Bucarest: Filters and Barriers. On Transparency and Opaqueness in the Communist and the Transition Period
Ştefan Ghenciulescu

One of the essential elements that characterise the culture of dwelling is undoubtedly the way it defines the limits between the fundamental categories of the physical space: interior and exterior, public and private, community territory and global space. The elements designed to close the space (walls, roofs, fences, etc.) constitute the first and most obvious category of limits. The number, the width and the degree of transparency of the empty places located within these ?linelike? boundaries determine an infinity of variants, from the swathe that symbolically determined a territory to the exterior walls, pierced by only a few openings, that protect the interior of the traditional Arabian house.

The second category, that presupposes the hypostasis of ?place? (and not only of linear boundary) of the limit, includes several types of intermediary spaces, namely, zones which articulate the contraries enumerated so far. At issue here are not only semi- private or semi-public spaces but also the designed spaces or elements that ensure a transition between ?the inside? and ?the outside?: porticoes, verandas, terraces, pergolas, loggias and balconies, niches and bow windows, spaces defined by covers, gutters and other ornaments.

All these types of limits represent universal elements of architecture; they have been known to take various shapes throughout history. The only thing that differs is the degree of closing and opening, the variety of the various kinds of inter-penetration and transition between different spatial realms and the modes of hiding, revealing or suggesting the private space. The predominance of some fundamental modes of definition of the limits mostly defines, beyond the technologies of construction, architectural styles and fashions, the specific way of inhabiting a place in a certain period of development of a culture.

I begin my thesis with the hypothesis that the richness of intermediary filters and zones between the interior of the houses and the urban space - and ?the transparency? of the urban tissue thus determined -, represented a characteristic element of Bucharest?s urban culture. I shall try to show to what extent the alteration or the disappearance of those relations in the past 50 years expresses the isolation tendencies, as well as the feelings of indifference to and rejection of the town.

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