Untitled Document gipsy home in bucharest

A visit by invitation


Walking through a central district of Bucharest we saw an open campfire with a big black witch-like pot sitting on it.
While taking a photo of this scene a man from behind asked us in French what we were doing. He explained that this was his house and when we asked for permission to take more photos his wife suggested to call the children and pose for us.

She became increasingly lively and invited us inside. She asked us to make all the photos we wanted but to let them have copies. When she detected that we were speaking German among us she switched immediately to a fluent German with a North-German accent, telling us that she had gone to school in Bremen for seven years.

While she was showing us around she was constantly saying: “Look at how they live. Look at their kitchen. Look at their poor living conditions.”
In all four languages she used (French, German, Romanian, Roma) she referred to herself and her family as they, them, their. She never stopped using the third person plural to describe her home.

“Look at their poor house!”

So we had a good look at her house. It consisted of two rooms and a corridor. In the whole house there wasn’t a single heating facility.
Later when we went through the prints to bring them back to her family we discovered a huge flat-screen TV-set tuned in on the most expensive private TV-provider in Bucharest, sitting in a corner of the corridor.

“Look how they have to shit!”

The outhouse is across the yard. Inside there is an old chair with the seat torn off so that all that remains is the frame to shit through.

“Look how they have to cook!”

In one of the shacks across the yard her family had its winter kitchen. During the summer they preferred to cook on the campfire. In one corner of the yard there was a tab. But with the first frost setting in it will freeze and there won’t be running water during the cold Bucharest wintertime.

“Look where their children have to play!”

Someone had built a strange metal construction serving as a swing.

A few days later we brought them the prints. They were happy to get them but didn’t look at them. They were in a hurry to leave for the registry office to get married before leaving for Marseille.


People living in poverty according to the Poverty Assessment of the World Bank: 29% of the population (approx. 6,3 million of a population of 22 million)
People living in extreme poverty (defined as those with insufficient means to purchase a minimum caloric intake each day): 11% of the population (approx. 2,5 million)
Sources: <http://www.worldbank.org/> <Poverty in Romania (also by the World Bank)>

Based on prof. Cătălin Berescu's assesment, the family featured above is relatively rich within the poor segment of the population. Berescu discerns between "poverty" (situations like above - approx 3 million people), "severe poverty" (fits within the "caloric intake" definition - approx 2 million) and "extreme poverty" (death possible at any moment through lack of shelter or access to basic help - approx1million).
Berescu is the co-author of an ample study on poverty in Romania comissioned by the Ministry of Transportation, Tourism and Construction. The report also generated a photography exhibition: <Peisaj Minim Garantat>.
For more of Berescu's activities: <Emergency Architecture> and <"Poor" Architecture>


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is an independant artistic research project by
Berlin's UrbanArt group
(Marek Pisarsky &
Anne Peschken) and
Bogdan Achimescu.

Support for
provided by Kula e.V.


all images and text
by bucharest-buchawork 2005 web design: bogdescu
graphics: bielmo

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