joi, 7 august 2014

Bucharest, a "mosaic" of architecture

Bucharest, or the Little Paris as it was once called, deserved its name but now it doesn't look like the smaller replica of the French capital, but more like a bazar. When you come from the airport, the first massive building you see is the Liberal Press House, or the Scanteii House standing tall in a square that has its name.
This building's architecture has many elements combined, inspired not only from Sovietic architecture (realist-socialist style), but from the romanian traditional architecture. Its construction took place during the communist regim Romania had in the second half of the XXth century. It was built in 5 years (1952-1957) and designed by Horia Maicu. The grandoire of the building is not accidental for it was the tallest building in Bucharest at that time. Romania and other satelite countries of the URSS wanted to please the higher power so trying to replicate buildings from Moscow and other major cities in Russia. You can see many communist symbols on the building, but also some of gothic origin such as rosettas. 
The problem isn't each building taken individually but putting them all together. The puzzle doesn't seem to mach because when realist-soialist buildings began to arise, the city had many french influences so far. It already had its own style, called the Neoromanian or the Neobrancovenesc style, a very pleasing combination of the French Art Nuveau, Bizantine elements, Italian and etnografic, with influences from the medieval times. 
                                                        (National College I.L. Caragiale)

Ion Mincu is the architect that promoted the Neobrancovenesc style at the end of the XIX century, alogside with others of his king, all of whom were trained in France at the time. These men had the purpose of changing the face of Bucharest, and it was a remarcable effort. Their vision was almost ireparabily damaged firstly by the construction of communist buildings, secondly by the construction of tall office buildings next to Neoromanian houses and thirdly by blocks of flats that look like they will fall down at the first earthquake. The combination is disgraceful to say the least. An example of such constructions shadowing landmarks is the Millenium Business Center near the Armenian church in the Center of Bucharest. 

A Romanian diplomat and politician, Theodor Paleologu stated when the building caught fire:
 "I wished that the building would dissapear and I think so did every person living in this neighborhood. I wanted it to be brought down. Even if this will not come to happen, we should not build such a construction in the Cultural Center ever again."

 It's comforting to know that not all Romanians turn a blind eye when it comes to their city. He further stated that there is a law wich doesn't allow these types of buildings to sprout in the Center of the Capital. 
"If you look closely at the 422 law, you can't possibly understand how such buildings came to appear near iconic places like the Armenean Monastery. Seeing the fact that they still stand there, one cannot abstain from posing the problem of corruption. There is a proportional connection between the height of the monstrosity and the level of corruption. Otherwise there is no explanation why the law isn't being followed".

The Armenean Church was built between 1911-1915. The style, of course, is Armenean, inspired from the architecture of the Echimiadzin Cathedral in the spiritual center of Armenia.

Another example of carelessness is a crossway made by the Queen Elisabeth Boulevard and The Calea Victoriei Boulevard, where you can see the Famous Hotel Capsa, The Military Building and some other beautiful constructions ruined by what surrounds them. 
(Source: Reptilianul)

Four years ago I had never been outside Bucharest. It is the city I was born in, raised in and currently live in. When I first made contact with Vienna I couldn't believe that the pictures I have seen on the internet were actually accurate. Everything there is where it is suppose to be, nothing is out of place. Many would argue that our old and beautiful buildings stand out between "I cannot believe they haven't fallen yet" ones. I am more of a perfectionist and these views give me the psychological torment of nails scratching on a blackboard. I have always believed Ceausescu ruined our architecture, but then again nobody is doing anything about it so it wouldn't be fair to only blame him. 

(Source: Reptilianul)

The Military Palace is an outstanding building. It came into being at the beginning of the XXth century. The Military club bought the land it is standing on and turned it into and edifice for the cultural activities of the club. It was designed by Dimitrie Maimarolu, who also designed the Palace on the Mitrolopoly Hill. He needed the help of Anghel Saligny and Elie Radu because the land was very fargile, a little river once flowed there. 
It went dry but the soil was still tricky due to the groundwater being to near to the surface. They adopted a very ingenious method: The building was raised on oak pillors (known fact being that oak hardens when it is wet).
The building has 10 ballrooms with stunning decorations. Military clubs still have parties here and highschool graduates their prom nights. The terrase is currently being used as a bar.

The military palace had the unfortunate faith of being in an ansamble I have modified to show you again what ruins the imposing stature of these buildings
(Source: Reptilianul-I translated the names and made the Cyrcles that depict what is wrong with the view)

Last but not least I will talk about the Parliament Building and it doesn't bring me pleasure because I am not very fond of it. The building is a combination of styles: Eclectic, Traditional Romanian architecture with recurent elements of the Brancovenesc style. It can be found in the Book Of Records, being the second largest building in occupied surface and third largest in volume. It is not mentioned but I think it has a substantial realist-socialist influence too and that is part of the reason I do not like it. Ceausescu wanted to see this bulding finished with all his heart. It has a network of underground tunnels and escape routs, but it seems that no matter how many escape plans you have, carelessness can still get you shot in the head.  

This building is at the end of an ansamble of buildings alongside a boulevard. The younger generations see them as 'The Communist Buildings' because they have a certain air around them-when you breathe it in you see all your parents saying "Tovarase Profesor". 
I do not think the Parliament House and the ansamble that is its frame fit the kinda, sort of predominant architecture Bucharest has, and it shouldn't be here. As you can see I am an adept of Ion Mincu's architectural type, him being the pioneer of  the Neobrancovenesc style. 
I think most youngsters like this style the most because it has that certain bohemian quality to it that we all seek in our "free to dream" period of life. Also our Capital has many other elements introduced to its primary style and that makes it a mosaic in the negative sense of the word....
.... but I bet it looks nice on Google Satelite. 

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