Bucharest’s blocks

Central Bucharest – despite all appearances – is home to some of the most amazing architecture in Europe. Though it seems difficult to believe sometimes, for the first two or three decades of the 20th century the Romanian capital was as avant garde as anywhere when it came to architecture. There are hundreds of masterpieces in the city centre (many of which, alas, have seen better days) and there are an increasingly large number of websites dedicated to documenting them. If you ask us, the best is Valentin Mandache’s Historo blog. If you have a free morning one weekend, you should take one of his architectural walking tours too.

This post, however, is not about great architecture. Instead, it’s the first in what we want to make a regular celebration of the much-maligned bloc. After all, the vast majority of Bucharest’s population lives in an apartment block of one shape or another. They may be ordinary, often ugly, but they provide shelter to millions. Time to give them their place in the sun.

The photos are all full size: click on them for the larger version.

Submissions to editor@bucharestlife.net.

Strada Liviu Rebreanu
Strada Liviu Rebreanu
Bulevardul Octavian Goga
Bulevardul Octavian Goga
Bucurestii Noi
Bucurestii Noi
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13 thoughts on “Bucharest’s blocks

  1. Where I live now I’ve got a plush pad and room for my two cars, I’m not sure I’d want to live in a bloc with my fear of heights and dubious parking opportunities.

    I’d prefer a villa like Davin, the only thing I have in common with him.

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    1. You have two cars as well Roger? Not bad for someone who failed school.

      What’s the thing at the top of the building on Strada Liviu Rebreanu? Unfinished floor? “styling”?

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      1. If I tell everyone Roger failed school and try and make out he’s not taking the rise out of me I’ll be ok, it’s just he has me hooked and he’s starting to make my blood boil.

        I think I’ll go for a drive in my V8 Benz to calm down and hope Florin visits this thread in the near future, so I can mock his median salary and education.

        Here’s hoping someone gives me some spelling mistakes to get angry about too.

        On a lighter note I went to our local zoo this weekend, saw quite a few linx.

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  2. To me, Bucharest is not Bucharest in the blocs. It’s the Bucharest I avoid and one that seems so different from the world of back streets with historic villas that I frequent. This is one of the great paradoxes of this city. There are really two Bucharests and a huge dissonance between the two. One was built by the cultured elite of pre-WWI and pre-WWII Romania, the other built by a peasant who demolished some of the city’s best parts in the early 1980s– Izvor, Uranus, Antim, Rahova and Unirii. Some of the recent Facebook pages that have cropped up devoted to these areas with archival photos show the extent of what was actually lost. It’s quite catastrophic. Approximately 50+ streets many of them cobblestoned and lined with poplar tress with amazing villas with gardens were erased completely to build the palace and redo Unirii. It’s hard to realize that Izvor, Unirii, the area of the palace and Uranus over to piata Cosbuc looked nothing like they do today. These areas were full of winding hilly back streets that led down to Unirii and the big market there.

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  3. I find it fascinating the old Bucharest outside the historic centre, seemed to be largely composed of individual houses, some joined, others freestanding, in late 19th Century frenchy styles or just renaissance revival, then joined by neo-romanian and later art deco (by then as little apartment blocks). It was only in the 30s that larger building lining grand avenues ie.blvd balcescu / magheru, appeared, a bit like the grand boulevards of the rest of europe. And then causcesu went and built more, often in a sort of almost art deco style, then later mixed up classical, often along major streets, creating the boulevards that were missing )and also like the bouleveards that Stalin built, though bigger and more of them). As well as whole areas of much plainer ‘bloks’. Altogether a fascinating unique history.

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    1. The bloc is a specific piece of the Communist-style architecture. It had served its role very well in the past and furthermore – it serves its role today, even better than it had in the past.

      It stands cheap, it gives access to basic human necessities, it’s safe and it’s the best choice for normal, hard-working families.

      The Communists were so smart, that many of the things they made have transcended through time while keeping the initial purpose for which they were made.

      As opposed to Western Capitalism whose once-glorious achievements have only lasted for a few years and are long forgotten by now.

      Take for example the iPhone: a useless piece of shit that was remade 10 times and it’s still useless today as we speak.

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      1. I hope you’re not suggesting that apartment blocks are specific to communism. A quick google or a visit to Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tower_block) will show plenty of examples of blocks from all over the world. They’re not a product of communism, but most often the result of a need to build lots of cheap housing quickly or to provide enough housing in areas where space is at a premium. For example, plenty of blocks were built in Britain during the 60s and 70s, though many of them are now in disuse.

        As for the other stuff, I’m not the one to defend capitalism, but what you’ve said is simply not true. You need not look further than the creations of Isambard Kingdom Brunel, many of which are still standing today and all of which predate the creation of the first communist state by decades. That’s not to say that capitalism doesn’t produce plenty of useless crap, but let’s not cherry pick to prove some dubious argument regarding communism and capitalism.

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      2. You’ve proven my point.

        It’s exactly as I said: Capitalist creations that still stand today, are standing as museum pieces or standing for the next cycle of demolition or scrapping.

        Capitalism produces only useless crap, because otherwise it wouldn’t be Capitalism. If you make a card that can serve its purpose 50 years from now, it means that for 50 years you won’t sell any other car.

        You need to make a poor car on purpose so you can take the money from people several times by telling them that you made a better car next year. And they should give up the old one cause the new one is better.

        When in fact it’s the same shit: they’re selling the same car over and over again and charging people 10 times for the same car.

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      3. I hardly see how a bridge that’s in use can be classed as useless crap or as a museum piece. But then again many of your comments seem to be born out of some mutated form of Russian reversal.

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  4. We should lay fire on those historic villas and free the space for office and retail buildings.

    Also we should lay fire to everything from Piata Victoriei -> to the North, together with the people inside.

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