History of Architecture

    The Decline
    As Nicolae Ceaușescu’s will to give a formal expression to his regime became explicit, a flood of arbitrary and contradictory directives (from official documents, such as the Streets Law - 1971, Investment Law and the Systematization Law, to the daily bureaucratic hassle) had no other purpose than to translate the primitive ideas of the dictator, virtually prohibiting any manifestation of professionalism. The damage of the 1977 earthquake provided a new pretext for the establishment of full control on architecture, which thus experienced an inevitable decline, reinforced by the closure of information channels. The same thing happened in architectural education.
    The decline was gradual: language became increasingly dry and lost any cultural reference, Brutalist elements were executed in plaster on the facades of sophisticated buildings, a shabby decorativism replaced genuine research, and finding the "national specificity" became Romanian architects’ new mission, who were increasingly secluded from contemporary issues. The most eloquent illustration is found in most apartment blocks or other constructions (such as Bucharest Hotel, arch. P. Cosmatu - 1980), designed to replace the interwar buildings that had fallen during the earthquakes, whose value is far from being matched.
    For the first time after more than a century, Bucharest is no longer the centre of spreading innovative ideas, which are secretly formed, although more rarefied, in other cultural centres, such as Timișoara.    
    The dimensions of the decline should be sought in several directions: (1) interference in style: the imposition of a megalomaniac decorativism seeking a primitive monumentality; (2) new urbanism: change without rational reason of city master plans, strictly following the arbitrariness of the "instructions from above", canceling social and cultural investments and replacing them with food halls (an obsolete program), development of huge standard urban squares in many cities; (3) in housing: the mandatory use of the outdated heavy prefabricated panels, typological reduction, the introduction of arbitrary standards, building more apartment blocks in the neighborhoods already built, etc.; (4) erasing the past: the demolition of many historical monuments alongside the dismantling of the institutional structure meant to protect them; (5) destruction of villages; (6) changing the facades of monuments, such as the disfigurement of the National Theatre of Bucharest (where architect Cezar Lăzărescu played an unfortunate role); (6) the "great works": the regularization of the flow of Dâmboviţa River, which destroyed its potential and impoverished the city; Bucharest subway - its architecture is marked by official tastes and its forced execution took its toll on its quality and, finally, Bucharest‘s new civic centre, including the People's House and Socialism’s Victory axis, which irreversibly affected 480 hectares of an old valuable area, causing a wound difficult to heal in the city.
    In this context, a success such as the restoration of the Union Square in Timişoara (arch. Şerban Sturdza), The House of Science and Technology in Râmnicu Vâlcea (1974-1982, arch. E. B. Popescu, Ştefan Lungu, Petre Ciută), The House of Science and Technology in Slatina (1971-1986, arch. Dorin Stefan, Em. Barbu Popescu) or Romanian Drapery Manufacture / Bucharest (1986, arch. Zoltan Takacz, V. Simon and F. Echeriu), which may be included in  a spirit of normal architecture, are worthy exceptions.

Ana-Maria Zahariade