Over the last century Bucharest passed through two world wars, bombing, enemy occupation, 4 decades of harsh Communist rule and two devastating earthquakes. The sad paradox is that the architectural heritage of Bucharest has suffered its greatest losses in the 21 years of transition that followed after the 1989 Revolution.
For years, houses theoretically protected as historical monuments have been destroyed in Bucharest via several stages:
- The house is left by the owner to auto-decay through a variety of methods such as the removal of its windows and other protective necessities, thus exposing it to the elements, arson, or simply leaving the house at the mercy of the homeless.
- The house rapidly falls into ruin
- The owner gets it downgraded from historical monument status, as it no longer features architectural and aesthetic characteristics.
- The house is demolished and eventually…
- Another multi-storey, “profitable” building replace it, affecting the local urban environment. There is no law to enforce architectural standards of new constructions, except for the height.
On 12th February 2011, the media source Realitatea reported 18,000 buildings in the centre of Bucharest, of which 1,500 are historic monuments. Over the last ten years, roughly 1,000 have been demolished, both legally and illegally, with or without permit.
Recently, Bucharest patrimony has been subjected to further attack. Over the last few weeks, Bucharest City Hall has begun the largest urban post-revolution project, a multi-laned boulevard 12.5 km long. The first section of this new road involves the massive demolition of 126 buildings, of which 13 are historical monuments. The project was commissioned to a company, and expropriations and demolitions started, without it being subject to a public debate and without the necessary permits from the Commission for Historical Monuments to be obtained.
The Platform For Bucharest, which reunites a group of 26 NGOs, outlined the effects widening the artery would have on the first section of the project (Buzesti-Berzei) using the experience of other European cities over the last few decades: such a road would only increase rather than relieve traffic congestions, due to the multi storey office buildings, and thus intensify pollution. Romania is a signatory of the International Charter, the 2010 Declaration of Toledo and the 2007 Leipzig Charter, which condemn exactly this kind of projects. Furthermore, one should add to the aforementioned traffic and pollution escalation To this it has to be mentioned the loss of the traditional and historical heritage that the Matache Market neighborhood represents.
In order for demolitions to take place, historical monuments were improperly downgraded through failure of the Monuments Law 422/2001 procedure. Demolitions continued while civic associations initiated legal action to suspend the process. Houses were demolished at weekends and at night. On January 29th, the demolition of Matache Hall began, without any change to its historical monument status and without a work panel in place, as required by law, which displays the demolitions permit and the company involved. The Matache Hall, the oldest Hall on iron structure, the symbolic center of the area, was evacuated, spikes forced into the walls, windows removed. Workers began to dismantle the roof, and the Hall was left for a couple of days in the hands of scrap metal and other materials thieves. Civil society intervention has only momentarily halted the entire demolition of Hala Matache.
What concern us the most are the illegalities carried out by state institutions.
The destruction and unethical downgrading of monuments must end. Their loss is irreplaceable. A more rigorous classification of valuable buildings, a push for investigations where procedures and the demolition of heritage have been illegally carried out are vital. Paramount is an increase of public awareness, both in Romania and abroad, showing these systematic assaults on our heritage.