Catalin Berescu is a Bucharest based architect working in the field of poverty housing areas (ghettos, minimal housing, improper living conditions). He coordinated several research and planning projects in poverty neighborhoods, published a book and various articles on Roma housing issues and was the coordinator of the team that realized a ministerial methodology for improving housing conditions in areas affected by exclusion in Romania.
The urbanistic studies produced by his team were awarded by the Romanian Union of Architects and by the Order of Architects and, as a member of a group of adobe buildings enthousiasts he saw the experimental construction works they did nominated at the Bucharest Annual of Architecture.
During the last years he gave numerous conferences in universities and political institutions across Europe about the recent formation of Roma ghettos in Romania and EU and about earth architecture. Besides the professional activity that also included teaching about new media theory and extreme poverty housing and producing various editorial works he was also involved in some international artistic exhibitions aimed to draw attention to housing discrimination issues (Venice Biennale, Lyon Biennale, RIBA etc).
His current work is focused on the spatialization and racialization of poverty in five Romanian cities and is done with the Babes Bolyai University in Cluj.
I was thirty something when I first visited a Roma community living in extreme poverty and for a while I kept telling everybody that: “it’s like in Africa!” Soon enough my innocence got me a commission to make a study and the result was that people started to call me a specialist. That was actually not so good, though the respect pleased me I realised that in the collective mind there is a terrible need for some missionary man to deal with an exotic issue and that the solutions are seen to be in the realm of the providential.
Ten years later I am a bit closer to being a specialist but I still struggle to keep the fresh perspective on poverty, and field research really helps keeping your feet on the ground. It looks that providential politicians and incredibly well prepared specialists won’t be here soon to help with the ghettos and informal camps so it’s still the City Hall people and the operational planners that would have to deal with it.
I would be very pleased to share with you my experiences and thoughts about the situation of Roma settlements around Europe during my stay in Dublin and you are most welcomed to a discussion on that topic.