A surprising structure in the form of a yurt appeared last summer on the beach in Vama Veche, a Black Sea resort associated with free spirits.
Built by a group of young people working with an NGO from Bucharest and called Incubator 107, this travelling yurt was one of the attractions of the season.
The yurt was used to host dance, pottery and cooking classes and many other activities. A second such structure was built somewhere in the mountains of Romania, near a mediaeval-themed camp for children aged between 5 and 14. The man who introduced the yurts to Romania is Bogdan Maltezeanu, an architecture student and one of the founders of Incubator 107.
Bogdan Maltezeanu said why he started building the yurts: “I started building the yurts in April last year as part of an international project ran by Labyrinth Theatre company in Estonia. I met two people from England there, who build yurts in the UK. So it was in Estonia that I built my first yurt. I didn’t build it from scratch, but I liked the idea. I returned to Romania and I decided to build one myself. It was a great challenge and I enjoyed it very much. It had never been done in Romania and I thought this was a niche worth pursuing. I kept in touch with my contacts in England and within two months I managed to build a yurt from scratch. I like structures made of wood. Of all the structures I have studied in school, the yurt is my favourite. It’s a spherical structure, with no pillars and everything is open space, which creates a certain atmosphere.”
One may think a yurt is just a tent on sticks. Quite the contrary, says Bogdan Maltezeanu. There is a genuine philosophy behind this structure, which is typical of nomad Asian peoples.
Bogdan Maltezeanu: “It’s complicated, because the wood must be steam-bent, then left to dry. Then you have to drill some holes into it and make knots. The crown must be drilled at a certain angle. There are some elements that are sacred to the Mongols. The dome is the sky, and the crown is the portal between this world and the spiritual world. Sometimes windows are built or the light can come in through the upper crown. A piece of spherical glass or transparent plastic can also be put on top. Anybody can have a yurt, which can be used as a holiday place, a conference room or anything else. There are certain steps that need to be taken, and it’s important for people to learn them. That is why I must assist them in the beginning and then it’s easy, three people can erect it in 45 minutes.”
45 minutes are enough to erect a yurt, if you have the design ready and the necessary ash wood, says Bogdan Maltezeanu. Otherwise, it takes around two weeks to build it. Bogdan Maltezeanu built the second yurt by himself, and it didn’t take him that long.
Bogdan Maltezeanu: “I was attending an event and a gentleman came and told me ‘I know you do this, I want you to build one for me, for children’s camps’. I said ‘ok’ and I managed to do the work in just one week, as I also worked during the night.”
We asked Bogdan Maltezeanu if yurts could be a solution for those who are interested in alternative housing: “For it to be permanent, it has to be very well insulated against water and cold, and also treated to prevent moulding. A yurt can be used for up to 30 years. Heating is provided by a stove and, if well insulated, with two or three layers of canvas is perfect to live in. With insulation, a yurt can cost up to 3 thousand Euros. “
Bogdan Maltezeanu’s yurts are for now mere exotic elements in Romania. But he intends to establish a firm specializing in wooden constructions.
Bogdan Maltezeanu even plans to focus on dome building: “I am fascinated with geodesic domes, pieces of sphere cut in the shape of a yurt, but the roof is not interrupted, it’s just a spherical cap laid on the ground. I like big, open homes, with no pillars. Pillars cut the space, break it up and make it smaller.”
Bogdan Maltezeanu is not the only admirer of this type of architecture. Light, mobile, coloured and luminous, yurts are a delight to all those that see them.