gypsy mansions


TIMOSORA, ROMANIA Like Saint Petersburg before she was operated on for her three-hundredth, the brie-colored streets and decaying facades have a dusty continuity. Against this backdrop, the Roma build their Disneyland. Forced by the Communists to settle in the ’60s, they have embraced a style of permanent renovation. Their mansions, in primary colors, stick like fingers in the dead dictator’s eye. But this provokes nothing beyond tourists snapping photos and locals shaking their heads. “How do you think they pay for them?” they ask me and then spit. Gypsy mansions are confusing. Though they are decorated with wild variation, their structural similarities are apparent. The mansion plans are essentially standardized: All rooms branch off a central corridor, and none have direct access to any others; but there the standardization ends, and this is not so surprising. Mansions are primarily structures of one-upmanship; eternal construction sites of dubious habitable value (they are often abandoned, though this could be because the settlement policies went with the Communists) that rise as barometers of personal (male) status, they are intensely decorated sheds with few interior complications.

more from Lev Bratishenko at Triple Canopy here.