Impenetrable Plans and Porous Expertise: Building a socialist Bucharest, reconstructing its past (1953-1968)
Title: Impenetrable Plans and Porous Expertise: Building a socialist Bucharest, reconstructing its past (1953-1968)
Author: GRAMA, Emanuela
Series/Report no.: EUI MWP; 2012/23
The paper analyzes the urban modernization of socialist Romania during the 1950s and 1960s with an eye to understanding the reconfiguration of professional and political alliances in the post-war socialist bloc. I argue that immediately after Stalin’s death in 1953, the government started to pursue a regime of reduced dependence on the USSR in those domains that the Party held to be the most important, such as urban planning. Instead of relying on Soviet planners, Romanian officials employed architects and engineers trained during the interwar years in order to create a national network of technological expertise. This discussion sets the political framework for a better understanding of a particular enterprise that began in Bucharest in 1967. I analyze how an attempt to transform a central quarter of the city (the area defined by the Old Court and Lipscani Street) into a historical conservation area provoked tense arguments and wildly diverging viewpoints among architects, urban planners, and local politicians. My analysis of the 1967 debate shows that the process of constructing a socialist Bucharest was later accompanied by a parallel enterprise, that of geographically defining an old Bucharest and transforming it into an architectural conservation area. I suggest that the main goal of the latter enterprise was to offer a concentrated as well as a politically purified historical narrative of the city.
Subject: Early socialism; architecture; politics; nationalism; modernization
Type of Access: openAccess