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<strong>Scientific</strong> <strong>Papers</strong>. <strong>Series</strong> B, <strong>Horticulture</strong>. Vol. LVII, 2013Print ISSN 2285-5653, CD-ROM ISSN 2285-5661, Online ISSN 2286-1580, ISSN-L 2285-5653AbstractPOLITICAL LANDSCAPES AND URBAN IDENTITY. BUCHAREST’SDEMOLITIONS AND WORLDWIDE CORRESPONDENCESAlexandru MEXI, Ioana TUDORAUniversity of Agronomic Sciences and Veterinary Medicine of Bucharest,Landscape Architecture, Biodiversity and Ornamental <strong>Horticulture</strong> Department,59 Blvd. Mrti Blvd., 011464, Bucharest, RomaniaCorresponding author email: gomealx@yahoo.comA city is made up by its people and by its architectural, urban characteristics. Bucharest lost most of its centralhistorical sites during the last decade of communism. The shifts of paradigm of those days shift the entire history of acity, ripping away the historical, cultural and social center of a European capital. Even if the turnovers in Bucharestare never to be seen elsewhere in the world, the political decisions and expression that lead to a new urban landscapeconstruction have correspondences in many other cities of the world, most of them marked by a similar history, thustotalitarian systems. In order to better understand the scale of what J.B. Jackson called the Second Landscape, at itsmost extreme expression, our paper will present the effects of totalitarian political systems on various urban landscapein the modern period, comparing the scale of the communist demolitions in Bucharest and the corresponding urbantragedies in cities like Berlin, Rome, Paris, or Pyongyang. The study reveals similarities between cities like thosementioned earlier and Bucharest in terms of political construction of the urban landscape, the landscape as a politicaltool, the impact of these politics on historical cities and their “absorption” by the daily life landscape.In order tounderstand the scale of the tragedy and its consequences in the future it is important to look for examples similar to theone given and to search for answers that may solve the problems that the ruins of the late communism era left to thecapital-city of Romania. It is also important to understand how the daily spatial practices (de Certeau) are finallyengulfing and integrating the political landscape from the collective memory.Key words: demolitions, corresponding urban tragedies, ruins, turnovers, urban identity.INTRODUCTIONA city represents a series of layers of peoplethat lived there. All those layers broughtsignificant changes in the way the citytransformed over the years, but few of them leftscars as deep as the ones found in Bucharest.Many old tourist guides and historical albumsshow images of buildings or places that youwill never find today. Though they don’t existanymore, they are part of the city’s collectivememory. When the generation that has seenthose places in reality is gone, those pieces ofurban history will remain present only in booksand some filmed images, but they will cease tospeak to common city dwellers.The human memory associates feelings withplaces and this is why everyone remembers amoment and the place where it took place.However, if such places disappear, what is tohappen with both one’s memory and with theurban-collective memory?Ones of the most aggressive interventions onthe urban tissues were made in various capitalcitiesunder totalitarian political systems. In theframe of this <strong>article</strong> we will try to observesimilarities and regularities of these totalitarianlandscapes, the outmost expressions of the“Landscape Two”, not in terms of aestheticsand order but in terms of imposition on aspecific site (Jackson, 1984).We also try to further analyse these integrationof huge urban ruptures in the collective mentallandscapes and memory by daily practices,tactics and rhetoric (de Certeau M., 1990).MATERIALS AND METHODSThe research was conducted in the central areaof Bucharest, in the new “civic centre” of thecommunist era and within the places nearby. Aseries of short questionnaires are revealing thevariations in the collective memoryofBucharest dwellers and the manner ofcollective memory-erasing by time.351

Also, comparative studies, concerning othercapitals that submitted under totalitarianregimes and the modification in the urbanlandscapes imposed by political systems aswell as similarities and differences of spacescaleand style between these projects. Thestudy was based on a number of historicaldescriptions and plans, some in situobservations and other previous analysesconcerning the different cities.BUCHAREST’S DRAMAThe House of the Republic was the result of thefear that Ceauescu felt over the 1977earthquake, or so it is presented in the urbanmythology. Even if related to the 1977 andsubsequent studies on Bucharest, the project isa prolongation of the old – interwar period – forthe new Senate House on Dambovia River (theancient Senate Place). The development of theentire project during the time was exhaustivelypresented in an exhibition organized in 1991 atDalles Hall.As any other dictator, hoping to forever bepresent in history, he wanted to buildsomething monumental – a new political centrecapable of holding huge masses of people thathe could control. After a series of seismic andtopographic studies he decided to build his newcentre not on the Dambovia benches (as theold Senate was foreseen) but upwards, on thesafest ground of the capital – Arsenalului Hill,on the southern cornice of the river.The project, started with some modernist styleproposals for the Republic House, developed,with the willing participation of some of thearchitects involved in the project, towards ahuge urban-scale project as a new “civiccentre”. It has to be said that the “civic centre”idea is neither a communist one. As was largelydemonstrated by Radu Alexandru Rau thecivic centre originates in the American CityBeautiful Movement (Rau, 2012). Nor inRomania it was a communist idea. The firstcivic centres were proposed in the interwarperiod by architects or planners that studiedabroad, as Cincinat Sfinescu who studied inGermany. Sfinescu developed the idea of civiccentre and proposed a series of projects forBucharest, including the one on Senate Placeon Dambovia River (Figure 1 - Sfinescu,1932). The civic centre was not initially seen asa concentration of official buildings (as showedby part of the proposal for Bucharest or othercities realised by Sfinescu and others), butslowly evolved towards a civic centre as apolitical and administrative centre (Rau,2012).Figure 1. Sfinescu’s drawing about a separate locationfor the Senate Palace (Rau, 2012 p. 24)The evolution of the house of the People andthe Civic Centre during the 1980 es was of suchkind and scale that offered a good reason forCeauescu to demolish, in the most chaoticallymanner the most part of the city centre and toerase some of the most important andemblematic buildings and landmarks, countinglot of Bucharest’s old churches, the Mihai VodMonastery and the State Archives within it, theentire Unirii Place area – the very generatorcentre of the city and many others. Theeagerness of these demolishing was explainedby the awkward relation of the Dictator withthe city. As “simple peasant, NicolaeCeauescu admired and hated the capital. Thecity was overwhelming. Though he becameabsolute leader of Romania, he felt as astranger in Bucharest and worthless in the faceof the city, a city he felt somehow hostile. TheHouse of the Republic […] was his revengeand a fortress for him to hide against a city hecould not understand (Pandele, 2009).352

huge square Tiananmen. In order to transformThe Tiananmen square event the Gate of Chinawas demolished in order to enlarge the plaza(and afterward replaced by the Mao’smausoleum in 1976). During the 50es theexpansion of the place continued, followingMao Zedong’s vision who wanted to makeplace for huge and enthusiastic popular manifestationof some half of million people. Newsymbols are scattered around the place as theMonument of the People’s Heroes, the GreatHall of People or the National Museum ofChina. “In 1958-1959, the square was expandedfrom 29 to 98 acres (11 to 40 hectares). Thegreat Hall of the People occupied the west side,a building one quarter of a mile (400 m.) long;the Historical Museum occupied the east side.The Monument of the People’s Heroes is nowovershadowed by Mao’s tomb.” (Kostof, 2005).Figure 18. Tiananmen Square (Google images)After Mao’s death the plaza was furtherenlarged in order to gain a perfect shape butalso to increase the number of publicmanifestations participants. Thus Tiananmenbecame the absolute symbol of the communistpower, practically erasing the hole (glorious)Chinese (un-communist) past and staying as avainglorious, overwhelming space (Figure 19).Tiananmen Square is not a singular example; itis known that Beijing is facing a series offrequent demolitions of historical buildings andneighbourhoods in order to make room forunrealistic constructions such as highways,huge block of flats, office buildings and malls.Just these new demolitions are not made in thename of the communist ideology but in thename of the new development toward anoriginal social-democracy (Figure 20).359Figure 19. Beijing demolitions (Google images)In an <strong>article</strong> by Octavian Ciupitu in CurierulRomnesc, the author asks: “who will benefitfrom all those concrete and glass structures thatseem to continuously rise from the earth. Attheir feet, you can still be able to see remains ofthe old city, now on the edge of extinction.”(Ciupitu, 2006)Somehow Beijing succeed in illustrating anapparent “harmless” political system and to putcapitalism (in its wilder but, paradoxically,extremely state-controlled form) in the list ofpolitical systems that are mutilating cities andhistory in order to express its own power.Chaotic demolitions occur in all Chinese cities;traditions and culture are lost in the new urbanlandscape. The population thus loses its identitiesand landmarks. Françoise Choay askes herselfif these new cities, without a past will theyever became cities? “They rather risk ending upat the museum under the 20 th century heritagelabel to illustrate a moment of decisive rupture,although no responsibility was assumed, withthe urban tradition. […] For the urban, today solargely used, is no longer something more thana place in a state of general confusion, waitingfor the “post-urban” term, yet absent from thedictionary to take its place and be recognized.”(Choay, 2011)The new Beijing, still growing fastly, alreadyshows its failures but it is also developing newsocial and environmental politics. It is sodifficult to say now how its public space will belived in the comming years. Today it’s publiclife still rest confined in the old, traditionalneighbourhoods, but new landscape and urbandesign projects are indicating another possiblefuture for the city.

“ordinary” buildings as the general backgroundof the new political scenery. Mussolini’sprojects were more clearly separated – thecentre was the ground of the newmonumentality while the new, modernneighbourhoods, without lacking their ownmonumental places, were more peripheral. InRomanian and Korean case we can witness atime-splitting between monumental and regularbuildings. While Bucharest was submitted firstto a social revision as huge new residentialassemblies were built and while the outmostexpression of the communist era was also itslast project, in Korean case the timeline wasinversed. The social projects were started justafter the accomplishment of the new “sacredplaces” of the city.CONCLUSIONSBucharest case is neither new and neitherunique if we look at the destructions that itsuffered. On another hand some features ofthese destructions are strikingly different.On one hand is the further continuation ofdemolishing after the fall of the communistregime. If we could expect a revalorisation ofthe old city after 1990, this change ofperspective never came. The only noticeableact of promoting the past is the skin-deeprefurbish of the Lipscani area. But it was donejust in order to transform it in a tourists-trap, ahistorical Disneyland out-door mall that is notappealing neither to locals nor to foreigners.On another hand, even if we somehow acceptnow the House of the People, or at least theidea that it can’t be demolishes, but what canstrike one visiting the city is the incapacity ofreweaving it, of occupying and transform itsscars. It is like, behind the huge boulevards’facades, the time stopped. We are neither ableto recover the past of the city, as the harm doneis way too big, neither to integrate its presentand to recover the urban space.Though the city fascinated due to its particularculture, traditions and heritage, the modernproject (although heavily imposed by thecommunist era and strongly refused at thattime) still haunts Bucharest. It seems that weare not able to learn neither form our own, pastmistakes nor form the others’.After 20 years of democracy we still wanderwhat to do about the city, still expect for one’salone idea instead to try, as Germans did for anexample, to take the space in our own hands.The political projects are clearly orientedtowards further destructions and while we arefighting to save what is still standing we forgetabout our scares. As a result we risk facing, insome time, a totally mutilated city that we areno more able to cope with. Or, as it started tohappen, if we will let it go, the nature willsucceed to bring the life back in the forgottenfractured spaces. But nature is so “unmodern”...REFERENCESBisky J., 2006. Berlin-a profile, ed. Berlinei Zeitung,Berlin.De Certeau M., 1990. L’invention du quotidien, Vol.1.Arts de faire, Gallimard, Paris.Choay F., 2011, Pentru o antropologie a spaiului, ed.Biblioteca Urbanismul, Bucharest.Ciupitu O., 2006. Arhitectura veche din Beijing I,Curierul Romanesc.Goldhoorn B., 2002. Project Russia – architecture aftercommunism, ed. A-fond Publishers, Amsterdam.Harhoiu D., 1997. Bucureti, un ora între Orient iOccident, ed. Simetria, Bucharest.Jackson J.B., 1984. Discovering the VernacularLandscape, Yale University Press, New Haven.Joinau B., 2012. La Flèche et le Soleil. Topomythanalysede Pyongyang, Croisements 2 « Villeréelle, ville rêvée », Paris : Atelier des Cahiers p. 66-95.Klein N., 2007. The Shock Doctrine. The Rise ofDisaster Capitalism, Penguin Group, London, p. 3.Kostof S., 2005. The City Assembled, Thames & Hudson,New York.Meuser P, 2012. Architectural and Cultural Guide:Pyongyang, DOM Publishers, Berlin.Pandele A., 2009. Casa Poporului- Un sfrit înmarmur, ed. Compania, Bucharest.Quilici V., 1976. Cita russa e citta sovietica, GabrieleMazzorra editore, Milano.Rau R.A., 2012. Negotiating the Civic Center.Architects and Politicians in 20th Century Romania,Dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment of therequirements for the for the title of Doctor inEngineering at the Katholieke Universiteit LeuvenArenberg Doctoral School.Sfinescu C., 1932. Estetica Bucuretiului, (inUrbanismul 9-12/1932), Institutul de Arte GraficeBucovina, Bucharest.Vasilescu S., 2011. Arhitectura Italiei fasciste, ed.Arhitext Design, Bucharest.Willoughby R., 2008. North Korea 2 nd Bradt travelguide, The Globe Pequot Press Inc. Guilford,Connecticut.362

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