Romanian Mass Housing Public Space as a Playground in the Collective Memory
Keywords:socialist mass-housing, uniformity, collective memory, spontaneity, playground
The territorial systematization in Romania in the second half of the twentieth century has profoundly influenced the morphology of the current urban fabric, due to the pace of construction imposed by the socialist regime and related to politically forced industrialization and urbanization, thus contributing to an urban society sensitive to the subject. This paper addresses the ways in which the public space, resulting from the construction of socialist mass housing, was used, questioning how public space can be (re)gained for today’s communities by understanding the disparity between the original, ordered socialist vision of housing and more informal appropriation patterns. The governmental approach to the urban development of socialist mass housing resulted in the occurrence of interstitial spaces which, having been of low development priority, were reclaimed by the nearby inhabitants, becoming free places for everyone and no one, territories that generated infinite possibilities for appropriation. Even though socialist mass housing developments were (and still are) associated with a sense of constraint, this situation generated the spontaneity with which inhabitants used the public space. In Romania, in the collective memory of generations, the iconic image of the space between the blocks is that of children playing and people socializing between grey buildings. With the fall of the communist regime, the responsibility of maintaining the buildings and the public space in-between was transferred to the new owners by selling the previously state-owned apartments to the population; in Romania, about 96% of homes are now privately owned. At a time when Romanian cities are facing a lack of quality public spaces, the in-between space in the mass housing neighborhoods has become a large parking area. Addressing how the public space can be (re)used must involve a clear understanding of past practices to generate context-sensitive reactions.