical destruction behind the architecture of Nicolae Ceauşescu’s ‘House of the People’, the second largest edifice in the world.
I’m actually really interested in Studiobasar’s project. Founded in Bucharest in 2006, the architects behind Studiobasar (in which the “B” stands for Borcan, the “A” for Axinte and “SAR” is the acronym for "search-and-rescue"), both graduates of the UAUIM University of Architecture, Bucharest, have been studying the housing eviction issue after the fall of Communism in Romania.
After 1989, the law enabled pre-Communist house owners to reclaim their former nationalised properties. Citizens had therefore to leave their houses and return them to their owners. As a consequence, a new type of accommodation was born in Romania, the so-called “ghost house”, a makeshift house built by evacuated tenants on the city’s sidewalks in front of their former domicile. These ghost houses are just stacks of furniture, rugs, plants, dishes and so on, wrapped in foil, with no proper walls, doors, windows or roofs that appear and disappear without leaving a trace. The interesting concept behind these structures is that they are inside-out houses and that they implicitly tackle the issue of marginalisation and survival in the pro(s)perty-based society.
Studiobasar’s exploration of the stories of ordinary people turned into street camping evacuees and the idea of makeshift architecture improvised on the streets by those dispossessed of their homes brought to my mind Hussein Chalayan’s Autumn/Winter 2000-2001 dramatic “Afterwords” collection.
Inspired by images of Kosovar refugees in flight, Chalayan focused on the theme of leaving your home in times of war and camouflaging your possessions, and devised chairs that turned into attaché cases, upholstery that could be transformed into dresses and a coffee table that telescopically unfolded into a skirt.
Studiobasar’s lecture will definitely shed more light on the concept of the ghost-house, but I also hope it will inspire more connections between makeshift lifestyles and fashion.
“Evicting the Ghost" debate, 15th July 2008, 7pm-9pm, ICR/Romanian Cultural Institute, 1 Belgrave Square, London SW1X 8PH, UK. Admission is free but places are limited. Please reserve your seats at tel. 020 7752 0134.