Bucharest between Istanbul and Sarajevo - Radical Reconstruction as Anti-nostalgic Treatment
Augustin Ioan
Text translated by Sorana Corneanu

Models. We are searching for models of reconstruction. Analogies, allegories, utopias. Bucharest continues to wallow, vandalized, in a state of severe waste, which the city itself cannot overpass, just as it cannot expect real help from those who caused it to implode. Among these benefactors, the ?political class? that emerged after 1989 and the architects who served it are the most to blame. The former underwent a superficial reshuffling: they either started to do business or simply dropped the inverted comas, only to exchange them for different, equally pejorative ones. The latter, too,put on some make-up: those who actually worked for the ?civic? projects of redrawing the city in a totalitarian key have grown old, but will not yield one inch of their ?rightness?. Head architect Anca Petrescu is still doing successful business and gives nonchalant interviews. Many of the architects of the time (there were hundreds of them!) still keep drafts of the House of the Republic in their suitcases, as testimony to their ability to serve parvenu tastes. Having worked there is no shame, and what?s more, it?s assumed in a cheerful and even nostalgic spirit, as a ?grand projet? of a lifetime. There was no suspension of architect diplomas in 1990 ? the country would have been deprived of her valuable architects. After all, who is to judge us? ?My colleagues, the intellectuals,? as someone who truly faced condemnation believed, and whispered, terrified? But who is ? to recall the Christian parable ? so clean as to throw the stone first? The House of the Republic, never really put on trial, has become the House of Parliament, and therefore preserved its prestige as the Absolute Edifice of the country. The?Bucharest 2000? International Contest of Urbanism (1995-1996) not only sanctioned this statute, but even did it with pomp and such a distinguished international participation that one finds oneself unable now to contradict, for instance, a Kenneth Frampton (President of the jury) and tell him that, besides its grotesque size, there is nothing admirable about this open-air grotto. One cannot, unless one wants to become a misfit, contradict the new ?aristocracy? ? be it cultural or politic. The latter has so intimately acquiesced in the results of the contest, that it will deliberately arrest any attempt at developing the area in viable economic terms, simply because the ?urbanistic? solution the winner architect, Meinhard von Gerkhan, found does not answer these criteria, and therefore is not, and simply cannot be, sellable to the big, potential investors able to save the area.

Mr. Adrian Nastase, President of the House of Deputies then, and Prime-minister now, after having moved the House of Deputies from its historical seat on Mitropoliei Hill to the House of the Republic, threatened the jury of ?Bucharest 2000? to oppose his veto in case the solutions of the contest were to menace in any way the ?House?, which, too, became ?his? in no time. Obviously, the jury was eager to comply, the taboo permeated the theme of the contest, and the solutions conformed to the theme. Or, in 2001, the first move taken by the Public Works of his Government (the Secretary of State had been the director of the 1995-1996 contest) was to suspend the whole process of institutionalizing the Bucharest 2000 Agency for Development ? the economic instrument meant to draw investments into the project ? as well as the ordinance that defined the town area to be developed in accordance with this project. Why did he do that? It has remained a mystery to this day, when I am writing this article (august 2001). The history of this city has a devious way of defending the zones of desert, the zones of irrationality that its own heads and the heads of the country generate from time to time within its space. The ?central? area remains an urban black hole. And it will stay so as long as those who want to maintain control over it will not entirely possess it as well.

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