Saturday, 8 June 2013

Romania–Construction of Buildings

In the midst of all the excitement about our new house, I mustn’t forget that I am in the middle of a series on Romania, after I found my long-lost disc of photos from our trip ten years ago.

When we went, we found ourselves in the middle of a post-revolution building boom, and I was absolutely fascinated to see how they constructed their buildings. There were a great number of churches going up, using different materials in different areas of the country. In the north the churches are mostly built of wood, especially in rural areas, but brick is favoured in more southerly regions.

When we visited the Sibiu Village Museum, which is a large collection of buildings transported from all over the country to a huge landscaped area, we saw many examples of traditional wooden construction.

Here is an example of very simple construction on a wooden pontoon which was part of a mill. The planks of wood are simply stapled together!

055 Sibiu Village Museum - Stapled Wood on Mill Pontoon

This is an extremely simple footbridge constructed from a curved log, with stakes driven in along the sides, and branches woven between them. Simple, but effective, and also very attractive!

074 Sibiu Village Museum - Wooden Bridge Detail 2

The wooden houses were constructed very much along the lines of American log cabins. The corners were quite beautiful. The wood looks crude, but the joints were cut so well that you couldn’t have inserted a knife blade between.

076 Sibiu Village Museum - Wooden Building Construction Detail

Here is a wattle wall with thatch above.

077 Sibiu Village Museum - Thatched Roof and Wattle Wall

The next picture shows the underside of the roof of the silk-spinner’s house in the Sibiu Village Museum.

080 Sibiu Village Museum - Roof, Silk Spinner's House

More from the Sibiu Village Museum: wooden door detail:

090 Sibiu Village Museum - Wooden Door Detail

Window detail:

091 Sibiu Village Museum - Carved Window Frame Detail

When we were staying in Baia Mare, we were taken up to the site of the new cathedral under construction. This was a fascinating visit because it enabled us to see how the building was made before it was all covered up with plaster and paintings. This is the bell tower under construction; you can see the wooden frame, and the beautiful hand-made wooden shingles on the roof.

360 BM Cathedral - Wooden Bell Tower 1

The bells on a temporary wooden structure, ready to hang once the bell tower was completed:

391 BM Cathedral - The Bells Ready to Hang

Detail of the shingle roof construction. This shows very nicely how the shingles overlap to create the marvellous decorative finish.

366 BM Cathedral - Shingle Roof Construction Detail

It was amazing watching the builders applying the shingles. They have a small bracket with a metal hook which hooks onto the purlin, and they sit on the narrow horizontal bar – all day! It must be terribly uncomfortable! They fix as many shingles as they can from one position, and then move the bracket along.

365 BM Cathedral - Shingle Roof Under Construction 4

I am sure this would be considered quite unsafe in the UK and would never pass health and safety regulations!! In the picture, you can see the make-shift platform with the shingles awaiting fixing.

The next photo shows the shingle-making site. Each one is shaped by hand, which generates a huge amount of shavings! Because they are hand-made, none of these shingles is identical to any other, which gives a beautifully pleasing effect when they are on the roof, quite unlike our factory-made tiles with their uniform finish.

368 BM Cathedral - Shingle-Making Site

Here is a shingle, finished and ready to apply to the roof.

367 BM Cathedral - Wooden Roof Shingle

The pointed end is at the bottom, which produces the wonderful decorative effect

Apart from the bell-tower, which was constructed of wood, and well under way, the only part of the main cathedral to have been completed was the crypt. Much of it was still not plastered or painted, so we were able to see the brickwork construction.

369 BM Cathedral - Crypt Entrance

Inside the crypt:

383 BM Cathedral - Crypt Gen View

(This picture is rather grainy, I’m afraid; the light was dim.) You can see the vaulted ceiling, and the beginning of some wall painting in the centre of the dome.

376 BM Cathedral - Behind the Iconastasis 3

The above picture shows the beautiful brickwork construction, in the area behind the iconostasis. It does seem a shame that this will be covered with plaster and wall paintings, and we felt very privileged to capture this particular moment in time when it was all still visible. Here is the dome construction.

378 BM Cathedral - Domed Brickwork Roof

They had begun the wall paintings:

374 BM Cathedral - Behind the Iconastasis 1

A brickwork pillar:

386 BM Cathedral - Brickwork Pillar

This is the sort of internal wall painting that would eventually cover all this brickwork – this is the interior of the crypt at the monastery church of Birsana:

462 Birsana Monastery - Crypt Ceiling

This monastery was also very interesting; again, the only part that was completed was the crypt, and this was more complete than the crypt of Baia Mare cathedral because the wall paintings were complete. The main structure of the building was of wood, not of brick, and again, we were able to see the construction.

Here is the roof under construction, and again, you can see the wooden shingles going on.

453 Birsana Monastery - Roof Construction

Underneath you can see what passes for scaffolding! I think our western health and safety people would have a fit, but this is the time-honoured method of building in Romania and it seems to have stood the test of time! None of the builders seemed to be wearing hard hats, either.

Here are some pictures of the wooden construction inside.

464 Birsana Monastery - Church Window

On this window, you can see some carved detail, which will eventually be picked out in brightly coloured paint.

This complicated structure is the beginning of a spiral staircase!

465 Birsana Monastery - Church Spiral Staircase

This is a very interesting picture showing the construction of the wooden roof.

466 Birsana Monastery - Church Roof

This picture shows the construction of the wooden gallery.

468 Birsana Monastery - Church Gallery

A detail shot shows the wooden peg construction of the gallery supports.

469 Birsana Monastery - Church Gallery Construction Detail

I think this gives a taste of how buildings in Romania are constructed. We were so fortunate to be there during the time of the building boom. These buildings under construction will all have been completed now, and all indication of how they were made will be hidden under layers of plaster and paint. Today, the financial climate has become very difficult again in Romania, along with much of the rest of Europe, so there probably isn’t so much building work going on now. We were there in that little golden window of opportunity that enabled us to see so much.

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