Horizontal Archeology

They used to call it "little Paris" for its French-style buildings and atmosphere. But now Bucharest looks like a "little" globalization of various epochs. The trouble is that you do not have to dig vertically for those epochs like archeologists, because builders have amassed times and styles at the same ground level, coming up with a jumble. What a world war, at least two major earthquakes, and an insane dictator have not been able to do developers are very capable of doing, and at an accelerated tempo at that. Too many of those old individual buildings, each different from the next one, each displaying the architect's vision, often surrounded by the tender leaves of trees, are being totally demolished or painted in strident synthetic colors. And the life-giving trees are being cut. Some of those old facades that gave identity to the city are being covered by gigantic posters advertising products that look the same everywhere in the world. The communist apartment buildings, uniformly constructed like army barracks and now in a shabby state, are hosting offices decorated by "experts": they adjoin colors and shapes which bump heads with one another in a stylistic Tower of Babel. Some enormous office buildings cast ominous shadows over churches, the symbol of materialism and greed overshadowing spirituality. And in the old neighborhoods, office buildings are being inserted: made of steel, which is out of tune with the warm colors of the old, and of the paramount glass. That glass which negates the wall, denies it, replaces it, creating a world all too happy to exhibit its vulnerability to weather, disasters, intruders, and the like. Because it is fashionable to do so. But nothing is forever. When this fashion goes, glass shatters, and new mentalities take over, perhaps other walls will be erected to look once again as if grown from the earth. And, hopefully, those tender leaves will reclaim the city, and climbing roses may even beget new facades.

by Monica Voiculescu