First conceived during conversations with members of the Roma or Gypsy communities in Central Europe, the Gypsy Bridge Project proposes the construction of a bridge on the banks of a city in Europe. While there is considerable architecture that commemorates the cultural contributions of various peoples of Europe there currently is no structure that draws attention to the profound effect the Gypsies have had on European culture including dance, music, and poetic traditions. Migrants originally from the Indian subcontinent, the Gypsy people have a concept of place and space that often collides with the larger dominant culture within which they reside. Many come from an itinerant lifestyle, have a suspicion of indoor spaces, and use a nuanced and at times secretive language whose method of communication is done in musical performances as much as in one-on-one conversation. Throughout Europe Gypsies are forced to contend with both physical and psychological barriers in their day-to-day existence due to economic disparity and rampant xenophobia. The Gypsy Bridge will exist on the Romany’s terms of nuanced language, music, and unfettered movement—a bridge situated somewhere in Europe that will allow the populous to encounter this transitory space from the Gypsies’ perspectives.
My current travel in Europe is to begin the process of research, site selection, and establishment of working relationships for the actual construction of the Gypsy Bridge. Critical to these investigations is a strong emphasis on interdisciplinary consultation and cultivation of future collaboration. Among the institutions and individuals I intend to consult with include individual members from Gypsy communities, scholars on Gypsies studies, research groups, agencies and institutions that work with Gypsies, art, design and architecture institutions, and any other interested parties. The purpose of these meeting are to gain a greater understanding of the role the Gypsies play in European society, and to investigate the ways that a bridge can be constructed in order to fulfill its functional role as structure providing passage over a river, yet also become a place for the recognition of Gypsy contributions in a dynamic fashion.
In consulting with groups and individuals on the Gypsy Bridge I will address questions that aim to cultivate discourse and eventually shape the design and construction of the bridge. Included among these questions are:
How can we explore the bridge beyond its functional role as a transitory structure?
How can a bridge reflect the lives of the Roma people?
Can a bridge have flexible points of entry?
How can a bridge become a space for music, trade, drama or other forms of cultural exchange?
Could a bridge itself be in a constant state of transition, based on other flows/forces (seasonal, migratory, diurnal/nocturnal, etc)?
Does a bridge have to be linear in nature?
This project proposes to not merely build a transitory structure between two points, but to facilitate the interlacing of dialogues between disparate points of view using the impetus of this project as a point of departure rather than as a destination.
Sanjit Sethi 2006