Barcelona Residence, Scandinavian Residence, American Village, French Village, Soho Apartments, Mediterranean Residence, Oxford Gardens - these are the aspirational names of developments on the outskirts of Bucharest, the capital of one of the poorest countries in Europe.
Yet after almost 30 years since its Communist leadership fell, Romania still struggles to achieve a quality of life taken for granted by its partners in the European Union.
During 2016 and 2017, I focused on documenting the margins of Bucharest, where the city develops its own identity, free from a masterplan by the authorities. This periphery is a space of micro-universes, many crafted to perfection, but often isolated.
The neighbourhoods are rich in stories reminiscent of a fairytale - citizens cross frozen wastes searching for food, kill beasts in the wide open, herd sheep and goats, visit witches versed in spells and charms, and befriend strange creatures.
Many homes lack the necessary infrastructure to connect homes to the city. Houses are often built with no access to running water, electricity, asphalt roads or pavements. But residents have the same goal - to achieve a western standard of living.
Bucharest is a new city, and was only first mentioned as a settlement in the 15th Century. In 1862, it became the capital of a union of the Romanian-speaking principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia, which remained vassal states of the Ottoman Empire until full independence in 1877.
The city grew in the second half of the 19th century and boomed between the two world wars, when rich and eccentric art deco and modernist buildings emerged throughout its centre.
But the Communists destroyed much of the city’s neighbourhoods, and added a new layer of identikit concrete apartment blocks, which now dominate the cityscape.
‘A flock of about 500 sheep and goats at a farm near apartment complex Confort City. The farm has been at the edge of Bucharest for decades. The apartments were built ten years ago, and the residents complain about the smell and noise of the farm, which they have tried to shut down. Today the farm is almost closed, because its owner is old, and no one else wants to look after the flock.
When the totalitarian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu was toppled in 1989, there were hopes of a new beginning for the city and its inhabitants.
At that time, those who triggered the regime change were known as the ‘Generation of Sacrifice’, who shelved their dreams to build a better future for their children, and they looked west for their inspiration. Today, these children are adults, and many work for European corporations, NGOs and IT firms.
According to Eurostat, Romanians have the highest rate in Europe for owner-occupied dwellings: 96.5 per cent in 2015. In the cities, the bulk of these residents are small, Communist-era apartments.
But the adult generation now want what they were promised: a Western life. For Romanians, this means owning a house.
However there are risks for home-owners in Bucharest.
Although Romania has seen an upswing in growth to 5.7 per cent per year, many analysts believe this is based on a high consumption rate and Government-stimulus programs, rather than sustainable economic activity.
Bucharest is also one of the most polluted capitals in the world, but the major fear is seismic. The city was hit by the effects of a major earthquake in 1977 of 7.2 on the Richter scale, which killed over 1,400 people. Another tremor is due - which could wreck the historic and dilapidated buildings in the city.
These concerns have inspired people to move from the centre to the periphery, to build small houses or live in new developments, where they have fresh air, space and security.
But into this no man’s land comes a clash between a middle class looking for a new life, and an underclass who struggle to survive at the edge of the city.
This Project is financed by the Romanian Cultural Administration Fund (AFCN) and the Romanian Order of Architects (OAR)
It is winner of the first prize for photostories at the Balkan Photo Award, Sarajevo, 2018
Opening picture: ‘Green Vista’ residential complex on a misty morning: a block built for the upper-middle class in Pipera neighbourhood, north Bucharest