I took up this challenge and I must tell you it is more than simply visiting a heritage building. It is an adventure itself during which you can discover feelings and sensations that you probably haven’t even thought about before.
The experience I tell you about is part of the SenseAbility Project of AMAis, a NGO founded in 2015 by young architects, which aims at increasing the empathy and awareness towards vulnerable groups by using the built environment as the main resource. More exactly, the purpose of the SenseAbility Project is to develop a channel of communication between visually impaired and sighted people. And they chose three beautiful heritage houses in Bucharest as built environments for offering the visitors a multi-sensory experience: Verona House, Monteoru House and Rosetti Mansion.
I visited Verona House, located on Verona Street 19, nearby Romana Square. Built in the 19th century, this was the home of the famous Romanian architect Ion Mincu. He remodelled the place in his well-known particular style: Neo-Romanian. But it wasn’t the architectural style that we mainly analysed during this innovative tour. All visitors have been provided with blindfolds and white canes so that the sighted people had to discover the inside of the house by covering their eyes and using all of their other senses.
We also had an olive oil tasting and had the difficult job of pouring water from a pet to a plastic glass. Yes, when in darkness, this is a really difficult job.
At the end of the tour, an informal discussion was the chance for everybody to share their very personal perceptions during the “blind tour”, although most of them proved to be actually common for the visitors. The permanent focus on noises and possible obstacles, great attention to shapes and textures of materials that we touched, the lack of a perspective over the place we walked through were some of the things that almost everybody emphasized. The tour has been quite demanding due to continuous focus and this common observation led to the question about the efforts required from a visually impaired person on the ordinary activities like walking on the streets of Bucharest or going to a public or even private building.
And it is precisely this question that motivated the young architects of AMAis to take new steps in order to answer it. One of their ideas is to create emergency exit maps, tactile scale models for some buildings or for the public transportation network so that the visually impaired people should have a better access to it.
For scheduling a group tour in one of the three heritage houses in Bucharest, you can contact AMAis.