Marina Andronescu’s project proposal focuses on a community of young people who have colonized the web of underground pipes and tunnels that provide Bucharest, Romania, with central heating. Her project develops architectural mechanisms intended to change these individuals’ immediate environment and the larger political situation, and to help them gradually transition to an above-ground existence.
“These children are the surviving hallmark of Ceaușescu’s regime, a government that abolished basic human rights and carried out a drastic ‘systematization’ in Romania. Over time, these children have developed a series of urban tactics, or thresholds, to improve their living conditions. These tactics are not only a way of breaking from their thermal suffocation and gaining environmental control, but also a way of reclaiming their identity.”
Threshold Politics features built interventions that address daily scenarios in the group’s lives and aims to help the young people reclaim their existence. The first intervention is a social space for waiting. The group’s members usually leave the pipes through manhole covers opening onto windy avenues. In winter, moving from the extreme heat underground to the freezing temperatures outdoors is a challenge. Andronescu’s proposal harnesses the forces of air flow, pressure and convection to lessen the violent impact of the young adults’ exit onto the street and create a temperate waiting space above.
The second intervention is a domestic space for sleeping. Due to the suffocating heat below ground in the summer, the group frequently sleeps outdoors in close visual and physical proximity to the tunnel entrances. This allows them to monitor trespassers and intervene if required, but it also leaves them exposed and in contact with hot surfaces. Andronescu’s proposal identifies existing porticos of communist tower blocks as alternative spaces for more temperate summer sleeping spaces, making use of thermal labyrinths, evaporative cooling, and thermal storage.
These two interventions form part of a larger project tackling other social, domestic, and transitional spaces. These subtle architectural moves will allow the young people to spend more time above ground as they begin to feel more comfortable there, enabling them to take part in new social interactions. Working at the intersection of meteorology and physiology, Threshold Politics aims to create the political conditions for the children to live permanently above ground.
Marina Andronescu is an architect living in London.