Milena Grbic

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The intent of the article is to highlight the fact that Roma micro-environments contain as part of their context certain social and cultural premises, embodied in spatial forms and informal settlement construction manners that all together correspond with the principles of sustainable architecture. Shedding a positive light on the principles of sustainable building in terms of social cohesion makes way for a positive attitude of the general public towards that crucial process.

Given this context, the paper starts with the broader interpretation of territorialization which suggests the existence of a relation between the spatial and the social level of Roma settlements; a relation that makes possible the understanding of what this cultural group produces in space. Methodologically, the article begins with the idea that the informal Roma settlements were built by the Romani, without an explicit professional influence and represent a quality induced by the need to functionally organize a community where everyday activities take place. Hence, the physical entities and the construction techniques in the settlements are the objects of research on knowledge and skills of a community in which the individuals are connected horizontally and hierarchically and can thus achieve positive relations inevitable for such realization. In that manner, it is possible to systematize inside a settlement a base of characters of physical structure as completed individual and group knowledge and potentials for further, acceptable advancements in that area of construction.

Further on, the paper compares research results – a systematic overview of characters of physical structures and construction principles – with the principles of sustainable architecture, thus formulating several conceptions of physical structure which can be considered as culturally adjusted environment that at the same time integrates both the realized principles of sustainable architecture and the potential for further acceptable development in the same domain.

The article will show research results from a case study conducted on representative types of spatial organizations of informal Roma settlements.

The purpose of the paper is firstly to emphasize the fact that the Roma microenvironments already offer their own ways to participate in the creation of cities of future. Acknowledging the character of the physical structure of a culturally adjusted environment with integrated sustainability principles has a dual effect: it pushes architecture towards a smarter, more sustainable future; and, it achieves the fulfillment of certain spatial needs which enable the development of a cultural identity, meaning the enabling of adequate conditions for a lifestyle acceptable to the Roma population. The contribution of the article also is in drawing the attention to very concrete resources of the Roma community which should, with a gradual increase of capacities, be taken into account during the realization of the projects themselves and during the organized self-build and self-help processes as well as the process of housing condition advancement in the settlements. In a broader sense, the reduction of cost for the Romani has the potential to reduce a social distance towards them, especially in the Western Balkans where a significant portion of the population faces the same financial limits when it comes to housing advancement.

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Fig. 1, 2, 3, 4: All schemes and photography were made by Author as an inscription during the on-site research.


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