School of Bunesti

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The School-Site

place

The Bunesti School started in the summer of 2008 with a construction site - lesson. It is no wonder that the architecture practice was the one which brought together the first students and professors. The building was subjected to the idea of a living community with unpredictable and ever-changing relationships.

Once finished, it was supposed to represent our first symbol of unity. The existence of the wood house in the highest place of the Bunesti meadow, where the forest road slightly turns around, can be identified with the landing of the first ship.

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And still the architectural project exists and it is located generously and yet modestly as a pretext for such a school. The first house has in itself the DNA of all the buildings we intend to construct in the next summers. The principles we are going to follow are displayed not only in the architectural form and in the location, but mainly in the manner in which we have built the house in five weeks.


WOOD, STONE, CLAY. DESIGN IN SITE


Everything starts from the natural construction materials which provided us both with hopes and disappointments. Working in wood meant discovering the untainted novelty of the very old things and cleaning the mind by giving up the temptations of reinforced concrete. During the first lesson all of us - architect, students, and even master carpenters - had to learn how to approach the wood with the same emotions we felt when meeting the strong sheephold horse on which nobody had ridden before. Wood, stone and clay are the topics of the Bunesti site lessons where the houses will display in structural forms the primary constructing laws of the material.

The core of the project is each time rendered by the characteristic constructive detail. We shall have to study and analyse it before agreeing on the expression and the size of things. This summer we have explored the potential of a traditional technique which is found only in the school books and the construction lectures - cutting the wood in the form of a swallow tail. In order to understand the specific constructive detail one should use it in new formulas during the school - site. It should be brought to life by the masters who have it at hand and yet cannot perceive the beauty it unveils. We experienced the wonder of the carpenters when we suggested that we could differently use the material they know so well. We astonished them by our "deviations" both from the safety of tradition and from the ease of modernity when we asked them to tie the beams in the form of a swallow tail, though increasimg the rhythm of the cutting and thus separating the beams one from the other. We also surprised them when we took them to the forest with their axes in order to find acacias which we burned and buried and when we built the 12 pillars on which we constructed the basis of the house. Finally, we amazed them when for many days we grooved the planks we needed to cover the eight sides of the roof.

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We behaved like the wood dwellers and we recreated the world from wood: foundations, walls, nails, stairs and roof. A total constructive experiment in which only one material is used and explored at a time in a variety of hypostases. In the first Bunesti house the gravity positioning of the beams and the cutting in the form of a swallow tail brought about the whole exterior aspect, conferred unifying simplicity to the object and made it look more like a wood sculpture in the form of a house, a sort of dwelling-like sculpture. All the corners of the cube which circumscribes the volume are cut in their superior levels at a 45 degree angle creating thus the four identical tympanums of the attic. Instead of a framework there is a continuous structure of walls brought about by the successive retreats of the beams which can now rely on the gutters. Only three sections were used which were moulded for the wood elements and which varied according to the role they played - carrying or being carried. The same wood piece provided both the morphological unity of the walls and of the floors in which only the section was sometimes modified. Moreover, the same element was used to make the stairs embedded in the exterior wall. The access landing to the attic is nothing but the prolongation of the bridging.  Both the exterior and the interior preserve the ingenuity of the constructing logic which is a specific feature of the structure-space. In such a construction the spatial delimitations completely identify with the carrying, structural elements. From this perspective the house is a concrete rendering of architectural theory, a practical educational material.

Obviously, working in wood and living close to the village obliged us to take a firm stand towards tradition. Although we made research at the Village Museum and in summer in the lanes of the Vâlsan settlements, our purpose is not to imitate, just like we do not want to innovate at any cost. We do not believe in "adopting" the rural houses because these houses have a beauty which is already part of the finite refined constructions and we do not wish to disturb it. As for a few weeks we lived by the rhythm and the caprices of the meadow, we adopted the same living rules and methods of construction as they were applied 100 years ago. We looked for houses belonging to past epochs which live their last days with impressive dignity and which are immune to the architectural disasters of the rural balconies, attics and windfangs. Instead of faithfully imitating them we choose to maintain their healing stillness in the very place we find them.

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However we shall build in a critical and experimental way in our meadow. We are not doing this in the village or in places where people have already built something. By working together with the master carpenters we have understood that ignoring tradition leads to the impossibility to innovate on fundamental constructive topics. Tradition either respects closely the virtuosity of building in the same ways or it reinterprets worthless decorative pierced patterns made of PVC. In the case of the school-site experimental largely refers to the in-situ project just like it happened with the building of the wood house. The major themes and intentions are pre-established in the form of a theoretical project so that the construction could be accomplished. More building details are studied and then deliberately abandoned to the personal interactions provided by the working communion between architect, master and students. The unpredictable has its own role in the Bunesti construction site. In fact, in order to faithfully record the way in which the unpredictable influenced us in the 2008 summer, we shall name it Providence from now on.


THE MEADOW WITH DWELLING SCULPTURES

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Due to its thin walls made of leaves and light, over which the eye embraces the view till far away towards Topli?a and around it, the meadow creates a strong feeling of intimacy. It is the perfect place for the birth of a small autonomous world. The villagers will be constantly asked new, complicated questions: Where can I find a mill stone? I need it for the first stair of my home. Do you have a wheel from a wood wagon? I want it for the trinity-well.

The wood house was given several names as we kept on building it: manor, ziggurat, cube, ark, tower. What did we build in fact? In the ages before Emperor Constantine, the church did not have a particular name which referred to a specific architectural form. Several versions were used which simply denominated the meeting of the believers. We followed the same pattern - we built the first meeting place. Several other places will come next, waiting to be given a name: an amphitheatre, a refectory with a kitchen, a library, workshops, and obviously the dwellings for professors and students. Spread along the margin of the forest - which in time will be tamed by fruit trees and creeping vines - the houses will be both close and distant at the same time. Each building material will occupy a certain place of the meadow which it should represent and give life to just like the old spirits of the forest, stones and rivers used to do. By the location of the first building in the highest point of the meadow, wood stands for the separation from the ground The houses made of clay, either dried in the sun, burned or beaten between wattles, will come directly out of the ground. The stone amphitheatre will have some underground levels. We do not want yet to know what will all these look like, but we are ready for the simplicity of forms which can be experienced with passion.

The meadow is also an opening towards the sky. That is why all the houses will have five faces with the fifth one turned upwards. Our project relies on the fact that it should look nice also from above, from where planes fly over the circle of the meadow.