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Understanding the work of Bucharest, Romania’s studioBASAR’s requires an understanding of Romania’s history. Prior to the fall of communism in 1989, Romania was ruled by a brutal dictatorship. As harsh as things were, a certain amount of security was assumed. As with many communist regimes, everyone was assured a place to live and a job, at least on paper. With the fall of communism, an aggressive wave of privatization occurred and the country’s assets, which had all been considered public, were returned to private hands. This brought on dual waves of unemployment and eviction.

Thirty years later, many Romanians still face questions of security, and even survival. According to Amnesty International, “What we see in 21st century Romania is the deliberate expulsion from the society of vulnerable people who live below or on the poverty line and suffer from inadequate housing conditions. The current housing legislation in Romania falls far short of the international standards adopted by the Romanian government. In particular, it fails to ensure the right to adequate housing for all its citizens and to prohibit forced eviction.”

StudioBASAR was founded in 2006 by Alex Axinte and Cristi Borcan. It is an architectural office, and also a self-described “­search ­and rescue­” team which works at both urban observation and intervention. The “search” dimension works across Bucharest, looking for overlooked urban conditions that people had come to tolerate. That leads to the ‘rescue’ part of their practice, which can encompass a variety of architectural interventions, including ­developing single-family­ homes, exhibitions, and even a street installation of a pop-up pool made from stacked wooden pallets wrapped in foliage and filled with water.

The studio’s early book “Evicting the Ghost – Architectures of Survival,” looks at the legacy of nationalization, retrocession and eviction in recent Romanian history. The study explores the history of evictions and the varying status of private property over the last 150 years. These conditions have created the varying ‘architectures of survival.’

In many Western countries, the battle for public space is a battle between commercialization, commodification and democracy. However, in many post-Soviet­ bloc countries, the struggle is entirely different. It is a reconciliation between the legacy of brutal authoritarianism and the new forces of the market. StudioBASAR works at multiple scales to confront these challenges.