The Romanian capital has a large stock of period buildings in a diversity of architectural styles that emerged relatively recently on the historical scale, starting with the second half of 19th century, during the modernisation of the country on western lines under the efficient rule of German origin King Carol I (see my previous post on the history of Bucharest’s building booms). In the century and a half since then, the city and its architectural heritage has also suffered the destructive vicissitudes of two world wars, a half century communist totalitarianism that saw the obliteration of many of its valuable period buildings and in the last twenty years a period of near complete neglect and even contempt for old period buildings displayed by the a large part of the population and authorities, people that still imagine modernity on sterile lines inspired by the communist utilitarian architectural environment in which they lived.
However, there are a number of responsible developers and businesses, usually foreign owned, that realise the great value of the old city and its period architecture. While they are far and few between among the multitude of second and third rate property developers that crowd Bucharest, their presence and activities are a good sign, which would hopefully spark up a new trend in appreciating the city’s old architecture and identity.
In that regard, I would like to bring to your attention two landmark examples of Bucharest developments:
One is the Novotel Hotel, business that has erected a modern building on a former parking lot, the site of the old National Theatre of Bucharest. That site is of extraordinary importance for the Romanian culture. The old national theatre, a picture of which is presented bellow, is a sort of “Old Globe Theatre” for Romanians. It has its beginnings at the start of 19th century, associated with the national revival movement and functioned until the dawn of the communist era. Its architecture was a mixture of mid 19thcentury central European and French styles, with a magnificent Second Empire interior. It functioned continuously until August 1944, when it was damaged by German enemy action, in a devastating Luftwaffe bombing raid. The communist regime that followed the WWII profoundly disliked anything resembling Romanian national culture, left the remaining structure deteriorate and in the end demolished it. Once a new modernist building was erected in the University area in the early 1970s, the old historic ruins of the National Theatre were already forgotten, being replaced by a non-descript parking lot.