In a city that can often appear to be populated entirely by expired troglodytes, the kind of people who are about to elect a reactionary retrograde as their new mayor, our visit yesterday to Romanian Design Week came as a welcome confirmation of the fact that far from going backwards Bucharest – and Romania with it – continues to move forwards.
How utterly refreshing and uplifting. A different kind of Romania is possible: a Romania built on heaps of talent (and no, we are not referring to the second-rate singers and comedians currently filling Pro TV’s Friday night schedules).
Instead, we are talking here about real talent. Romanian Design Week brings together the fields of graphic design, branding and advertising, architecture, urban planning, interiors, fashion, product and lifestyle design. Ultimately, it is about reclaiming the label Made in Romania as a brand of progress and excellence.
Even the venue itself is a superb piece of design: Piata Amzei.
Not so long ago Amzei was a ghastly place, a typically chaotic Bucharest produce market known for its phenomenally high prices. It lacked the charm and outright menace of Piata Obor and was little more than a legalised fruit and vegetable racket. Today it is a modern space ideal for an event such as this, although it is criminally underused. Indeed, one of the reasons it was selected as the venue for Romanian Design Week was to show off the building itself as much as the creations on display.
Here are some of our highlights from the work of the more than 150 designers on display:
We also liked rather these funky boxes created by Loot Studio for a British start-up, Lucky Cup Tea:
Best of all though was Fangai by Martin Balint. It’s an interactive light and sound installation which sets out to recreate the noise made by mushroom spores (or at least as Balint imagines that noise). All sound is created by the movement of visitors in the rooms. It’s utterly bonkers but quite wonderful.
If your idea of Romania is haystacks, peasants doing back-breaking work, outside toilets and women selling turnips on street corners, Romanian Design Week is not for you.
If, instead, you are looking for evidence that a different kind of Romania is possible: an open-minded, avant-garde, modern and progressive Romania free from prejudice which looks to the future, not the past, then go take a look at what’s on display. Your horizons will be well and truly broadened.
Romanian Design Week runs until June 5th at Piata Amzei, and a number of other satellite venues around Bucharest. The main exhibition is open from 12-22. Entrance is free.
PS We have one gripe. At the entrance to the event cigarette girls were plying their cancer sticks to all and sundry. We were with our nine-year-old and still we were approached about taking part in a fag-company sponsored competition (to win a sofa, of all things).
We understand Romanian Design Week needs sponsors to pay the rent. Hopefully this year’s success will allow them to tell the tobacco trade to well and truly fuck off come 2017.