Image of the Romanian house of our colleague’s aunt, as send by Facebook messenger.

Houses for a Seasonal Neighbourhood

Contributors: Maximiliaan Royakkers & Ciel Grommen

How to transform a Flemish suburban house into a residency for seasonal migrants?

How are/can rural conditions in western and eastern Europe (be) linked?

After picking strawberries in a greenhouse in Hoogstraten (BE) for two weeks, we decided to visit our former colleagues in their hometown Maneuti. The Romanian families proudly showed us their brand new houses that were built thanks to the money of their foreign labour. The houses, inspired by western suburban typologies in the spaces they contain and the shape they take, are inhabited in a peculiar way to us, out of tune with the lifestyle we would normally expect in such a lay-out.

To understand this contrast between the available space and the way of living, it helped us to look at the traditional houses in the Romanian countryside. There we learned that the house and the space around it unfold into overlapping places between public and private, inside and outside. This allows for a convivial coexistence with neighbours and livestock, something the form and structure of the many newly built houses are not made to facilitate, and that also the Flemish countryside has un-learned over time.

Inspired by these observations, we want to inverse this dynamic of appropriation and do the opposite of our Romanian colleagues. Starting from a typical street in the Flemish countryside, mostly occupied by the suburban house typology of the fermette, we will transform this situation and imagine an alternative image of a residence for migrant workers.

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