School of Bunesti

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The 2008 Bunesti Summer School is only the beginning

During the 2008 Bunesti Summer School the first generation of students started to literally build the school with their own hands. We made the first construction of the future campus.

The camp included mainly architecture students although students from other domains participated too. The topic was wood architecture, and the project was drawn and coordinated by arh. Ana Maria Goilav, lecturer at the Architecture University "Ion Mincu". It is necessary to mention that we had an academic collaboration with the Architecture University, meaning that the compulsory practice which was marked according to the syllabus of the Faculty of Architecture was constituted by the activity of the students in this camp. Thus, they either described, and accumulated material for their construction site work, or they analysed vernacular architecture, both old and new, of the Malureni village. Their work was exhibited at Carturesti.
Another important component of the project consists of the strong ecological inspiration. Our purpose is to recover the old materials, to find again the construction methods of the old times. We are continuing thus a tendency initiated by Serban Sturdza, Mariana Celac and the other members of the Arhiterra group. Under the supervision of two master carpenters we have learned to build a house exclusively made of wood from the foundation to the roof. Even the nails were made of wood.
Yet, beyond architecture, the first lesson of the camp was learning to survive and to live together. We stayed in tents and we cooked over a wood fire in the middle of a clearing. Gradually we improved our skills as from some boulders we moved on to a small brick structure on which we put a kitchen range and eventually we got a small brick stove with a chimney and a nearby camp fire with a grill installation made from a tractor wheel ( it was a compromise understood as a pact with modernity). When the people from the first group came to see the finished house at the end of the period they were almost frightened by how "civilised" we had become, namely by the numerous elements of comfort we had developed. Man leaves nature behind very easily in search for comfort. It is true however that the purpose of the camp was not extreme austerity, but it was quite difficult for us to keep away from our souls the need of comfort. We shall have to learn how to improve this tendency in the future. The wish for "progress" is quite tyrannical and we shall have to tame it. I believe that the experience of living together and organizing the camp was illuminating for each of us. In the general context of sharing the working activities in the camp there also occurred some amusing and appropriate initiatives : a solar clock, a small cellar to keep the food in a quite cool place, namely a pit isolated with clay and covered by an osier trap door, the chairs and small tables made of the wood remains from the construction site, and last but not least the gastronomic surprises. As far as I am concerned I ate extremely well. The lectures took place in the evening, around the fire, and they ended in hot debates. If I am permitted a small joke: the topic of our discussions was the starry sky and moral ethics, although there was no lecture dedicated to Kant.
From the very first evenings we started to learn the constellations and the night hours by their position in the sky. We were like those Chaldeans, as they are called in the Scriptures, who from the top of the ziggurates invented astronomy and mathematics. It is maybe not accidental that our building was compared to a ziggurat. The long time was marked by Sundays and holidays which took us to the churches of Zarnesti and Bohari, to the monastery Corbii de Piatra, to the church Sfintul Nicolae Domnesc and the monastery of Curtea de Arges, to the wood church of Jupânesti, to the village festivities in Stroesti where there is a small museum of old objects and tools from the peasants' farms. In the resting time we tried to ride a horse, in fact we took the first lessons of how to maintain our equilibrium on the horse and how to control it with the harness. In fact, horse riding will be the favourite sport of the summer school and later on of the campus. An additional gain of our different activities was enriching the vocabulary with the technical terms of carpentry, horse riding and farming.

The reaction of the local people

It was obviously cautious in the beginning. We had some experiences like in Caragiale's sketch Friends, namely we met well-intended people who came to tell us that other persons meant us harm and even that they were bewitching us. Some of the students found it amusing to write down some spells, just in case. The peasants' reaction was natural, after all we were the intruders, the unknown which had to be conjured, annihilated or integrated. I think that eventually the logic of integration prevailed. Thus we received visits from the people living on the other side of the Valsan river, from the Bohari village, who seeing that something was being built became curious and eventually dared to come closer. Then the students knocked at the gates of the peasants in order to discover their houses and farms and thus they came to know the villagers. Once friendships were formed we became the favourite guests of the village events, like church feasts, weddings, christenings. We proved generous in our turn as we offered them a great feast at the consecration of the house. However, the most important fact was to show them that we also liked to make what their fathers and grandfathers used to and that we wanted them to make more such objects. I am speaking now about wood barrels, wood oil presses, clay pots, materials and carpets made at their own weaving looms, especially like those which used to be made before the war, of wool and using natural colours.
Linked to this we want to support a local initiative in order to reopen a school for such trades. The Town Hall and the local council of Malureni welcomed us and helped us in different ways. They provided us, for instance, with a small bus for trips in the region.