Article magazine # 134


Editor’s: Revolution and popcorn

Text: Ștefan Ghenciulescu

The fountain in Bucharest University Square is not really a great artistic achievement. But it is a place, one of the very few focal points and hubs of life and identity in a city where genuine public spaces, used as such, are almost nonexistent. There′s also a huge symbolic and civic value in this spot. People died here during the Revolution of 1989 and during the conflicts with the miners (the so-called Mineriads), crowds still gather here for demonstrations, individuals come here on a daily basis, to discuss, to meet or simply to rest. Of course, those perimetral water jets installed by the City Hall from a few years ago, that drench you as soon as you sit, destroyed much of the quality of the place, but it dwelt on. It even resisted the initiative of the same City Hall to replace the fountain with a banal refurbishment.

fantana popcorn universitate

But recently, an outdoor campaign for the opening of yet another commercial mall turned this fountain into a provisional support for an ad – a giant bag of popcorn. It was not just plain kitsch, but also an unacceptable irreverence. Even if it only lasted for a couple of weeks, it seems less an accident than a sign for yet another stage in the city′s hysteric engulfment by advertisements.

Yes, I know that we need advertisements, that a lot of people (and not only authorities) make a living out of it etc. But a responsible administration should negotiate intelligently and set limits, limits that certainly would be accepted by customers. Eventually, everyone can adapt to a more restrictive, but clear and correct system, just as they adapt to limited time on television ad breaks, for instance.

They stripped off the ads in Rio, a city whose development makes that of Bucharest seem sleepy and rational, but also a city with incomparably greater social and therefore also money needs. And there were no riots, and people are happy. We could also use some simple procedures, for a change.

Thus, you could completely prohibit the coverage of the buildings′ facades and limit the use of sidewalks and public markets for commercial purposes. You can allow (or even require) the coverage of blind walls, plenty in this city, by following some rules. You can also enable, only in certain cases, placement over the cornice, and finally, determine a number of places in the city where advertisements are allowed to dominate and even become an element of urbanity, like in Times Square in New York, the most famous example, but also Piccadilly Circus in London or shopping avenues in Asian cities etc.

Here, Union Square / Piaţa Unirii becomes organically such a place. You can expand the procedure on Ceauşescu′s axis, or in some large intersections with heavy traffic at the edge of or outside central area, on a few main boulevards which no great architectural value.

It′s really not that hard. But let′s just do something, already, because I, for one, am really fed up with it.

Photo: Georgiana Ghenciulescu