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Bucarest dal villaggio alla metropoli - Review

Emiliano Bugatti

The actual unification process of the European Union shows that those countries which some ten years ago seemed not to have the possibility to join EU are the ones which are actually the pronest to do it. One of these, Romany, has always been considered apart if compared to our geographical, political and religious condition, in the Sovietic block from the post-war period up to Ceausescu’s fall, and at the border of the Ottoman Empire and of the Ortodox East, in the past. This particular border condition has always affected Bucarest’s dynamics of urban transformation.
The title of Giuseppe Cinà’s book itself expresses what the city of Bucarest has been in the course of the last one and half centuries: a village which has become a “global” contemporary metropolis. When the author introduces the idea of village or of villages as a whole, to define pre-industrial Bucarest, he refers to a city model non compact and typical of the Ottoman urban layout, which west of the Balkans has never been considered as “urban”. The birth of the Rumanian Nation has introduced in the urban form a new city’s idea: the one of the XIX century middle class. The Nineteenth century implementations replace the “Ottoman” village thus giving way to such particular results that they might even be compared to the most important Parisian boulevards. Along with the urban reformation new examples of architecture were built, in accordance with the transformations that were taking place, but in contrast with the oldest buildings. This necessity determines a hard cultural and architectural research of a new identity, wich goes on until the XX century. Inside this gap there finds its way the neo-Rumanian architecture elaborated by local architects who had a Beaux Arts’ approach. The above architects borrowing some typological elements from rural architecture work out a new style.
Nevertheless, as the author underlines, the neo-Rumanian architecture doesn’t go further than a figurative re-elaboration on buildings of new typology. The identity question, marks Bucarest’s cultural and architectonic events from the XIX century to the earlier XX century, becoming an obsession in the works of the various architects who will follow in the course of events. Most curiously inside this debate which had to legitimate a new architecure if compared to the traditional one, there found its way also the modern avant-garde architecture of which Marcel Iancu, who was one of the founders of the Dada Movement, was a well-known representative all over Europe.
Starting from the Thirties in the city of Bucarest were built excellent examples of Modern Architecture that if were compared to the ones of more famous European Masters would prove to be particularly deep-rooted in the urban context thus becoming, in every respect, patrimony of the city. At the end of the Second World War when Socialism appears, the City goes through a new period full of deep transformations one different from the other, ranging from the buildings perfectly adherent to the rules of CIAM of the first period, to the absurd Hyper-monumental expressions of Ceausescu’s era. Watching from the outside a story which hasn’t yet been metabolised by the young Rumanian democracy, the author may evaluate, to a certain extent quite objectively, all the trends which have taken place in forty years of Communism. The last part of the book is characterized by the problems connected with the transformation from a collectivist economy to a commercial one.
The problems concerning privatization, from the public industry up to the houses of the single inhabitants, have provoked a new deal in the management of the territory passing from a thorough control to an absolute deregulation. The author though developing the text giving a scientific approach to the urban dynamics lingering on architectures considered quite outstanding, shows a city that avoids some clichés usually pertaining to architects as well as to urbanists.The various boxes inside the chapters have this target. In some passages as well, the author gets rid of the inhibition due to his being (“a pure researcher”) almost revealing his personal way to approach and know the reality of Bucarest. In these passages the author seems to join the interpretations of the city given by non architects such as writers or artists who, in their writings, have been able to show the essence of the city that goes far beyond the analysis of the specialists.
As an example we might quote the psychological descriptions of Montalban’s Barcelonas as well as the metaphysical Portugueese cities depicetd by Tabucchi, or the sharp analysis by Maggiani on the origins of the squares in the “Centro antico” of Genoa. Cinà succeeded in showing Bucarest’s complicated course of events always proceeding on both a scientific and emotional approach trying to draw the reader’s attention on the various aspects of the urban and architectural events.
The themes in the various chapters do not only deal with a chronological reproduction of the strain undergone to reach nowadays reality, but they turn out to be an opportunity to draw the attention on the various aspects of the urban phenomenon. The reader is thus enabled to reassemble places, times and themes of the city in a complex framework giving full meaning to its contradictory portrait.

Emiliano Bugatti, architect, has collaborated between 2000-05 with Maurice Cerasi, full professor of architecture at the University of Genoa, in some researches on the historical centres of the Eastern Mediterranean. He has written in the volumes “The Istanbul Divanyolu--a Case Study in Ottoman Urbanity and Architecture” edited by Maurice Cerasi, Istanbul Orient-Institut, Wüzburg 2004, and in “La città dalle molte culture” edited by Maurice Cerasi, Libri Scheiwiller, Milano 2005. Now he is a researcher in Architectural and Urban Design at the Doctorate School of Architecture at the University of Genoa.

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