Article magazine # 53


editorial: building site

Post de: Constantin Goagea

The building sites have been mushrooming everywhere in Bucharest. You can neither escape such energy, nor ignore it. On Eminescu or Dacia Streets, here, at a stone’s throw from our office, everywhere, people are building, renovating, restoring, and arranging things. The city smells as if it tried to regain its life and identity. So, I think it’s easier for everybody to ignore, to be more tolerant, and forget Ceausescu “who built so much and these guys are unable to paint what he did.” You tend to miss how they put up new henhouse-like blocks or raise up transparent, outdated office buildings skywards, and at a blink of an eye old heritage buildings are erased, not to mention the modern heritage about which only a few know about.

Bucharest is being filled with buildings on the same patched-up streets, and the whole thing is pushed further to those hellish, muddy streets never visited by cars that could remove the snow, so let it not snow! I am surrounded by a building site, and everybody is building and enjoying it to the full. There are investors, our Americans, then the Spaniards, the Germans, the French, the former Romanian exiles, all are coming and build. On the computer screens you can see Bucharest like a place in Hawaii, with lots of sunshine and fluffy clouds smiling at you enchantingly. The advertising companies do their job after all, and we have to sell such dreams, in fact. But what about the moment when the projects leave the screen and the architect’s hand and mind, and go to the building site? Here, things turn into cheap, dirty things, robbery, and bargaining. Contemptible, stupid details, out-of-place materials piled there per sq m, which has become the key measurement of our merry development.

There are many voices, many singers, much speculation, much information, much naivete, stupidity, and business at all costs. You start wondering whether you can find a jobless architect, one that will complain for good reasons. Well, you could say we are witnessing the dawns of a new era, a super-era, that we’ve picked up the city where we left it, being ready to move on. I’m thinking of recent cases, of cities where new architecture has been built within a valuable heritage context, Milan, for one. There, in the 1950s – 1960s, they were equally enthusiastic and made a beautiful city in the end. I’d like to see Torre Velasca or Torre Pirelli in my city instead of these business centers, our recent landmarks. Gio Ponti, Pier Luigi Nervi, Figini, Pollini, Banfi, Belgioioso, Peressutti, Rogers, the list is both long and glorious. Since things are in full swing, and everyone is so engaged in projects and moneymaking businesses, I wonder if they have any time left for reading, for dreaming, for talking, for going into matters, for real, I mean. The city is invading us; there is none to criticize, to oppose, to start some underground, and avoid the mainstream, and I wonder if there is anyone who has not joined the trend yet. There are no manifestoes; you can’t see a trace of wit, there are no queries: all is figures and certainties; it seems that the city is born on ice or on quick sands. Ours has become a rootless place, one devoid of real destiny. Certainly, we do have forums, mailing lists, we keep on talking about professional issues, that is, job advertisements; then, we have periodicals, both local and foreign, yet few historians, critics, and theorists, a handful of “gurus” and masters, very little of what it really matters per capita, per square meters, per shepherds (ready to invest in the Bucur Monument). I am looking anxiously at the young ones and encourage them, wait to see what they’ll do. I am halfway, there is some way behind me, yet I am anxious, restless and carry along a make-up kit filled with various feelings and shades for each street where I can see more and more building sites. My profession is also education, a real resource for the city. These wasted talents should put together a better society, a livable world, a place you could belong to. One you would like to belong to, I mean, not one in which you are forced into.

Now, here is a happy event. In the Czech Cultural Center we have attended Ivan Kroupa’s presentation this month; the room was filled with young architects and students. It was a lesson, a studio class about we could work on today without missing the key values of the profession, that is, creation. That is important. I would like to thank those for whom this profession means more than business, compromise, photocopied ideas, and sterile finishing.

Photo: Stefan Tuchila