The Lights Are Still On

Bucharest is the most earthquake-prone capital in Europe. An earthquake of magnitude 7 or higher would have devastating consequences for the city. Around 350 buildings are listed under Class 1 Seismic Risk - meaning that these buildings are in real danger to collapse. This number, however, is actually a mere fraction and does not reflect the full implications an earthquake would actually have. Only a few thousands of buildings have been expertised in Bucharest, out of a disquieting total of tens of thousands.

While an imminent earthquake is one of the biggest fears of the people living in Bucharest, it is generally a rather taboo subject - especially for those inhabiting the listed buildings. Some of them are aware of the risk they are exposing themselves to, but they cannot find alternative living options, while others have come to terms with the idea or are simply not convinced about the danger they are in. Some estate owners even take advantage of that and, with prices going down, these apartments become an attractive choice for students in search of cheap rental opportunities or Airbnbs conveniently located in the city centre. According to law, local authorities can give financial support for building consolidations only if agreed unanimously by all the dwellers of that building. Nonetheless, a lot of files get stuck in a bureaucratic maze waiting to be green-lighted. In the end, the inhabitants end up hoping that a major earthquake will not strike anytime soon.

Rummaging through my dad’s archives, I have found some newspapers dating back to March 1977 - the time when the last major earthquake hit the country, causing tremendous loss. So long seems to have passed since that the low resolution photographs from the newspapers paint an unclear image of a distant event that can easily be overlooked.

Walking in the evening along the central boulevards, I’m looking up at the lights of an apartment in a listed building. In the dark, I can barely decipher the building's shape, but I can clearly see a chandelier and some silhouettes inside. The scenery seems to change completely in the evening darkness. While daylight brightens up all the edifices of the city, the night forces one's attention beyond the facades. Therefore, this series becomes less about the act of documenting high risk buildings; it rather aims to reveal the human presence inside and to highlight the implications of its hypothetical perishment.

2018 - ongoing