The (New) National Theatre in Bucharest
The story of the National Theater of Bucharest is a complex one, most enlightening with respect to the post-war destiny of Romanian architecture. It all began with the irremediable destruction of the old theater by an air raid, in 1944. The Thespian temple was situated on Victoriei Road, close by the Telephone Palace that, together with the Adriatica Building, flanked it like two stage harlequins. In 1946, there came the proposal that an opera theater be erected in the proximity of or even on the very location of the Colțea Hospital. (The project was translated into life six years later, in a different location.) Notes exist in connection with premier Groza’s visit to the site and the discussions held on the occasion. Most interesting in the relevant talks is the fact that as early as that date, 1946, major interventions were envisaged in the body of what physically represents Romania’s capital center.
The circus at the University was called into discussion, too, and made the subject of a big competition (1956-57) regarding the situation of the city’s important public buildings. The Nicolae Bălcescu Plaza, as the junction between the major north-south and east-west axes of the city was known in that epoch, was thus to be developed. The times had changed, and the projects put forth in the post-Stalinist period ranged from absolutely in keeping with the demised realist socialist style to as modern as possible at that date. Outstanding was the common idea that the area equally needed a height and a mass dominant. The first point could be solved, nearly all the epoch’s architects claimed, with the help of a tower-campanile. The building of the City Hall itself represented the second. The competition brought no visible improvement to the city.
The Nicolae Bălcescu Plaza and its development continued to garner attention though. For instance, in the article on some “Matters regarding the urban development of the capital”, published in the magazine Arhitectura RPR 6/1964, the capital’s chief architect of the time, Horia Maicu came up with a study case on the plaza, accompanied by a few sketches of the future urban silhouette of the circus. I will introduce now the “study variant” that contains two major edifices: a tall building on the northern side, and, briefly sketched, the “ghost” of the future National Theater.
Here are the words of the article’s author in connection with the site chosen: “The N. Bălcescu Plaza, the capital’s geographic center, will be developed in point of the annexed area and of the traffic on a par with contemporary requirements. The urban architectural ensemble of the National Theater will be raised in this plaza, situated on an ample platform, with lush vegetation and arranged with basins, fountains and statues; under this platform (sic!) an underground parking lot will be laid out, with commercial facilities; likewise, on the junction N. Bălcescu Blvd. and 6 Martie Blvd. (sic!) a several-level walkway is envisaged.”
Augustin Ioan, 2017