In the field from romania or on the outskirts of cities, improbable pagodas asian twinkle of a thousand ornaments, edged with the modest houses of the neighbourhood: these are the “palace roma”, a phenomenon that architectural unreleased translating the quest for social prestige within a marginalized minority. These palaces, appeared by the thousands since the end of communism with the enrichment of some Roma, are recognizable by their proportions, towering, and their richly decorated facades alternating siding sheet metal, plaster statues and columns of marble. They feature sometimes the dollar sign or the logo of a famous German car brand.

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But it is mostly their roofs – pyramidal and layered, reminiscent of the temples of the Far East – that surprise. According to the Romanian architect Rudolf Gräf, author of a study on this topic, these roofs represent an “exacerbation” of architectural elements typically Romanian. Often ridiculed and called “kitsch absolute”, “architecture rom reflects, paradoxically, a part of Romanian history, in contrast to the contemporary architecture to be implemented by the State itself,” he said to the AFP.

A tradition that is inspired by the ancient barons local

These buildings differ according to the regions: in Transylvania (central part of the country) they are inspired by the catholic churches in the Banat (south-west) they copy constructions, neo-classical, while in the south and in the east they are reinterpreting the neo-Romanian style, reminiscent of the traditional houses of the peasants or the houses of the boyars, the old barons are local, ” he stressed.

Dan Finutu, Rom easy death in 2012, was to build a replica of the tribunal which had sentenced him to prison for fraud in the 1990s

Sometimes, these constructions reproduce just a building official has marked the spirit of the owner, at Buzesti (south), Dan Finutu, Rom easy death in 2012, had to build a replica of the tribunal which had sentenced him to prison for fraud in the 1990s. With its dozens of palaces erected both sides of main street, this town of 4,000 inhabitants located near the capital of Bucharest represents a condensed version of this phenomenon born in the 1990s. The fall of the regime of Ceausescu in late 1989 has encouraged this minority nomad to affirm his identity, after having been reduced in slavery for several centuries, and then subjected to a forced assimilation under communism.

These palaces give rise to a one-upmanship unleashed between neighbours: new storeys, towers and columns still more imposing is added to the as. DANIEL MIHAILESCU/AFP

“The first palaces were constructed at the beginning of the 1990s, when Roma have recovered a portion of the gold confiscated by the communists,” says one of the roma leaders of Buzesti, Costica Stancu, in reference to the gold coins passed on from generation to generation by roma women before being captured by the scheme by virtue of a decree dating back to 1978. Other Roma have spent the money earned by selling scrap or by doing odd jobs to build houses destined to shine and to impress, while reflecting the social hierarchy reigning within this strong community of about 2 million people, most of which still lives in poverty.

Expression of the prestige and success” of the owners, according to the terms of Mr. Gräf, these palaces give rise to a one-upmanship unleashed between neighbours: new storeys, towers and columns always more impressive in addition as the building initial, at the option of the evolution of the wealth – and tastes – of the owners.

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These constructs are abundantly photographed by passing tourists, even if they do not visit. With a few exceptions, their architects remained anonymous. While the bulk of the roma minority, with approximately two million people, still lives in poverty, the sources of financing of these buildings and most often remain obscure. Ironically, their owners do not often occupy only one or two small rooms, large rooms with floors covered with marble and golden decorations is used only on festive occasions.

“The maintenance is very costly,” said Mr. Stancu, 72 years old, according to which the phenomenon begins to mark time. Already, many of the buildings of Buzesti seem to be deserted, and the “palace in construction will not be completed for lack of money”, fears the leader, who himself lives in a small house surrounded by a garden. With more than four million of its nationals who have emigrated in recent years, Romania saw a decline worrisome, many of its villages, counting more than older people. This was also proven by Lidia, a sexagenarian owner of such a palace in Buzesti. “Things are not like before. The people are gone, who was in Bucharest, that abroad. They want to earn money and remain there,” said she bitterly in front of the imposing portal of his field.