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Brave New World. Migrants – Dream Houses

The dream of owning one’s own home is widespread. For many couples the goal is to create something lasting for themselves and for their children.

Houses, however, can be far more than just a home. Often they are widely visible signs of the diligence, success and social advancement of their owners, who left their villages because of a lack of employment to find a means to support their families in another country. They also stand for the modern Western lifestyle and a new aesthetic. Urban status symbols in a rural setting help achieve social recognition.

The interdisciplinary research and exhibition project presents examples of dream houses in Romania, Serbia and Croatia while also shedding light on their economic and social backgrounds. The “proud” houses that Romanian migrant workers have been erecting since 2000 in three regions of northern Romania are juxtaposed with prestigious houses built by Serbian and Croatian migrants, who left their homelands to work abroad beginning in the 1960s.

The houses evoke Western building styles, emphasising and adapting them at the same time. The respective trends and regional particularities of the Western countries can be directly discerned from the range of forms and colours. The structures reflect not only the fundamental societal changes of the counties where the migrants worked but also the price paid by the migrant families who have to manage the balancing act between the two worlds.

Project sponsors: Koordinierung Ostmittel- und Südosteuropa (Centre for East-Central and Southeast Europe) together with the Museum Europäischer Kulturen (MEK) and together with the Romanian Cultural Institute (RKI Berlin)
Duration of the project: 2015 to 2021