The White Shirt Project #8. Mailänderli

Back in the eighties when I was a kid, my originally Swiss great grandma lived in the ground floor of our house. Together we’d bake these wonderful Christmas cookies “from home”, as she said. First she’d roam around the markets for a few days and obtained some eggs, some flour, margarine and sugar. Sometimes she’d even get a lemon! For the zest.

She’d prepare the dough and leave it in the pantry overnight. Then we’d spend the whole next day in the kitchen kneading, rolling and cutting dough. We’d bake little stars, hearts and …plusses.
I later learned that the “plus” was actually the cross from the Swiss flag. Once cooled down, we’d put the cookies into 2 tin cans and I’d get to take one upstairs to my parents.
Once I came back downstairs and she asked me, “So, did mom and dad like them?
I like them” was my answer. Only then did she realize that not many cookies ever made it to my parents’.

The recipe:

250 g soft butter
225 g sugar
1 pinch of salt
3 fresh eggs
1 Bio-Lemon for the zest
500 g flour
1 fresh yolk
1 spoonfull of milk

  1. Whisk the eggs in a large bowl. Blend in sugar and beat until mixture is thick and pale, about 10 minutes. Mix in the melted butter and salt. Gradually fold in the flour and lemon zest. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour or, preferably, overnight.
  2. Preheat oven to 165° C. 
  3. On a floured surface, roll out dough to 6-7mm thickness. Cut into desired shapes using cookie cutters. Place cookies on the cookie sheet. Brush with beaten egg yolks.
  4. Bake in preheated oven until golden at the edges, 15 to 20 minutes. Cool cookies on racks.

The White Shirt Project #7. Democracy

…or how we spent the revolution/coup d’état.

My memories of those days of Christmas 1989 are somewhat blurred. I remember there were rumours of unrest in the streets of Timișoara. A support rally for the communist party was organised in Bucharest. Sometime before Christmas Eve, the phone rang: dad was called to go “protect the factory” he was working in as an engineer. He gambled and didn’t go. A friend of his came over to bring us some Christmas presents, but then couldn’t get back home, as there was shooting around the television building he had to pass on his way. So he returned and we spent Christmas together in our mansard, afraid and curious and glued to the tv: eventually, the dictator couple was overthrown. Live broadcast! “We’re free! Democracy, at last!” dad yelled.

My great grandma, born 1904, had immigrated from Switzerland in 1927. Now she ranted from behind the stove: “…Democracy?! We needed 500 years to learn how to deal with democracy. And you think you got it all just like that, overnight?”
Dad got frantic: “You bitter old woman! Can’t you, for once, rejoice?”

30 years passed in a blink.

The White Shirt Project #6. Oleander

Great-grandma had come from Switzerland to Romania in 1927 as a trained nanny for children with disabilities. Among the things which she attempted to reconstruct in her new country that’d remind her of home was a typically Swiss garden: with flowerbeds and gravel roads, bergenia, violets, tulips, periwinkle, hydrangea, forsythia, rose-beds and an ivy-covered fence.
As people from the North need a constant reminder of their longing for the South, a Mediterranean twist was added: 4 oleanders in wooden crates shed our garden table from our neighbours’ prying eyes, 2 white and 2 pink ones.

She’d tend to the garden almost every day, so I grew up learning plants by their German or botanical name more than by their Romanian ones. The oleanders grew heavier each year and they needed to be carried down the spiral staircase to the basement every winter. Sometimes they got lice and had to be treated. Sometimes dad didn’t look sad at all when they had to be pruned dramatically, as that would decrease their size and weight proportionately.
They survived everything – except the collapse of the communist party.  When, after years of applying for permits in vain, upon the fall of the regime in 1989, we where finally authorised to switch from heating with wood stoves to central heating, the oleanders snuffed it.

The White Shirt Project #5. Landowner

Before 1989 we were taught in school about how the incredibly cruel bourgeois landowners had enslaved and tortured the peasants.
I knew that “in the old times” grandma had owned some land and a horse. It was therefore hard to imagine the most sweet-natured person I knew mistreat any living being, let alone another fellow human.
After the revolution I learned that grandma had been a lawyer in her youth. A city gal through and through, but in love with nature and horseback riding, she had taken up a credit for a few hectares of land close to Bucharest, bought the aforementioned horse and a pair of oxen and had spent most of her free time riding through the fields.
In January 1948 the bar associations were dismantled and lawyers banned from practising law under the new regime.
In March 1949 the collectivisation of agriculture began: everything was confiscated, nationalised; the animals were put into a collective farm. The horse refused any food and dropped dead after a week.
Until this day I have never met anyone more sweet-natured and serene than my grandma.

The White Shirt Project #4. First Snow

One late autumn day in 1982, two couples spent a night at the Horezu Monastery with their kids. The next morning they were going to gather chestnuts in the woods nearby. But when they woke up, a thick layer of snow had covered everything, blinding white.
So we went for a walk in the woods instead. On the way back, I climbed on a gate to avoid being trampled on by the cows returning to the village in the evening. Clouds of steam from her nostrils. A cow stopped, turned and licked my face.

Every winter on the first day of snow my mind goes back to that morning. The peace of that monastery, the order that seems to come to this world along with the snow.

The White Shirt Project #3. Restructured

2008. On November 27, I got fired. One day after my 30th birthday. It wasn’t even the first time I got “restructured”, but it was a painful one. We had played “happy family” for some time at the office, now we started playing “last in first out”. It taught me that one dreams and grows alone. And the world doesn’t end with that nice job in a cosy architecture office.

The White Shirt Project #2. Housewarming

2013, November 24. We met again by chance in some bar. We danced like crazy, almost like that first time when you whirled me around, then suddenly lost your balance and let go. Outside on the sidewalk, your dreamy smile, “where should we go now, somewhere nice.”
“We could go to my place, this time”, I said. “But it’s still under construction, I don’t live there yet.” Let’s.
First time I got to sleep here, on a huge towel in the middle of the room, the silhouette of furniture dressed in some old sheets, leaning against the wall. That foggy morning. Housewarming. #whiteshirtproject #whiteshirt #linen

The White Shirt Project #1. Taking off

1999, November 22, I left Bucharest.
Excited: I would go to Germany on an Erasmus year. As sweet revenge for having failed the first attempt at high school admission 2 years earlier! Goodbye home of my quarrelsome teenage years, goodbye to all boundaries! Hello world!
I was going to travel and I would discover and I would love and it will all be worth it.
On my road, I shed so many skins. For every skin, I’ll post a shirt (and a memory). Come along.
#whiteshirtproject

URANUS NOW

A new exhibition will follow soon: https://uranusacum.ro/locuri-ale-memoriei/

Exhibition at MNAC 17.10.2019 – 12.01.2020 in cooperation with Zeppelin, Ideilagram

December 22, 1989 marked not only the fall of the Ceaușescu regime, but also the end of the megalomaniac communist project to demolish and then rebuild Romanian cities. Thirty years on, the collective memory of these destructions is fading away, while the aggression against the cities continues, even in an opposite paradigm – that of ultraliberal development.

Forgetting (sometimes voluntary) can intensify a revisionist discourse, which justifies those brutal demolitions by the need to “modernize”. The same discourse then programmatically applies to the destructions and excessive building we witness today.

Under these circumstances, we believe that neither nostalgic accounts, nor the display of archives and other records as such are no longer enough. Therefore, through the proposed project we intend to take a step forward towards a symbolic and analytical re-enactment of an erased urban reality.

     *Collage: Radu Manelici. Photo: Andrei Bîrsan, Ștefan Tuchilă

We concentrate the almost completely destroyed Uranus neighbourhood, the very place the occupied by Ceaușescu’s Palace (now the seat of the Parliament) and several other totalitarian buildings. But we also talk about the context, the general project and other brutal urban replacements, including recent ones in Bucharest.

*Ecoului Street in the 1980s. Photo: Andrei Bîrsan

The keyword is co-presence: overlaying today’s reality on the erased past reality. And this will be achieved not only for houses, churches, schools, streets and gardens, but also for people and their stories. Using 3D and physical models and installations, we aim to symbolically bring back to life the demolished buildings into today’s world.

The main goal of our project goes beyond remembering and honouring those who suffered, resisted or documented this tragedy: it is also about promoting a more balanced and responsible urban development for the present.

URANUS NOW is a project about the living history and the community spirit, about the sometimes invisible connections between periods of history that might appear radically different.

*Photo: Andrei Bîrsan

Contents and activities

1. We are conducting historical and architectural research, an online archive about the Uranus-Izvor area (broadly the area between Splaiul Independenței, Piața Constituției, Piața Regina Maria, Calea Rahovei, Strada Izvor).

The archive contains new historical images and plans, as well as summaries or excerpts from other researches, also conversations with former residents or witnesses of the events.
All the information will be presented as such, in a structured way, but we will provide interpretations of the data too. Among others, we are working on a 3D model of the area: a 3D two-layer model of the area, superimposing the reality pre-existing Ceaușescu’s intervention today’s cityscape.

The archive will be available free on the e-zeppelin platform.

2. An indoor exhibition was organised at the National Museum of Contemporary Art. The exhibition presents a selection of the documentation described above, as well as film screenings, fragments of the demolished buildings, items provided by the residents of Uranus, etc. One of the main elements in the exhibition is a two-layer physical model of the past reality superimposed on the present-day one.

*Photo: Vlad Dumitrescu

*Photo: Vlad Dumitrescu

*Photo: Vlad Dumitrescu

3. An outdoor exhibition consisted of a series of temporary installations mounted in the public space and on the property of some institutions in the area.

The installations are to be found in the public space until June 5th, 2020 and take form of 1:1 scale models made of light materials. They replicate fragments of the demolished constructions and were placed into the public space on the exact former locations of the buildings.

*Photo: Vlad Dudu

4. The exhibition was accompanied by a round table and events for children (in partnership with De-a Arhitectura Association). Undergraduates of the Ion Mincu University of Architecture were involved in creating the digital archive, projects, and actual constructions.

*The archeology of the urban memory. A restored plan of the former neighbourhood superimposed over the current situation (detail). None of the old elements in the picture survived (the church, the streets, the houses).

Uranus Now. Exhibition, digital archive and public space installations

ORGANIZERS: Zeppelin, Ideilagram, Ordinul Arhitecţilor din România – OAR – Filiala
Bucureşti

EXHIBITION: National Museum of Contemporary Art, Bucharest – MNAC, 17.10.2019 – 12.01.2020

PARTNERS: MNAC Bucharest, The Romanian Academy, “Ion Mincu” University of Architecture and Urbanism, Bucharest

ONLINE ARCHIVE, PROJECT INFO (RO): e‑zeppelin.ro/uranus‑acum

THIS CULTURAL PROJECT IS SUPPORTED BY:
Romanian Order of Architects through the Architectural Stamp Duty
The Administration of the National Cultural Fund—AFCN.

SPONSORS: Saint-Gobain Rigips, Valachorum

TEAM

CONCEPT, CURATORS: Dorothee Hasnaș, Ștefan Ghenciulescu

DESIGN COORDINATION, CURATOR: Ilinca Păun-Constantinescu

URBAN AND ARCHITECTURAL RESEARCH, EXHIBITION CONCEPT, DESIGN: Dorothee Hasnaș, Ilinca Păun Constantinescu, Ștefan Ghenciulescu, Tudor Constantinescu, Gabriela Belcineanu, Iulia Păun, Alexandru Păun

HISTORIC, SOCIOLOGIC AN URBAN RESEARCH: Oana-Valentina Suciu, Iris Șerban, Irina Tulbure, Andrei-Răzvan Voinea, Mihai Burcea

INTERVIEWS: Oana-Valentina Suciu, Iris Șerban, Dorothee Hasnaș

COLLABORATORS INTERVIEWS: Silvia Schechter, Ioana Olaru, Anca Sandu, Andrei Bulearcă

EXPERTS: Hanna Derer, Peter Derer, Nicolae Lascu, Sorin Vasilescu

GRAPHIC DESIGN: Radu Manelici, Max Gruenwald (Faber Studio)

FILMS, EDITING: Alexandru Păun

RESEARCH COLLABORATION, PLANS RECONSTRUCTION, 3D MODEL: Ana Băbuș, Anca- Bardan, Bogdan Diaconu, Teo Neagu, Diana Necula, Octavian Dragoș Puiu, Andrei Subțirică, Anastasia David Limona, Andrei Badea

INHABITANTS, WITNESSES INTERVIEWED: Crenguța Roșu, Dinu Suciu, Liviu Tofan, Paul Drogeanu, Dan Perry, Iulian A., Horia Marinescu, Tudor Marinescu, Sorin Vasilescu, Peter Derer, Emanuel Tânjală, Rodica Scafeș, Dinu Bumbăcea, Cristian Preda, Dumitru Belu, Mircea Stroe, Nicolae Olaru, Alexandru Mexi, Cristian Zaharia, Musi Tudor Vespremeanu, Radu Stroe, Beatrice Jöger, George Calalb, Persida Bucur (Kipper), Ligia Livadă, Mariana Avanu-Bulei, Ozana Nicolau, Ecaterina Băndărău, Raluca Bibiri

NEW AND ARCHIVE PHOTOS: Andrei Bîrsan, Șerban Hasnaș, Alexandru Panaitescu, Dan Perry, Ștefan Tuchilă, Sorin Vasilescu, Cristian Zaharia, Agerpress, archives of the dwellers of Uranus, other personal and institutional archives

INSTALLATION STRUCTURAL DESIGN: Adrian Brânzoiu, Ștefan Ruste & Ioana Avram
GYPSUM ORNAMENTS: Neta Popescu, Florin Ciobanu, Marian Ciobanu, Florin Stanciu, Ionică Florea

CONSTRUCTION TEAM: George Tănase, Daniel Dafina, Marian Dorobanțu, Iulian Galați, Ionuț Agache, Gabriel Cazan

EXHIBITION PRODUCTION: XDesign, Atelier Vast

VOLUNTEERS FOR THE INSTALLATIONS AND THE MOUNTING OF THE EXHIBITION: Andrei Badea, Luana Ionașcu, Cristina Ginara, Anca Maria Păsărin, Lucia Spinoiu, Laura Dinu, Vladimir Nicula, Iulian Eremia, Mihnea Tudor, Iris Șerban, Antonia Panaitescu, Laura Paraschiv, Bogdan Rădulescu, Ioana Naniș, Andrada Oncescu, Nadia Oltea Constantinescu, Casian Cosma, Laura Paraschiv, Lorena Brează, Bianca Andreea Ivașcu, Ioana Manu

SPECIAL THANKS: Răzvan Theodorescu, Tomnița Florescu, Anca Oroveanu, Georgiana Ghenciulescu, Marius Andruh, Ștefan Bâlici, Laura Bursuc, Andu Păun, Ioan Erhan, Cristian Zaharia, Șerban + Marina Hasnaș, Ruxandra Dumitrescu, Alexandru Nicolae
Panaitescu, Monica Grecu, Gabriela Ghircoias, Irina Hasnaș, Sonia Irimescu, Alexandra Chiliman Juvara, Cristina Ionescu, Dragoș Marian, Ligia Marian, Cristi I. Popescu, Silviu Munteanu, Coca Stroe, Paul Buchert, Alex Mexi

The missed flight

Kloten airport. One of the places where I feel at home

December 31st, a few years ago, I’m about to fly back to Zürich where I was living at the time. Had booked it long in advance and was thus able to enjoy both a family Christmas in Bucharest – and a New Year’s Eve with friends there – and go skiing the morning after!

So I’m at the airport and check in 3 hours prior to the flight! Small luggage – checked. I’m sitting in the duty free area, reading and listening to the announces. The little Omega watch that once belonged to great grandma is slowly ticking the passing time away. 2,5 hours to go, 2 hours, one and a half, one hour: Nothing about Zürich or a Swiss flight. Half an hour to go, I go to the boarding area to inquire about the whereabouts of my flight.

Aaaand there it says, “GATE CLOSED”. One person is still at the counter, I rush towards them, “Hey, where is everybody?

“You are Miss Hasnas.” – Yes.

“We have just unloaded your luggage.” – What?! Please, don’t, I have to be there tonight! There’s still 30′ till flight time, how could you?!”

“We-ell, miss, there was hardly anyone on this flight, so we closed a bit early. But we announced it on the speakers several times.”
And then I see it. My watch is 8 minutes slow! The speakers in my duty free area were probably broken. The… “Please, the plane did not take off yet, I can see it from here, the door’s open – you have to get me on that plane, sir!”

“Nothing I can do now. It’s the last day of the year, ma’am.”
“But I have to be there tonight…”

I burst into tears. The ground staff kindly invites me to book another plane!! No refund for the early take off!
The flight takes off without me. Desperate to get on a plane, I call dad.

***

Dad walks with me from one counter to the next. Any combination we can use to get me to Zürich tonight?

In the end, it’s Air France, 850€, through Munich. I get there with a tremendous headache, but on time, after 14 hours on the road. Could almost have flown to Mexico in the meantime and for that amount of money. The headache makes me skip the New Year’s Eve party. The mere thought of champagne…The next morning we leave for the mountains.

It was the only time I flew on a plane with more crew than people on board. And I still feel ashamed when I think of it to this day.