A focus on rural identity through inclusive design.

client:  Municipality of Săliște

date:  January 2013

program:  rural design

type:  international competition

outcome:  SECOND PRIZE

size:  M / 4400 sqm

location:  Sibiel village, Săliște, Romania

team:  Wolfhouse Productions & Eastern Works

link:  http://www.heritas.ro/sibiel/premiul-II.html

The International Rural Design Competition in Sibiel meant for redesigning the central area of the village following a realistic competition brief, a community ‘wish list’ and an allocated budget of 20 000 euros for building the site. Sibiel is one of the best preserved saxon cultures of Transylvania. As part of Mărginimea Sibiului (‘The Outskirts of Sibiu’ Region), Sibiel is situated on the foothills of the Cîndrel Mountains, taking part of a unique etnographic, cultural and architectural legacy. A village dating from the 14th century, SIbiel is more than an idealized portrait of pastoral life. It is the sum of its community along with its very contemporary issues and needs. Therefore, the community needs to be at the center of any planning activity. 

A sustainable future development needs to consider the need for clearer zoning and a better management of traffic flowsThe central area of Sibiel is perceived by the community as a place for intense social interaction, a true village heart for day to day activities and also for traditional village celebration. The community is pushing for a beautification and an improved connection to the creek. Also, there is a strong wish for a game - playing area, both for children and adults. The challenge in the participatory design of Sibiel’s central area is to deliver as many items from the “wish list” as possible without compromising the functional coherence. The design process will be inclusive regarding all the social and age groups in the community. Also it will need to rely on community involvement in order to enhance the existing sense of place and also keep the building costs to a minimum.


As a major touristic attraction, Sibiel lacks the link that should connect its major assets: the ensemble of the church and the Museum of Glass Icons, the scale of the village and the central square with its community and educational elements. For an easier orientaton of the pedestrian, this link projects along the main street through a careful pavement with local river stones. Arriving at the central square, the pedestrians and autovehicles share the street space for a safer environment that is intended to be lively throughout the day. For tourists curious of feeling the pulse of Sibiel with its local traditions, the link branches out to the north of the church arriving at the central square where they can meet and interact with the locals.


The central square is redesigned considering the community ‘wish list’ so as to reflect their specific identity. Therefore, the concept develops five main areas considering the natural and social elements of the site. The space where the monument used to hide between the bushes opens towards the creek making an intimate zone for relaxation. Between the playground area and the central shop, it develops a central and flexibile space - the village forum, that can easily widen along the shared street space and in front of the educational area in time for special events.


The community views this area as a place for intense social interaction. We decoded the survey conducted among locals and thus we were able to define a set of “must haves” that, at the same time, are economically viable: good access to the creek, 9 Pin bowling, public furniture and playground equipment. The challenge in a participatory design approach to Sibiel’s center is to deliver as many items from the wish-list without compromising the functional coherence and within a tight building budget.


Redesigning Sibiel’s center is governed by four strategic directions. They aim both at setting up the functional and spatial design principles and ensuring a sustainable “place - making process”.

1. EDUCATION AND RAISING AWARENESS: ensure the safe keeping for future generations of traditions by adopting an organized system of education based on ubiquitous presence of traditional crafts and local values.

2. REUSE AND ADAPTATION: encouraging an existing tendency to recycle/ reuse household items for current needs.

3. SENSE OF BELONGING: growing a sense of belonging by encouraging villagers to participate in the social life of Sibiel.

4. OPEN SCENARIO: designing the center of Sibiel according to “an open scenario”, a flexible framework that allows future interventions of new functions or art instalations proposed by the community.


A. Use the traditional homestead universe as an inspiration for the children playground so that local traditions and crafts are transmitted to the younger generations.


B. Build a quiet place by the water. Its flexibility allows for relaxation in daytime while during the night it becomes an open-air cinema.

C. Build a 9 Pin Bowling Alley for the community that can be easily transformed into a stage set for different outdoor shows.

D. Transform the existing fence into a multifunctional sitting place that also protects against vehicle traffic flow.


E. Build a public signage system with traditional color code inspiration.

F. Playground elements to be built out of unused item from the household


The proposed “Shared space” (1) is partially affecting Sibiel’s main public road. To visually differentiate it from the tarmac surface of the road, it is paved with river rock. The actual building of this feature has to be negociated with the Mayor’s office and local Roads Administration. However, due to notoriously light traffic, this should not be difficult. Building materials for the Village Forum (2), Community Center (8) and contemplation areas (6, 7) are also based on local materials and local craftmanship: gravel and manually layed river rock. The Playground (5) concept builds on the strong architectural heritage of the area and is reinterpreting a traditional homestead and its main elements: gate, house, barn, animal stock etc. It is built using local labor, local wood essences and recycled traditional household items. These are adapted for children play and learning. Also, the “9Pin Bowling” alley (4), a traditional game in the region, is also based on local craftmanship. Moreover, it can be easily transformed into a festivities stage for special holydays in Sibiel. The traditional Art Exhibition area (3) is mainly reserved for displaying works created by local school children and artists of the sculpture camp nearby, at Poiana Soarelui. During weekends, this area can also function as a local marketplace in addition to the village forum (2).


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