Accepted Paper:

Is this still a window? The cultural life of double-glazed window  


Bogdan Iancu (National School of Political Studies and Public Administration Bucharest Museum of Romanian Peasant)

Paper short abstract:

The most visible element of the recent Romanian “rejuvenations” of urban and rural landscapes seems to be the domestic environment, especially the double-glazed windows replacing the classic wooden-framed windows. Turned into an article of consumption, the window became the geometrical place of modernisation and emerging aesthetics.

Paper long abstract:

During the last decade Romania has been frenetically experiencing a reconfiguration of urban and rural landscapes. The most visible element of these "rejuvenations" seems to be, as in most ex-socialist Eastern countries, the domestic environment (Humphrey 2002, Fehervary 2002, Drazin 2009). If, for the rural environment "the rustic seems to be the most recent statement of taste and distinction" (Mihailescu 2011) for the urban landscape, the double-glazed windows replacing the classic wooden-framed windows may be considered a similar statement. At the same time a series of other artefacts leave the domestic space: window curtains - replaced with vertical blinds - or the old and massive chandeliers, frequently replaced with spotlights that turn homes into a type of exhibition halls. The domestic material culture integrates this artefact with such enthusiasm that it has already lead to the occurrence of at least two lexical derivatives regarding specific materiality: double-glazification, double-glazity. Tudora (2009) shows that recent preferences of Bucharest inhabitants are driven either by a minimal functionalism or by the tradition of stodgy eclectism. The window, an important but common accessory of local households for decades, turned into an article of consumption overnight and became the geometrical place of modernisation (through the idea of comfort and not only). I will illustrate the configuration of the double-glazed window as a contradictory cultural object, as it embodies a desirable modernity in terms of comfort and emerging aesthetics, but also the way in which it becomes a contaminated object, polluting entire contexts through its simple presence.

Panel W018
Confronting uncertainty: imagination in art and material culture