Our Heritage?

The Metal Environment of Box-shaped Houses

In the village close to Târgu Mureș where the photographs for this article were taken, 48% of the basic material for gates is exclusively iron. Gates have also been made from wood, stone and bricks, but it is iron, i.e. iron tubing, bent reinforced iron and iron plates that dominate. Iron defines the village image, which is still an assembly showing a uniform use of material, patterns and taste – box and L-shaped houses, renovated long houses, porches with an iron railing, pergolas made of iron pipes with climbing vines, and iron gates in front and iron fences lining both sides of the street. A similar sight can be seen in the suburbs of Târgu Mureș where there are detached houses, or in any of the neighbouring villages. Rapid change and the construction of new buildings began in Romania and in Transylvania in the 1950s, the second decade of socialism. The then increasingly cheap and accessible iron, which was believed to be lasting, became the favoured material. New houses, if possible box-shaped then later similarly shaped buildings of several storeys with patterned iron gates made of reinforced iron reflected the new possibilities of a changing way of life, new demands and taste formation.

Time went by, the political changes took place and the inclination to build houses declined and then revived. The dominance of iron as a building material has ceased because it has become only one of many. There has been a change of generations and the one which was at a working age and used iron for its houses during socialism has departed or is departing. What will the new generation do with its inheritance in terms of buildings and structures surrounding them? Will it demolish, transform or leave them in place, or convert them and be proud of them?

Many questions can be raised. Why do some people renovate iron gates and why do others demolish and replace them? What happened in both urban and provincial society at the time of the spread of box-shaped houses and a way of life that could be lived in them for the past 50 years? How did the fashion of the iron environment around box-shaped houses boom and decline? Can the phenomena in village society of the past decades be regarded as the formation of a kind of cultural continuity or rather should it be regarded as breaking away from traditions, the transformation and preservation of elements that characterised the provinces of socialist construction culture, including materials and forms already considered traditional? What should be regarded as heritage? Is it worth setting up an iron gate in front of a box-shaped house in the open-air museum?

What can exist as a uniform image of villages in today’s post-modern era is no longer the result of an endeavour to achieve uniformity, but is shaped by the different ways of life that can be mostly characterised by consumption habits following the appearance of uniform services.