WeWilder, the first rural eco-hub opened at the foot of the Țarcu Mountains


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WWF Romania (World Wide Fund for Nature) opened the WeWilder Campus, a rural hub built entirely of wood and with the help of the latest technologies, under the sign of sustainability. The campus is located in the vicinity of Armeniș, in the most forested county of Romania, Caraș-Severin, the place where 8 years ago the first bison were released in the partnership between WWF, Rewilding Europe and Armeniș City Hall. In a 1.5 hectare orchard, the campus will be the starting point for nature exploration experiences and will host meetings for teams in search of ideas for the future, in close collaboration with the local community.

The campus consists of a main building, named Zâna/ Fairy, and three tiny-house cottages. Zana is in the form of a shed with a large glass wall overlooking the hills of Armeniș. It is covered by 17,600 shingles made by hand by traditional craftsmen, the Popa family from Albac, and by 140 square meters of heat-treated and oiled beech shingles, a material rarely used in exterior finishes, but representative of Caraș “beech country”, made by Tecade.

Inside Zâna there is a multi-purpose room intended for meetings, collaboration and serving meals. In the attic there is a library, a place to relax, with volumes on ecology, food and sustainable construction curated by the greenest publishing house in Romania, Seneca. The ensemble has a community kitchen, with the role of creating products from local organic ingredients.

WeWilder will operate as an eco-tourism agency for immersive nature experiences and host transformational programs for organizations and teams on campus, an opportunity to connect as many of the local hospitality services as possible. The campus can be reserved for co-working or gastronomic events and individual vacations.

Each cottage is oriented towards a cardinal point to benefit from different light and landscape experiences: the Țarcu Mountains, the small-scale agricultural landscape of Armeniș or the hills with meadows and orchards. The cottages have a glass curtain wall, and inside, the “transformer” sofas allow a double or matrimonial room configuration, depending on the guests. The sanitary installations are designed to consume an optimal volume of water, and the thermal insulation allows a consumption minimal for heating in winter or cooling in summer. They are covered with shingles to respect the traditional culture and to be able to disappear into the landscape over time, according to the idea of ​​”invisible architecture” to which the Campus subscribes.The design was made through a co-creation process, in which the architects Matius Ichim, Krisztina Bokos, Miodrag Stoianov, the urban planner specializing in wooden constructions, Ioan Moldovan, Oana Mondoc and Alina Floroi from the WWF team who coordinated this project participated daylight, dozens of locals and experts from companies that want to increase sustainable architecture in Romania. Atelier Vast and the coordinator Vlad Rebenciuc made the wooden furniture and a large part of the finishing operations, the most challenging stage for design & build projects.

Besides using wood in as many forms as possible – structure, coverings, thermal insulation, carpentry and interiors, the campus concept cultivates the inclusion of locally sourced design, such as the wool lamps made by For, the burnt wooden plates handmade by Lun or Email by Sighisoara, linen sheets woven in Romania at deFlorian and other carefully selected products, such as natural cosmetics from Doda, artisanal wines from Catleya, locally roasted coffee from Medina Coffee Roasters or craft beer from Bereta and OneTwo – to bring concrete in this region, often abstract ideas such as the circular economy or supporting small producers.

The red design thread of the interiors conceived by Krisztina Bokos involves discreet black lines that emphasize the wooden surfaces and optimistic accents of yellow, which can be found on the table legs, the upstairs railing, the swinging staircase to the library and the botanical-themed mural made by the artist Wanda Hutira. Through a soft opening in September, the Campus has already hosted the meeting of innovation leaders from 10 global NGOs, who reflected that “the experience was unforgettable. In the bosom of nature, we were able to communicate with each other as a team to arrive at the best ideas, and the attention to detail and the involvement of the locals in the activities here is amazing”.

333 people worked to build the campus. Some are from Armeniș, some came from Bucharest, Iași or Sighetul Marmației, even from other countries and faced the heat of summer, the rains of autumn and the surrounding clay to get here today. WeWilder is the testimony that each of us, from civil society and nature conservation organizations, authorities or companies who want to leave a legacy of a healthy planet for future generations, must innovate but also roll up their sleeves for ideals that are often on the paper. We are confident that through this nest we can multiply the benefits of nature for community members and future generations in Armeniș commune and in the region,” says Oana Mondoc, project initiator and WWF Innovation and Community Development Manager.

Those who helped build the campus celebrated the opening under an October sun with e-bike rides, an animal track discovery workshop and brunch prepared by locals. Saturday evening culminated with an innovative musical project in partnership with the Subcarpathian Cultural Center, where the artist Radu Pieloiu, known as Acetobă, composed music by integrating the sounds of nature recorded with the bio-acoustician Tom Hull from the Wildlife Sanctuary and the ecologist Pepjin T’Hooft.

“WWF has taken a big step outside its comfort zone to co-create an alternative and green micro-economy around free-ranging bison, working with community members. Only by involving everyone can we have a long-term impact and form mindsets where conservation work is part of the identity of local communities. The collaborative model and with care for nature at every step – whether in construction or how the meal is served, we will take it further to other areas in Romania and beyond,” said Orieta Hulea, CEO of WWF Romania.

WeWilder was built in-house by WWF Romania and was started thanks to a funding of 200 thousand dollars and the support of the Flex Foundation. The investment amounted to approximately 350,000 euros, part of which was provided by WWF, part by an investment from Rewilding Europe Capital, and a significant percentage was provided by private companies.

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