Frumusețea unui oraș. București. Mița Biciclista.

Intre 18.5-2.7.2023 a avut loc o expoziție despre frumusețea Parisului, care marchează primul sezon cultural la Casa Mița Biciclista din piața Amzei. La invitația ARCEN am curatoriat in deschiderea ei o mica expoziție despre frumusețea Bucureștiului.

Asa arata odata casa Mita Biciclista, construita in 1908 de arh. N. C. Mihăescu

Link despre expo pe site-ul Zeppelin.
Detalii despre conținut urmează in josul paginii, iar la final gasiti un link catre emisiunea despre Frumusetea Bucurestiului.

Extras din textul curatorial:

Imagine din expozitie ©ARCEN

DE CE BUCUREȘTI?

Cum e București? Un oraș în mijlocul câmpiei, cu oameni grăbiți. Mereu in șantier, orașul compromisurilor, orașul târguielii, așa a fost mereu, prin natura așezării sale la întretăierea unor vechi rute negustorești între Levant și Apus. Cand întrebi pe cineva de ce s-a hotarat pentru București, îți va spune ca “pentru cineva”. Pentru oamenii sai. Pentru dinamica lor specială. 

Cum este București? E orașul care nu-ți mai da drumul. Pleci – și revii mereu. 

Ca să înțelegem orașul, îl vom lua pe îndelete, explorand cele șase teme care-l compun.

  1. Texturile

Fiecare oraș are texturile sale, imaginile, mirosurile, ceea ce putem atinge, lumina pe care o simțim pe piele.

  1. Grădinile și verdele:

Cel mai bun moment al orașului este probabil primăvara, cu teii în floare. Sau în septembrie, cu castanele căzând pe trotuar, toamna blândă care durează până târziu în octombrie. Văzut de sus, orașul arată că o grădină zăpăcită. Chiar și în cele mai aride cartiere se zbate verdele. Vara e prea cald și iarna e prea frig. 

Dar serile de vară când suntem cu toții pe afară? Sau iarna când zăpadă amuțește în fine toate sunetele traficului și gri-ul. 

Dacă ar fi să dorim un singur lucru orașului, e puțină umbră. Și liniștea care vine odată cu umbra.

  1. Dâmbovița: 

Capitala noastră a apărut în mijlocul Bărăganului semiarid, într-un pliu al terenului erodat de Dâmbovița. Clima a fost aici mereu mai aspră, cu extreme termice, dacă e să comparăm cu majoritatea așezărilor din zonă, care se află “sub munte” sau la o apă mai mare, navigabilă. Dâmbovița în sud și salba de lacuri a Colentinei în nord, cu bucureștenii forfotind între cele două. Ar trebui să le purtăm mai multă grijă.

  1. Moștenirea culturală:

Crescând rapid și cu administrații schimbătoare, care n-au apucat niciodată să termine de realizat proiectele demarate, orașul a fost lovit  în timp de diverse sistematizări, toate începute și neduse la bun sfârșit. Așa s-au împământenit haosul, heterogenitatea urbană, reflectate în felul în care se amestecă stilurile arhitecturale și conviețuiesc bucăți care par luate din Paris, Moscova sau Istanbul. Fiecare face aici cum îl taie capul, închide balcoane, personalizează fațade, trage un gard cât mai înalt pe unde i se pare avenit. 

Astfel orașul s-a dezvoltat neunitar, deloc armonios în învălmășeala de stiluri și forme – multe din ele contrazicandu-se încă de la apariție (cum ar fi neoromânescul tradițional cu modernismul liberal la final de secol XIX și început de sec. XX). 

Casa Mița Biciclista azi – Foto ©ARCEN
  1. Cartierele și identitatea lor: 

Cartierele vechi și liniștite, Cotroceni, Icoanei, Armeneasca, cu străzi întortocheate, cu copaci care asigură destulă umbră vara și frâng crivățul iarna, creând un microclimat mai blând, sunt foarte apreciate pentru scara lor umană. Apoi cartierele de blocuri: Balta Alba, Drumul Taberei, Obor, Floreasca, Tei, Pantelimon, Militari, Rahova, Ferentari, Berceni, Calea Moșilor (partea nouă), Vitan, Decebal, Calea Grivitei, Chibrit. 

În București exista migrația zilnică nord-sud: mulți dorm în sud, unde densitatea populației e mult mai mare, și lucrează în nord, unde s-au construit birourile. Pleci dimineața dintr-un cartier dormitor ca Bercenii și lucrezi toată ziua într-un cartier-corporatist că Pipera, ca să te întorci seara.
Bucureștenii, mereu în mașini, claxonându-și drumul prin orașul sufocat.

  1. Ospitalitate / Oameni:  

Cum sunt bucureștenii? După vechime, de trei feluri: Localnici, dintotdeauna aici, foarte puțini și liniștiți până la blazare. Orașul lor e cel de sub agitația zilnică, cel în care se plimba când pleacă toți ceilalți. Apoi, cei semi-permanenți, care vin aici “la pomul lăudat” și pleacă în weekend și de sărbători. Ei sunt cei mai mulți – însă ei nu văd decât orașul apăsător și aparent smucit, luni-vineri, ambuteiaje și nervi, pe goană. Apoi musafirii, mereu bineveniți, indiferent de unde vin și ce așteaptă să găsească aici. 

Vă invităm să descoperiți urme din toate acestea în expoziție: de la imaginile cu orașul vechi ale lui Alex Gâlmeanu, dar și unele de acum, ale lui Andrei Bîrsan, Alberto Groșescu și ale Anei Vasile, vederi de sus de pe acoperișuri ale lui Ștefan Tuchilă, vestitul accident din piața Amzei al lui Roman Tolici, precum și pictura cu praf din Berceni a lui Nicolae Comănescu, dar și plantele sălbatice ale Irinei Neacșu. Plăcuțele cu poezii ale lui Mugur Grosu. O mică colecție de obiecte care reprezintă Bucureștiul și părțile lui bune, aromele și texturile. O piatră cubică, o coroană de salcie din Dâmbovița. O eugenie și o minge de pe un acoperiș ale lui Zoltan Bela. Coconul lui Dumitru Gorzo. O serie de texte care povestesc orașul, prin ochii câtorva dintre oamenii săi. 

Vă invităm să lăsați și voi un rând sau un obiect aici.

Despre expoziție am vorbit si la TVR Cultural în emisiunea “Intrare libera” a lui Marius Constantinescu – ale cărui texte despre grădinile orașului sunt de găsit si pe pereții casei Miței. Ceilalti invitați au fost Edmond Niculușcă, arh. Vera Dobrescu, specialist în peisagistică (via Zoom), Dia Radu și Matei Martin#IntrareLibera de vineri. Regizori Anca Lazarescu și Micu Aziza.

Cărți poștale

Ce echilibru îmi dădeau bunicii, pe când mai trăiau. Îi știam acolo, în casele lor, unde mergeam des, și asta îmi dădea liniște, dintotdeauna. Când mă temeam de învățătoarea nebună, de examene, de ratarea în orice formă, de sâcâielile colegilor, de frigul gri și de zloata iernilor din anii 80. În verile lungi și în toamnele incerte, când orice scriam în compunerea “Cum mi-am petrecut vacanța de vară” era greșit, pentru că bunicii mei erau orășeni, nu aveam un “la țară” și nimic nu se potrivea cu așteptările lumii din jur.
Ei, care văzuseră odată lumea și trăiseră apoi vremurile grele.
Mereu când mă agita ceva mă gândeam că ei sunt bine, sunt acasă la ei și data viitoare când o să trec pe acolo o să mai culeg un sfat, o părere, o poveste.
Pe urmă, când am plecat, trimiteam câte o carte poștală de oriunde – întâi lor. Acum 30 de ani din Elveția. Pe care într-o zi am văzut-o cu ei alături. Erau însoriți, bunicului parca nu-i venea să creadă că e iar acolo unde se născuse, că se plimbă pe un deal cu vie unde nu mai fusese de 60 de ani – știa toate cărările cu ochii închiși.
Acum 20 de ani le scriam din Maroc. Și părea că ei o să fie mereu acolo. Eu mereu în călătorii, din ce în ce mai lungi și mai îndepărtate, din care reveneam cât să trec pe la ei pe acasă – ei mereu însoriți, senini, înțelepți. Apoi m-am întors – dar ei deja plecau, încet încet, întâi cu mintea, apoi cu totul.

De o vreme nu mai sunt, se face anul de când nu mai e nici ultima dintre ei. Trebuie să-mi găsesc liniștea în mine și îmi iese prea rar.

URANUS ACUM. URANUS NOW

Text about the 2019 exhibition at MNAC in cooperation with Zeppelin & Ideilagram

The new exhibition is ongoing now, July 2022

December 22, 1989 marked not only the fall of the Ceaușescu regime, but also the end of the megalomaniac communist project to demolish and then rebuild Romanian cities. Thirty years on, the collective memory of these destructions is fading away, while the aggression against the cities continues, even in an opposite paradigm – that of ultraliberal development.

Forgetting (sometimes voluntary) can intensify a revisionist discourse, which justifies those brutal demolitions by the need to “modernize”. The same discourse then programmatically applies to the destructions and excessive building we witness today.

Under these circumstances, we believe that neither nostalgic accounts, nor the display of archives and other records as such are no longer enough. Therefore, through the proposed project we intend to take a step forward towards a symbolic and analytical re-enactment of an erased urban reality.

     *Collage: Radu Manelici. Photo: Andrei Bîrsan, Ștefan Tuchilă

We concentrate the almost completely destroyed Uranus neighbourhood, the very place the occupied by Ceaușescu’s Palace (now the seat of the Parliament) and several other totalitarian buildings. But we also talk about the context, the general project and other brutal urban replacements, including recent ones in Bucharest.

*Ecoului Street in the 1980s. Photo: Andrei Bîrsan

The keyword is co-presence: overlaying today’s reality on the erased past reality. And this will be achieved not only for houses, churches, schools, streets and gardens, but also for people and their stories. Using 3D and physical models and installations, we aim to symbolically bring back to life the demolished buildings into today’s world.

The main goal of our project goes beyond remembering and honouring those who suffered, resisted or documented this tragedy: it is also about promoting a more balanced and responsible urban development for the present.

URANUS NOW is a project about the living history and the community spirit, about the sometimes invisible connections between periods of history that might appear radically different.

*Photo: Andrei Bîrsan

Text continues here / Read more about it here on the Zeppelin Platform

Oil

When I was about six, I learnt about oil. Oil was in the layers of the earth, it made cars work and it gave heat; also, all plastic came from it – so, if you found it, your troubles were history.

Romania had been the first country to put up a commercial oil probe in Bacău and build the first refinery in Ploiești, constructed in 1857 with preordered German equipment. Bucharest had become the first city to be equipped with gas lighting, as of April 1st 1857, with one thousand lamps to take the darkness away.

And grandfather was said to have been a natural talent with finding oil: he had even been invited to Chile for that, somewhere between the world wars.

Dad was and ‘oil and gas engineer’, from what I gathered. Like grandfather, who had died that year.
So dad comes home from work one evening to find that his little girl had dug up most of what had once been our beautiful garden, behind the house. Rose bushes and tulip beds and hydrangeas were holding their roots out in plain view, like the flower ladies would huddle their multilayered dresses, when a ‘control’ came.

I had just started working on the big linden tree roots.

‘What are you doing here?!’ he gasped.

I proudly showed him the extent of the disaster. ‘Dad, I’m looking for oil under our garden!’

Dad was tired and it was the year 1984. He just winked me away. ‘Great job… if you find any, the state will come and take away our house and garden both.’

‘Who’s this state?! How can they take our house away?! Doesn’t it belong to us?’

Dad sighed. ‘State is…look – they can, if you should find oil. You’ll get to know this state one day. Just clean up the mess and stop digging, please.’ He walked into the house.

I kept wondering about this state person over the next days, keeping an eye out, maybe it was lurking around a corner, waiting for me to find the oil, prepared to take something away – oil, house, toys – or even great grandma! Who knows! And how was I to fight this state, if even dad felt powerless against it…

A few days later, it had rained a lot, the garden was revived and all flowers were back in their initial positions.

Dad came home one afternoon to find me flattening the garden with a shovel. No more holes! Not even earthworms were spared – when I saw one, I pulled it out, threw it over the fence into the neighbours’ yard and flattened its construction immediately.

Dad stopped at the door. ‘What in heaven’s name are you doing here?’

‘Psst, dad, I’m removing all the holes! So that the oil can never get out and the state doesn’t come to take our home!’

Dad sighed and sat me down for a talk – about more drilling details, brave firefighters, of how oil appears in nature. He reassured me that it was VERY improbable to find oil under the house. After all, grandfather hadn’t found it there.

***

My next project was to get ownership of an oil platform in international waters, at least 12 Nm away from the coastline, where no state could take it away. Still working on it – this one seems more complicated somehow.

 

The Bag Story

One evening in Zürich, autumn 2010, I found this bag on the pavement, next to my bike. I put it aside, unlocked the bike and rode off. The next day I parked on the same spot. The bag was still there, as if waiting for me. In the evening I found it in my bike-basket. I took it out, hung it on a nearby fence and rode off. This game kept going on for the next 2 days. On the third day I decided that fate wanted me to have this bag.

I had been looking for a new bag for a long time. I always wear my favourite things till they fall apart – and tend to distrust new ones I am finally forced to buy.

“Le bag”, 2011, in my balcony in Port au Prince.

So I looked inside, half fearing it was contaminated- or I’ll find an abandoned new-born inside! -but no. Creamy white lining, some blue and red stains from a pen – and a few bugs. And the smell of new leather!

I took it home, washed everything that wasn’t made of leather – and started using it soon. “Oh, since when are YOU wearing brand-stuff? This one must’ve cost you a fortune. I know a real DKNY when I see it, it’s my favourite brand” a friend said. – No, I found it on the street. – …

When I was packing for Haiti, I was determined to not show off with my things in any way. I even took down my old favourite ring and left it behind. What bag should I take? I only had this one – and a beach bag. You can’t go to a meeting with a beach-bag, can you? And this one looks rather modest, people will just assume it’s a fake.

For the last months it did its job well and does match most things I wear.

Then a few days ago I parked the car in front of the bookstore at Place St. Pierre, Pétion-Ville, the poshest part of Port au Prince. Got out just to see it was closed for Fête Dieu. A bunch of street kids were pestering me about watching the car. I said there was no need for that, I’m leaving right now, as the store is closed anyway. I get into the car, put my cellphone between my legs – where I alway put it when I drive – while I close the door, put the bag down on the floor and – just as I was about to push the “lock-all-doors”-button, someone opens the back door, darts over the passenger seat, grabs the bag – and runs away with it!

I jump out of the car yelling like crazy – and clenching my cellphone. Decide I can’t follow the guy and leave the car, cause he’s probably faster than me on high heels, he knows the neighbourhood a lot better – and I risk to have the car stolen as well. So I scream “SOMEONE STOLE MY BAG! GET IT PLEASE!  THAT WAY!  I’LL PAY A PRIZE TO WHOMEVER BRINGS IT BACK! RUN!!

And all people start running down the street in the indicated direction. All of them- including the guy with the basket full of drinks on his head. The money-exchangers and the cigarette-vendors. The old lady selling fruit on the corner. The phone-company advertiser. The street kids. The school kids. Their parents. The toothless beggar. The passers by, on their way to church.

One street kid turns around: “Where there lots of money in the bag, Ma’m?” – No, but keys and papers, and it’s MINE… MY BAG!!! run, what are you staring at?!” – so he, too, gets in motion.

Only the old newspaper-vendor couldn’t free himself of the newspaper-burden fast enough, so he looked sadly after the others…

After a few minutes, my knees all trembling, the guy with the drinks-basket comes back. “Bag! go there! bag! there!!” and points a few blocks down the street.

“I won’t go anywhere – you guys think you can steal my cell now? or my car?” But I go. On that corner, in the dust, with 40 people gesticulating and quarrelling around it, was MY BAG. Open, like I had left it – and with the wallet on top! Nothing missing.

“This your bag, Ma’m?” Some old people from Mairie de Pétion-Ville, in some sort of sand- or dust-coloured uniform, all escorting me back to the car. Everyone else, who had been running, escorting me as well. I take out money to pay them, thinking that there’s too many of them… They refuse it. I give them the money, still: You guys just all go to the next bar and have a beer and think of me and the wonders of the church on this holy day!

They accept in the end – but only when I’m already in the car, with all doors locked.

I leave with trembling knees, this is incredible.

***

The next day I return to the store on foot, aware and nervous – what if I meet the perpetrator again?
So this guy comes strolling up to me, huge smile on his face: “Happy you got your bag back, Ma’m?”

Yeah, and who are you? “I’m the one who told the thief to drop the bag on the corner, Ma’m. I’m the Godfather of the street kids of Pétion-Ville. Enchanté!”

I’m eyeing him with distrust. He goes on, smiling: “The only reason why you got it back, Ma’m, is because we liked your reaction. You didn’t yell “police!”, like the other “blancs” do, when they get mugged
– you never even mentioned it. You promised ransom for the bag!

Yeah, because I grew up in a fucked-up country, where police was really the last you could expect help from when you were in distress. It never crossed my mind to expect help from them.
The one time I have, after being assaulted in the street – they wanted to charge me with street-prostitution, cause it’s not ok to be out at night as a woman. So, no, I don’t trust police in most countries either.

“You know, we are in the street all day long, we watch everyone, we know their habits. We spend all our life in the streets. I’m 29 now (he looked more like 45+), I’m out in the streets since I was twelve. I got locked-up for four years and a half. I wouldn’t wish a detention in a Haitian prison, not even to my worst enemy I would. I would do anything possible to keep other people from being locked-up. I don’t steal – I manage. Anything that gets stolen in this area, I get a percentage. I try to help the blancs get their papers back, cause I know it’s hard to get them redone, all ID’s and passports and everything. But if they call police, I’m out.”

I watched his brown hands while we were talking – the knuckles were so scarred, I’ve never seen anything like that. As if the guy had been walking on his knuckles through a field of glass-shards… While he was talking all the time with a peaceful smile on his face, he looked like a tired Bob-Marley.

“It would take a miracle to get me out of the streets. A woman – or death -will probably do it, like it happens for most of us. Out here, you don’t live long, you know? I’d so much like to learn something from you – a language, some story, anything. See these kids?”

The street kids were gathering around us, first 2-3, in the end there were almost 20, avidly watching his every gesture. He insisted on continuing the conversation in English, not French or Creole.

“Look at them. These kids have never been to schools, they can’t even read or spell their names. They left home, cause for them the street was the better alternative. Where to get the money for school? (NB: In Haiti you have to pay for tuition; only 15% of the schools are state-owned, the rest are private and a lot less affordable).

– But you speak good English, how did you learn that?

“Well, I worked around hotels and picked it up there…That’s why I am their godfather, I find ways.. If only one could teach them something useful, I’d organise the canteen, they would gather and they would learn. They’re willing.

I’m leaving soon. Are there no NGO’s or other organisations you can apply to with your idea?

No one talks to us, we’re scum, street people. There’s no money for projects like that from the blancs. We’re not flashy in the press – nobody likes being associated with. They just roll their window down and give us some change, they smile, wave and drive on. You think anyone stops and talks to us? You’re the first one in years.

Well, I can somehow understand people you mugged for not feeling like having friendly chats with you.

“You sent away the kids who wanted to guard your car yesterday. That was a mistake, should have let them – and tell them you pay some other time.”

I’m sick of being mistaken for an ATM all the time, it’s so annoying, you know? Think I’m a tourist here, just for fun? I work here – and I could work somewhere else, why do you think I’m here, man? I came for building schools!

“Yeah, but you pissed them kids off, so…when the guy made me a sign that he’s gonna steal you’re bag, I shrugged. But then when I saw the way you reacted, I thought you were worth it – and told the guy to ditch the bag, untouched, and run. Don’t worry, you’re cool. From now on, nothing bad is ever going to happen to you in this area again – trust me, you can leave the car unlocked. If anything should happen, ask for me, I’ll get it back to you in one hour.”

He gathered the kids around and told them some things in Creole, holding on to my shoulder. They were watching the whole scene rather puzzled. He turned to me. “See?”

If you guys steal like that, why don’t you make something smart with of the money? I guess a rather large amount comes together at the end of the day. Put your kids to school, do something for them!

“You know, money that you don’t earn gets spent fast. Stolen, gambled, drug money- it’s gone in a short while, no matter what amount comes together. The only money one respects is the one you earn through work – or get as a gift. You respect the person who gave it to you.”

I was becoming impatient. Too hot outside, work to get done – and the afterwork beer was calling as well. So I passed him some hundred gourdes, like 4-5$. He refused. “Ma’m, I don’t take money. As I don’t steal myself. I’m the godfather, money’s not for me. If you want, do a friendly gesture – show some care for me and the kids. But don’t be petty.”

So, at what amount does your friendly gesture start? (I always hate it when people who want something from you refrain from naming a figure. Like job interviewers – it’s always them asking you what you think you should earn! But it’s them offering you the job in the end; they have a clear idea about its details and the work that needs to be done – just make your damned proposal, so we can start negotiating!)

He wriggled around with the conversation for the next minutes. In the end he was at 20$ – “with this amount I take all these kids to a place were they get soup and a coke”.

Ok, you convinced me. Here’s 20 bucks: if I give it to you, means I take it from someone else in need, like… the cleaning lady… It’s not only you street guys in need, you know?

Ten minutes later I meet him at the grocery store and give him a questioning glance. “I came to buy sweet drinks for the kids, trust me.”

Well, I trusted you and gave you the money for something good. If you used it for something else, it’s you who will be ashamed of yourself and before your own god. I don’t care. I did my part. Why are the kids following me now?

“Cause they like you. They’re just curious. Good luck!”

I leave the store, the street kids waiting to the both sides of the entrance, then escorting me back to the Embassy, shouting various things along the way. “You’re beautiful, Madame!” was one of them.

I smile and clutch my bag.

Epilogue: The bag has a new owner now: my son’s nanny.

First aid kit

No description available.

If you had a first aid kit with memories of the best moments of your relationship, what would you keep in there?

The day you got together. The first kisses.
Walking hand in hand on a chilly autumn day in a strange town.
A bunch of lillies you got on a random day. A hot summer afternoon.
A stolen hour, early on a Sunday morning.
A strong hug, just when you where about to fall apart.
A great advice for a work related issue.

The look in his eyes. Desire. Trust. “You`re going to make it.”
The small gestures. Cooking together.

There`d also be memories of hard times, when you stuck together.
That day, when everything felt like tumbling down and he just needed to be held in your arms.
A comforting talk, that took all your fears away.
The night where the kid was sick and one would wait for hours at the hospital.
The joyful anticipation of seeing one another the next day.

When you`re going through hard times, go on and open that box.
Look through the memories. Turn them over in your head – or in your palm.
Cultivate the good over the bad ones.
No use in endless rumination over the what ifs and whys.
Things will go their way, no matter what you do.
Make your own life nice, as no one else can do that for you.

And if you still end up on your own, don`t make it any harder on yourself.
These memories will stay with you as long as you need them.
It`s your box, after all.

Soap. Whiteshirt#16

Soap was one of the things that back in the 80es one would have a hard time obtaining. As everything else deemed as “luxury”: toothpaste, stockings, toilet paper…
There were some old and brittle pieces of soap hidden in grandma`s laundry drawer, but that was “the good soap”, so one was never to use it. It had long ago lost its smell, although grandma would swear she could still detect that fougère or lilly of the valley.
Sometimes in summer my parents would get hold of a piece housemade soap from somebody`s aunt. It was a misterious yellow-greyish chunk that we used for washing everything: our bodies, hair and the laundry. It smelled a bit acrid – “but it`s good for you” – it also left a weird sensation on the skin – I could never imagine how it was obtained just by boiling ashes and grease in a cauldron, but it seemed one could feel the process.
Why couldn`t they throw in some nice smelling flower to the mix? Lindentree or honeysuckle or whatever was growing by the roadside. Flowers were not restricted in any way…

One day a small miracle happened. I went through a drawer and tried to smell a mysterious greenish piece of soap that I had discovered there. It slipped and dropped to the ground, were it broke in two pieces.

Maybe now that it was damaged as an “untouchable memory”, maybe we could use it for washing?
It had a writing on it, so I took it to the sink and made it wet, in order to better decipher the letters on it. Something with Alep.
Once wet, it started smelling: clean-herbal-sweetish-different. It became smooth and shiny. It didn`t reek like the “housemade soap”. It felt nice on the skin.
I used it rarely and always with moderation and respect, for the next ten years: “mit Verstand zu geniessen” was a saying in our family for using valuable things – like chocolate or grandma`s quince jelly, rare finds – so as not to consume it all too fast: to enjoy with reason.
Years later I would actually get the chance to visit a soap manufacture near Aleppo, the place were soap was invented. I got to see how soap emerged in trays and was cut with threads, and walked between lattice walls made of olive-greenish soap chunks that were left out to dry, like brick walls (see it in a filmclip here). Olive and wood ashes (lye). Maybe some laurel oil.

The chunks had the colour of my little nugget from back then – I think I still had a miniature fragment in a drawer back then, in 2004. For the good day that was never to come.
All things have a finite lifetime. So I tossed it one day, as it had completely lost its smell.

Today I found this AlepiDerm soap in a store here in Bucharest. It`s perfect. And it suddenly brought all that back to me: the drawer and the broken soap, the smell of cleanliness and the walk through the Aleppo manufacture. They say, smell goes directly to your cerebellum, the “Kleinhirn“, the oldest part of our brain, not implying the cortex.

It did – and made me happy.

*the store is La Maison du Savon de Marseille, on Dr. Dumitru Râureanu 4, close to Piata Unirii.

This text is part of the WhiteShirtProject: Like a snake sheds its skin, I shed a series of white shirts while writing down memories – to be found in this link.

Bucharest, 2057

An article written for inclusiv.ro in 2020

A text about Bucharest in 2057, when my son will be my current age.

My dear,

You have won the elections… Congratulations! May it be a momentous occasion.

Somehow, we expected this outcome. Since you were little, I wondered what it would be like for you to one day rise to the leadership of this city that I have cherished so much, that I left behind and rediscovered much later: chaotic, dynamic, and challenging.

In essence, the signs were already present. One summer morning, you proclaimed, “Today, I am the mayor! Come to my office,” and you invited us to the edge of the balcony, determined, dressed in diapers and a red t-shirt. We laughed, but somehow it felt fitting. You were only two and a half years old, and we were still living on Splai, in the “block with the gods,” where the Dâmbovița River flowed sadly through a canal lined with concrete walls.

Now you have reached the age I was that day. Much has changed in the meantime. I wonder what changes you will bring.

It is widely acknowledged that the future lies in the densification of urban living, in cities, of course. Ultimately, urban life is the most efficient, with shorter commutes and a direct correlation between size and diversity: the larger the city, the more opportunities it offers to all its residents – entertainment, culture, employment, education.

This is the allure of large cities. A metropolis can afford a myriad of establishments, a botanical garden, a university, an opera house, and an excellent public transportation system. However, a metro system is not financially viable for cities with less than a million inhabitants. It is a costly investment that requires a critical mass of users to ensure economic sustainability. As more people rely on public transportation, it becomes increasingly cost-effective. The tram serves as a prime example, being a traditional electric means of transport. If the number of passengers diminishes, the maintenance costs escalate, and neglect becomes more prevalent. If the threshold drops below a certain point, it becomes unaffordable, leading to a scenario where everyone resorts to private cars.

It is often said that a city functions as an efficient organism, but this statement holds true only when it is managed correctly. Ineffectual administration results in public distrust, corruption, political instability, and, ultimately, economic decline and poverty. It perpetuates a vicious cycle, giving rise to vulnerable segments of the population that depend heavily on local governance and become more susceptible to abuses.

Given this context, it is unsurprising that the level of aggression increases in direct proportion to the complexities citizens face when attempting to access basic services. That is why most cities consistently ranking in the top 10 for quality of life statistics are located in Switzerland and Germany, while Bucharest traditionally occupies a place in the lower half of the spectrum.

Vienna and Zurich have been vying for the top spot for years, cities where navigation is seamless and citizens have faith in their local authorities, who, in turn, treat them with respect and attentiveness. They serve as exemplars of good governance, often fostering citizen participation. Residents of various neighborhoods actively contribute to decision-making processes and the city’s overall functioning, alongside professionals, while administrative decisions are made transparently. In Bucharest, civic initiative groups emerged from conflicts of interest between municipal administrations and citizens, dating back to 2010.

As you assume the role of mayor in 2057, I hope you will strive to bring about positive change in Bucharest. Lead with integrity, inclusivity, and a vision for a city that places the well-being and aspirations of its residents at the forefront. Embrace participatory governance and transparency, working towards creating an environment where people can thrive, discover opportunities, and live fulfilled lives.

I have unwavering confidence in your ability to make a difference. Remember to lend an ear to the voices of the people, collaborate with experts, and exhibit courage in your decision-making. Bucharest possesses immense potential, and under your guidance, it has the opportunity to become a city that we can genuinely take pride in.

© Ștefan Tuchilă, ultimul Etaj

When the last major earthquake struck in 2027, you were 10 years old. The administration monumentally failed to cope with the disaster, resulting in a significant increase in casualties, similar to what happened during the Colectiv nightclub fire in 2015, two years before you were born, where more people died in hospitals than in the actual fire. Since then, Bucharest residents have learned, and civil society has organized itself better, getting involved in preparedness operations for diseases and response to earthquakes.

The 2020s were a turbulent decade: it began with the Covid-19 pandemic and continued with the rise of far-right movements, as if Europe had grown tired of the hard-won democracy in the East, gained just 30 years earlier. From France to Poland and from Hungary to Germany, many people’s expectations had been disappointed, and the new extremists flagrantly trampled upon the rights of minorities, women, and vulnerable groups. However, they eventually learned, albeit reluctantly after violent protests, that cities must first and foremost be communities: a city without people would not exist.

For a long time, our city had been renowned abroad for its unique dynamism, the opportunities it offered to everyone, the affordability of drinks, and the rich social life. It was like a paradise city, much like Brecht’s Mahagonny, “a place of pleasures where no one works, everyone drinks, plays, fights, and goes to prostitutes; all that matters is whether you can afford the services.”

Tolerance for different opinions and diverse lifestyles, as well as relative social security, declined over time as the city was increasingly mismanaged and temperatures rose. This was reflected in the numbers: after 1992, the illusion no longer held, and the population began to decline towards 1.8 million inhabitants.

The 30 years following the collapse of the totalitarian regime in which I grew up felt like an eternal transition. My generation aged, waiting for something that never happened. Back then, the streets were so crowded every day of the week that you would think no one was working in the office buildings constantly being constructed by real estate developers.

Unexpectedly, in 2020, the pandemic arrived and changed everything. Unfortunately, it is during challenging times and catastrophes that we truly learn and grow, not during easy situations. With each earthquake, fire, and pandemic, people learn to build safer, introduce safety and hygiene standards, and modernize infrastructure, rethinking urban regulations and adapting them to current life, much like they did in the Middle Ages, placing fountains at every important crossroads.

© Ștefan Tuchilă, ultimul Etaj

Slowly, the climate changed everywhere: in Bucharest, the average temperature increased by a few degrees, fueled by continuous traffic congestion and, especially, the “trimming” of trees. Once their cool shade was replaced by air conditioners dripping on the heads of passersby from April to October, making summers harder to bear, Bucharest residents became climate migrants, seeking refuge in the mountains for four months of the year. However, the suffocating flow of cars did not decrease because people understood something, but only after reaching a crisis: frustrated by the continuous traffic jam on the DN road, people from Prahova County started setting fire to large black cars with a “B” license plate. That’s why the Băicoi-Brașov tunnel was dug, and the Pitești-Sibiu highway was finally built, connecting Muntenia with Transylvania.

A city from which anyone can afford to escape the heat becomes semi-deserted for a third of the year – and suffocated by cars for the rest of the time. Many establishments cannot cope with this fluctuating influx and end up closing their doors forever, impoverishing the culinary landscape. You can no longer go to “the Chinese place on Occidentului Street,” “the Frog,” “the Turkish restaurant on Viilor Street,” or “the Russian spot”; you end up ordering everything online. But you didn’t go out to the city just for food, but for entertainment, to meet people. However, people stopped going out too since the pandemic. Along with the disappearance of restaurants, taverns vanish as well, and if you don’t go out anymore, another reason to stay in Bucharest disappears. Then you could stay in another city that offers you more.

Why struggle in a capital city that has been deteriorated by so many incompetent and greedy administrations, with insufficient parking spaces, buildings at risk of collapse, closed or overcrowded nurseries and schools, neglected parks overrun by concerts and festivals that terrorize entire neighborhoods with their decibels? For a while, people worked from home, then they realized that things wouldn’t change anytime soon and that it was preferable to move to a smaller city that, however, functioned better.

Understanding this, those who could, left for Cluj, Iași, or Constanța, where services were cheaper, green areas were closer, and they offered peace and tranquility. What’s the point of a “Green Village” for which you had to cross the city in infernal traffic? You spent hours in the car that you could have spent with your loved ones. And you arrived home completely aggressive – “so many hysterical people in traffic today!” You had become one of them yourself.

In the smaller city, your income might have been slightly lower – but everything was cheaper and more accessible – so practical! Traveling less and more thoughtfully, people brought home lifestyles that no longer fit the “more is more” and “the law is for fools” mentality of the 2010-2020 years. Adversity towards opulence, combined with new sanitary norms, gradually led to profound changes in urban living.

When the pandemic broke out and people were forced to stay in their homes during the first lockdown from March to May 2020, Bucharest residents began to discover their proximity. At that time, I was curating the Street Delivery event, which had been taking place for 15 years on Verona Street, which aimed to transform it into a green, pedestrian axis from east to west. Due to the new regulations, that year the event was divided into islands throughout the city, and its theme was called “ReSolutions.” Projects that proposed the improvement of the space around homes were awarded.

By autumn 2020, some of these small projects had grown, taking root and then being replicated in other neighborhoods. Gradually, flower beds and beehives appeared on the rooftops of many buildings, first around Cișmigiu Park and in the gardens of the Dorobanți neighborhood, then in Pantelimon and Militari – even though we were the only European capital where beekeeping was not encouraged, but explicitly prohibited. This was absurd because urban honey is actually cleaner than “rural” honey since bees can filter out pollutants but not pesticides from the environment. Paradoxically, some of the first guerilla gardeners were actually employees of the Parliament Palace, who had planted a small vegetable garden in its courtyard.

The pandemic in 2020 accelerated some changes that had already been underway for some time. Among them was the reconsideration of urban space. First, malls fell out of use, those large, rare places where people used to cram together – they reminded the population of the consumer frenzy that followed the poverty of the 1980s. In some neighborhoods, there were hardly any commercial spaces at all – that’s where the appearance of pop-up markets was supported, held for two or three days a week, like the one at the University corner where we used to go on Thursdays and Fridays, with you in the stroller and later on bicycles, to buy blackberries, quinces, and cheese.

Sidewalks were widened, and the importance of cars, which had reached a number equal to the population in 2021, diminished. They congested the streets from Monday to Friday and mysteriously disappeared on weekends. The ostentatious and heavy SUVs, which could block multiple parking spaces at once, went out of fashion. They had become status symbols that no one could afford to buy with their salaries. Wasting resources had become the mark of parvenus from bygone times. “Small is the new big,” every child knew by then, and children became more resourceful than their parents and grandparents, preferring experiences over material wealth.

Temporary pedestrianization was introduced: on many streets, car traffic was prohibited in the evenings, which encouraged local businesses in the neighborhoods. Gradually, people finally began to perceive public space as belonging to everyone, not to no one, so tall fences went out of style. A street with 3-meter fences became a road between battlements, not pleasant at all, and it made you wonder, “What important thing do they have to hide here?”

Then, a belt of greenhouses and community gardens grew around the city, which could be rented annually to grow vegetables close to home. Small streets shaded by pines and oaks became trendy again. It was easy to navigate through our city; signs and infographics were placed everywhere in the hope that tourists who once came for cheap drinks would return for the quality of services.

People understood that shade provided coolness, not air conditioners that heated the surroundings and wasted energy. Thus, buildings were equipped with facade blinds and brise soleil. Inspired by the Greek city model, city officials introduced the “Umbrella” program – a cheap solution that turned apartments into greenhouses and standardized facades, instead of the thermal insulation programs that had struggled to take off in the 2010-2020 period.

To decongest the streets and create socializing spaces close to home, ground floors of apartment buildings were transformed into neighborhood shops and parking spaces. Trees were planted on both sides of the streets, and small parks were created at every possible intersection, reclaiming spaces previously occupied by cars. Now you have access to green spaces on every street corner; there’s no need to travel to a park. Seniors and mothers with young children were the first to benefit from these improvements.

With the opening to the Greek city model, suitable for the arid climate of the steppe region where Bucharest is located, other lessons were learned from the Hellenic experience, where the capital clearly set the tone: Athens was already one of the most densely populated cities in Europe, growing from 4,000 inhabitants gathered around historical ruins in 1833 to 3 million in 2020.

To accommodate the wave of Greek immigrants from Asia Minor starting in 1920, the Athenians invented and endlessly replicated throughout the city the “polikatoikia,” a type of building with 4-7 floors and a simple concrete structure, which now represents the overwhelming majority of buildings in Greek cities. The initial constructions adhered to urban planning rules and were pleasant, with sufficiently high ceilings, 100 square meter apartments, and friendly balconies. However, after the 1960s, the quality of construction began to decline in favor of profit.

We hoped not to repeat the mistakes of Athenians: prioritizing the interests of real estate developers, ignoring urban development regulations, which led to the construction of buildings that were too close to each other and “face-to-face.” To make room for them, Athenians had demolished older, classical-style buildings.

But that was already happening here anyway, even in the “restituted” parks, now exploited for real estate purposes. Then, the almost identical reproduction of the same dull building model on every plot of land. The taller, the better! And it should be as cheap as possible! But the apartments themselves were expensive, large, residential, with an average size of 75 square meters, starting from 3 rooms upwards, contradicting the needs of Bucharest residents for smaller and more affordable housing. My generation had already made this mistake.

Only the fetishization of historical substance remained, the principle on which Athens had built its entire modern identity. Due to lack of interest and education, and because of the unclear property situation, Bucharest residents had neglected their heritage for decades – or what was left of it after the communist systematization and demolitions. And now they risked jumping to the opposite extreme, transforming the facades of the 1980s apartment blocks into fake Art Deco.

In essence, Bucharest had much in common with Athens, its older sister in every respect. But it lacked the sea. Our capital had emerged in the midst of the semi-arid Bărăgan Plain, on a fold of land eroded by the Dâmbovița River, as a marketplace at the crossroads of commercial routes between the Levant and Western Europe. The local climate had always been relatively harsh, with temperature extremes, even before the climate crisis, compared to most settlements in the region that were located “below the mountains” or closer to larger, navigable waters.

Over time, the city continued to grow, most significantly during the industrialization period when it tripled in size between 1912-1948, surpassing 1 million inhabitants. Then, it experienced another wave of growth after 1966, with the forced centralization by the communists, reaching over 2 million residents in 1992.

© Ștefan Tuchilă, ultimul Etaj

Like Athens, the city had developed without consistency, without harmony in the mix of architectural styles and forms, many of which contradicted each other from the moment they appeared (such as the traditional Neo-Romanian style with liberal modernism at the end of the 19th and early 20th centuries). Growing rapidly and with changing administrations that didn’t manage to complete the projects they started, the city had been hit by various urban plans, all of which were initiated but never fully executed.

Thus, chaos and urban heterogeneity became ingrained here, reflected in the way architectural styles blend and details from “Little Paris” coexist with a little Moscow and a small Istanbul. Each person did as they saw fit, enclosing balconies, personalizing facades, erecting fences where it seemed convenient. It wasn’t until after the pandemic in 2020 that open balconies reappeared, after being used as storage spaces for so long. After all, the balcony is what provides shade to the sidewalks and facade and offers a semi-public space where you can interact with others – and during lockdown, without the risk of infection (at that time, it was called social distancing).

And the river, the ancient Dâmbovița, on whose banks the city was founded, became the absolute center of interest. In a competition organized by the Architects’ Association in 2020, the winning project proposed a series of bridges that moved the action from the city center directly onto the river, transforming the industrial canal-like banks hastily created in the 1980s into genuine sloping gardens.

Water became the essential theme of the capital: swimming pools, recreational areas, and especially drinking fountains are now everywhere! Today, nobody would buy bottled water from a store as we used to. Single-use plastic had become absurd, and the European Union had banned its use since 2019 to protect rivers and seas.

The city’s natural springs, such as Bucureștioara, were rediscovered. In parks, public toilets with water were reintroduced, converted into restaurants after the 1990s. With the new administration elected in 2020, everyone understood what a business private contracts for public toilets had been, inappropriately labeled as “eco.”

Now, Lake Herăstrău is clean, and regular swimming competitions are held there, culminating in the big April crossing, where 300 people swim from Pescăruș to the elegant pedestrian bridge under the railway overpass.https://inclusiv.ro/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/cStefan-Tuchila_k20_5761-2-scaled.jpgserie de Ștefan Tuchilă

When the pandemic hit and people were required to stay at home during the first lockdown from March to May 2020, Bucharest residents began to discover their sense of proximity. At that time, I was curating the Street Delivery event, which had been taking place on Verona Street for 15 years. The event aimed to transform the street into a green pedestrian axis from east to west. However, due to the new regulations, the event that year was divided into islands throughout the city, and its theme was called “ReSolutions.” Projects that focused on improving the spaces around homes were awarded.

By the autumn of 2020, some of these small projects had flourished and started to spread to other neighborhoods. Gradually, rooftops of many buildings became adorned with layers of flowers and beehives, first around Cișmigiu Park and in the gardens of the Dorobanți neighborhood, and later in Pantelimon and Militari. Interestingly, Bucharest was the only European capital where beekeeping was not encouraged; in fact, it was explicitly prohibited. This was absurd because urban honey is actually cleaner than “rural” honey since bees can filter out pollutants but not pesticides from the environment. Paradoxically, some of the first guerilla gardeners were employees of the Parliament Palace, who had planted a small vegetable garden in its courtyard.

The pandemic in 2020 expedited changes that had been brewing for some time. One of these changes was the reconsideration of urban space. Malls, once crowded and reminiscent of the consumer frenzy that followed the poverty of the 1980s, fell out of favor. In some neighborhoods, commercial spaces were scarce. As a result, pop-up markets emerged, operating two or three days a week, such as the one near the University, where I used to go on Thursdays and Fridays with you in the stroller, and later on bicycles, to buy blackberries, quinces, and cheese.

Sidewalks were widened, and the importance of cars, which had reached a number equal to the population in 2021, diminished. They congested the streets from Monday to Friday and mysteriously disappeared on weekends. The ostentatious and heavy SUVs, which could block multiple parking spaces at once, went out of fashion. They had become status symbols that no one could afford to buy with their salaries. Wasting resources had become the mark of parvenus from bygone times. “Small is the new big,” every child knew by then, and children became more resourceful than their parents and grandparents, preferring experiences over material wealth.

Temporary pedestrianization was introduced: on many streets, car traffic was prohibited in the evenings, which encouraged local businesses in the neighborhoods. Gradually, people finally began to perceive public space as belonging to everyone, not to no one, so tall fences went out of style. A street with 3-meter fences became a road between battlements, not pleasant at all, and it made you wonder, “What important thing do they have to hide here?”

Then, a belt of greenhouses and community gardens grew around the city, which could be rented annually to grow vegetables close to home. Small streets shaded by pines and oaks became trendy again. It was easy to navigate through our city; signs and infographics were placed everywhere in the hope that tourists who once came for cheap drinks would return for the quality of services.

People understood that shade provided coolness, not air conditioners that heated the surroundings and wasted energy. Thus, buildings were equipped with facade blinds and brise soleil. Inspired by the Greek city model, city officials introduced the “Umbrella” program – a cheap solution that turned apartments into greenhouses and standardized facades, instead of the thermal insulation programs that had struggled to take off in the 2010-2020 period.

To decongest the streets and create socializing spaces close to home, ground floors of apartment buildings were transformed into neighborhood shops and parking spaces. Trees were planted on both sides of the streets, and small parks were created at every possible intersection, reclaiming spaces previously occupied by cars. Now you have access to green spaces on every street corner; there’s no need to travel to a park. Seniors and mothers with young children were the first to benefit from these improvements.

With the opening to the Greek city model, suitable for the arid climate of the steppe region where Bucharest is located, other lessons were learned from the Hellenic experience, where the capital clearly set the tone: Athens was already one of the most densely populated cities in Europe, growing from 4,000 inhabitants gathered around historical ruins in 1833 to 3 million in 2020.

To accommodate the wave of Greek immigrants from Asia Minor starting in 1920, the Athenians invented and endlessly replicated throughout the city the “polikatoikia,” a type of building with 4-7 floors and a simple concrete structure, which now represents the overwhelming majority of buildings in Greek cities. The initial constructions adhered to urban planning rules and were pleasant, with sufficiently high ceilings, 100 square meter apartments, and friendly balconies. However, after the 1960s, the quality of construction began to decline in favor of profit.

We hoped not to repeat the mistakes of Athenians: prioritizing the interests of real estate developers, ignoring urban development regulations, which led to the construction of buildings that were too close to each other and “face-to-face.” To make room for them, Athenians had demolished older, classical-style buildings.

But that was already happening here anyway, even in the “restituted” parks, now exploited for real estate purposes. Then, the almost identical reproduction of the same dull building model on every plot of land. The taller, the better! And it should be as cheap as possible! But the apartments themselves were expensive, large, residential, with an average size of 75 square meters, starting from 3 rooms upwards, contradicting the needs of Bucharest residents for smaller and more affordable housing. My generation had already made this mistake.

Only the fetishization of historical substance remained, the principle on which Athens had built its entire modern identity. Due to lack of interest and education, and because of the unclear property situation, Bucharest residents had neglected their heritage for decades – or what was left of it after the communist systematization and demolitions. And now they risked jumping to the opposite extreme, transforming the facades of the 1980s apartment blocks into fake Art Deco.

In essence, Bucharest had much in common with Athens, its older sister in every respect. But it lacked the sea. Our capital had emerged in the midst of the semi-arid Bărăgan Plain, on a fold of land eroded by the Dâmbovița River, as a marketplace at the crossroads of commercial routes between the Levant and Western Europe. The local climate had always been relatively harsh, with temperature extremes, even before the climate crisis, compared to most settlements in the region that were located “below the mountains” or closer to larger, navigable waters.

Over time, the city continued to grow, most significantly during the industrialization period when it tripled in size between 1912-1948, surpassing 1 million inhabitants. Then, it experienced another wave of growth after 1966, with the forced centralization by the communists, reaching over 2 million residents in 1992.

Like Athens, the city had developed without consistency, without harmony in the mix of architectural styles and forms, many of which contradicted each other from the moment they appeared (such as the traditional Neo-Romanian style with liberal modernism at the end of the 19th and early 20th centuries). Growing rapidly and with changing administrations that didn’t manage to complete the projects they started, the city had been hit by various urban plans, all of which were initiated but never fully executed.

Thus, chaos and urban heterogeneity became ingrained here, reflected in the way architectural styles blend and details from “Little Paris” coexist with a little Moscow and a small Istanbul. Each person did as they saw fit, enclosing balconies, personalizing facades, erecting fences where it seemed convenient. It wasn’t until after the pandemic in 2020 that open balconies reappeared, after being used as storage spaces for so long. After all, the balcony is what provides shade to the sidewalks and facade and offers a semi-public space where you can interact with others – and during lockdown, without the risk of infection (at that time, it was called social distancing).

And the river, the ancient Dâmbovița, on whose banks the city was founded, became the absolute center of interest. In a competition organized by the Architects’ Association in 2020, the winning project proposed a series of bridges that moved the action from the city center directly onto the river, transforming the industrial canal-like banks hastily created in the 1980s into genuine sloping gardens.

Water became the essential theme of the capital: swimming pools, recreational areas, and especially drinking fountains are now everywhere! Today, nobody would buy bottled water from a store as we used to. Single-use plastic had become absurd, and the European Union had banned its use since 2019 to protect rivers and seas.

The city’s natural springs, such as Bucureștioara, were rediscovered. In parks, public toilets with water were reintroduced, converted into restaurants after the 1990s. With the new administration elected in 2020, everyone understood what a business private contracts for public toilets had been, inappropriately labeled as “eco.”

Now, Lake Herăstrău is clean, and regular swimming competitions are held there, culminating in the big April crossing, where 300 people swim from Pescăruș to the elegant pedestrian bridge under the railway overpass.

https://inclusiv.ro/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/cStefan-Tuchila_K5_10145-2-scaled.jpgserie de Ștefan Tuchilă

This is how the reorganization of neighborhoods began: there are no more purely residential neighborhoods like Bercenii or strictly corporate neighborhoods like Pipera, where poor people had to commute daily. Different functions were introduced in all neighborhoods, such as parks, swimming pools, sports arenas, and summer gardens that also serve as open-air cinemas. Flexible part-time work schedules became popular, prioritizing office spaces for families and individuals who cannot work from home.

With great success, after the elections in 2024, the previous sector divisions in the form of a pizza were replaced by 20 metropolitan districts. As smaller administrative units, it became easier for the mayors to take responsibility and address local issues. There are no longer situations like before, where you had the Unirii Square in the heart of the city and the Livezilor Alley in Ferentari in the same sector, with the latter only making the news around election time.

The administration itself has completely changed. Mayors regularly walk the streets during peak hours and in all weather conditions, using public transportation, walking, or cycling, without drivers or security, to monitor the well-being of their city. They have learned that you can’t truly understand the issues of your city if you live outside of it and only traverse it in an SUV with a driver and security, as many did in the early decades of the century.

Moreover, the number of security guards has significantly decreased. The era of snobby secretaries, bodyguards who triage emergency cases, and security guards at pharmacies and grocery stores is long gone. Public service has become a respectable and respectful matter: being a public servant means serving the citizens well, not exercising control or abusing them. When good services are provided, everyone benefits.

Education underwent reform as well. Initially, due to the lack of space resulting from new sanitary regulations (pandemic!), school hours started to be held in museums, greenhouses, parks, gardens, and swimming pools. Seeing the excellent results and the need for additional staff, now with much smaller classes of 10-15 children, the changes continued. In addition to traditional teachers, professionals from different fields started teaching for a few hours a week. Working in the public service is now trendy.

The old school buildings have become community centers, with public spaces for residents, mainly used by young people but also open to seniors, with libraries and multifunctional halls. Regular earthquake response training takes place here: people have learned from the last major earthquake that hope lies in civil society, not the system.

Despite the climatic and administrative complications, or perhaps precisely because of them, Bucharest has grown into a pleasant city with diverse public spaces, realizing its significant potential.

Now let’s see what you will do with it. Good luck!

Masa

Într-o zi o să am în fine masa aia mare la care o să se adune lumea dragă. 

În timp au fost câteva mese la care  îmi găseam locul. 

Masa florentină de la bunica – o masă lungă și aproape neagră, cu desenele mele sub sticlă – cam rece sticla aia – însă se punea fața deasupra, ca un ștergar brodat – aici veneau toți cu povesti, cu frici, cu zâmbete, se întindeau la cafele și dulcețuri – până la urmă se găseau soluții pentru orice. Nu mai e casa aia de o vreme și masa e acum înghesuită într-un apartament.

Masa rotundă cu picior hexagonal de la bunicii din partea mamei, unde mâncai sub privirea blândă și amuzată a străbunicului din tablou. Acolo erau șnițele și preiselbeeren. Și afară la geam atârna o căsuță de păsări făcută de bunicul, mereu asaltată de sticleți gălăgioși.

Masa din parterul întunecos al străbunicii, unde te simțeai mereu ca la jour fixe și stăteai cu spatele drept și ascultai radio și poveștile ei cu zeppeline zburând pe cer, dar și cu morții de la cutremurele și bombardamentele trăite.

Masa alor mei, tot rotundă, luminoasă, odată veselă, însă mereu cumva tensionată și reprezentativă; în ultima vreme doar locul certurilor și al fețelor lungi, peste care se aude constant agitația, “mai vreți supă? vreți o cafea? mai vreți cartofi? aduc prăjitură?”
Parcă nu ne mai auzim demult.

Masa din garsoniera mea de la final de facultate, unde se adunau aproape zilnic prieteni – unii nu mâncau porc, alta era vegetariană, se dezbăteau aici  toate subiectele pământului, jucam jocul ăla cu “cine sunt eu?” cu bilețele în frunte. Cel mai bine era că aici se rezolvau probleme și conflicte, ziceau ei. Era loc pentru toți. Eu cică găteam constant pe margine, cu un pahar de roșu într-o mâna și cu pauze de țigară la fereastră. 

A fost o vreme masa din Zürich, care sâmbăta era mereu plină cu bunătăți și câteva ziare pe care le aduceam când veneam de la cai, indiferent de vreme. Pe la 11 când se trezea și el, pe mine deja ma lua somnul. Pe după masă veneau prietenii, găteam, poveștile lor se împleteau cu vinul roșu și ultimele idei de proiecte și expoziții.

Nu a fost să fie masa din apartamentul amenajat cu atâta drag în Mântuleasa. Mare, albă, mereu plină – dar venită într-un moment în care nu mai eram noi – eram deja fiecare pentru el.

Acum masa mea e mică, încăpem maxim doi și-o pisică.

Într-o bună zi o să am masa mea mare, cu copii și cu prieteni în jur,
unde se poate așeza oricine vine cu drag și fără țâfnă.

București cotidian. Viața în 7 cartiere, 2020

București cotidian. Viața în 7 cartiere, 2020, era o serie de emisiuni care explorau viața de zi cu zi în diverse cartiere ale Bucureștiului. Această serie a luat naștere în contextul izolării în timpul pandemiei și a schimbării temei inițiale către urgența climatică. Pe durata lunilor de izolare, oamenii au petrecut mult timp acasă și au fost limitați în deplasarea în zonele cunoscute din centrul orașului. Astfel, s-a evidențiat importanța îmbunătățirii vieții cotidiene la nivel de proximitate, în cartierele orașului.

Emisiunile explorează diferite cartiere și aduc în prim-plan nevoile specifice ale acestora. Dezbaterile implică specialiști din diverse domenii, cum ar fi sociologi, strategi, urbanisti, dar și persoane care trăiesc în aceste cartiere. Fiecare emisiune este ghidată de un riveran local, care oferă informații și perspectiva sa asupra zonei respective.

Printre cartierele abordate se numără

Icoanei, (Centrul și centrele),

Cișmigiu și Poezia Vecinătăților,

Uranus Rahova – Înapoi în viitor,

Republica Berceni,

Kiseleff 1 Mai, Parc și Muzee,

Grivița Giulești – Ateliere și cinematografe, și

Vatra Luminoasă – Cartier 2.0.

Scopul emisiunilor este de a evidenția nevoile și potențialul fiecărui cartier, de a promova implicarea comunității și de a contribui la dezvoltarea urbană durabilă și la îmbunătățirea calității vieții în toate cartierele orașului București.

Această serie de emisiuni a facut parte din evenimentul Street Delivery București, organizat de Fundația Cărturești și Ordinul Arhitecților din România, susținută prin proiectul strategic al OAR finanțat prin #TimbrulDeArhitectură.

Din Cotroceni în Ferentari și din Titan în Dorobanți, fiecare cartier are nevoi, are locuri “bune” și “rele”, are oamenii săi. Explorăm, împreună cu 3 invitați pricepuți din diferite domenii – strateg, psihiatră, brancardier, avocată, sociolog, croitoreasă, stylist, urbanistă, taximetrist. La fiecare cartier, ne îndrumă un riveran.”

Ce vrem:

  1. Un oraș mai plăcut în toate cartierele, nu mutarea centrului de greutate într-o zona care funcționează acum. Vrem să funcționeze fiecare cartier, să trăiești bine în el, să fie siguranță, sănătate, cultură peste tot, nu doar in centru si 100% susținut din bugetul de stat.
  2. Vrem walkability, un oraș in care sa te plimbi cu drag, nu pietonalizare, care e in sine o capcana, omorând magazinele și, odată cu ele, fluxul de pietoni.
  3. Politici publice, program oficial susținut de primărie. Odată cu molima nu trece și urgența. Vrem siguranță publică și sănătate publică. Designul e doar un instrument.
    Siguranță, confort, sănătate publică, cultură – nu se exclud, ci se sprijină reciproc. Direcția de azi e inevitabila. Covid doar a accelerat ceva care oricum trebuia să se întâmple.
  4. Dialogul cu societatea civila. De salutat că primăria a început sa asculte de organizații ale societății civile, OAR demult luptă pt îmbunătățirea calității vieții urbane, ideea e bună, dar alegerea zonelor încă nu e ideala și riscă să genereze o opoziție vehementă-> Cum facem ca inițiativa bună să fie susținută de o dorința legitimă a locuitorilor?
  5. Planul de mobilitate. Calmarea traficului, reducerea, nu desființarea lui: aprovizionarea și riveranii sunt tot trafic. În weekend centrul e chiar plăcut. Doar în weekend însă, ar fi deci păcat să li se ia tocmai asta. Iar traficul principal e generat dimineata de miscarea dinspre cartierele-dormitor din sud catre zona de birouri din nord.

Cartea Bucuresti Sud.

https://carturesti.ro/carte/celalalt-oras-locuri-si-povesti-din-bucuresti-sud-the-other-city-places-and-stories-from-bucharest-south-226756950

The Seaside. Byproduct / Whiteshirt #15

When summer gets mellow and the shadows grow longer, I feel the urge to go to the seaside. No matter what day it is and how much work still presses me. That seaside with long and empty beaches and well tended hotels that are almost always empty.
The sun so soft and the water warm and at nights it would get chilly sometimes.

This was my favourite time of the year! After a long and hot summer in the city, two weeks of bliss before school would start again – back in the heavy, cold and grey Bucharest of the 1980es, dominated by the smells of mineral oil and metallic sweat.
My grandparents would be there at the seaside too, and so would their friends – actually, most adults around me seemed to be architects back in the day.
A bunch of 30 people who knew one another, with a beach all to themselves.

For me, there was a lot to be done – digging in the sand and building the greatest castles with my grandfather – who would also dig trenches, if it got really windy. (After all, he had been an artillerist in WWII and seen Crimea from this angle, so he never left town without his loyal Linemann-shovel.) We`d swim and we`d jump from the wave-breaker, we`d snorkel and play mini golf in the evenings. The food was more like potato mash, meat balls and some non descript sauce, but it was ok. I don`t remember eating fish, though.

For the grown ups, it was lying in the sun, chat all day, smoke filterless fags and drink beer from green or brown bottles that all looked the same.
And sometimes there were waves! After the waves, the water would stay foamy for another few days. That`s when I got it: beer was a byproduct of the sea! Like oil, that came from the earth, beer would come from the sea. That`s why sometimes the sea would foam. Some surplus from down below. Something that Neptune would produce in the depths, every time he`d get angry – and somehow the refinery at Cap Midia would bottle the thing up and sell it on the beach in those half liter bottles.

Olimp Resort in the 1980es. Economica.net

The seaside was so pleasantly empty back then. When I went with friends, on my own for the first time, around 1995, I was taken aback by the crowded beaches. Never had I seen anything like that, towel after towel lining up to the horizon, people scurrying to get drinks at the terraces – all a very stressful chaos.
My friends laughed and told me it had always been this crowded. My mind was probably playing me a trick.

It took me a while to get it: all these people around me were actually architects working for the Carpați Design Institute. Especially at the furniture department. It was their job to check how the hotel interiors had survived the tourist season. So mum and the others would measure and record the findings and make proposals for adapting the fittings for next summer. It was a practical 2 week work-vacation that they would get from the institute. That also explained why my mother would spend many evenings moving furniture around and endlessly “improving” the room`s layout.
Like so many things from the 80es, it was a trick and we were the lab rats. Leisure was a pleasant byproduct, as long as the production would be kept up.

Eforie Resort in 1939. Grandma, aged 23, is 2nd from the right. The flowerpots were still the same in the 1980es.

This text is part of the WhiteShirtProject: Like a snake sheds its skin, I shed a series of white shirts while writing down memories – to be found in this link.

First Kiss /White Shirt #14

was much better than first sex, of course. I was 14 and a half and completely smitten with my blue-eyed classmate. And certain that he was in love with the blonde, green eyed and very conscious diva of our class.
And I was a tomboy. So we were – just friends. 

In spring, rumour had it that they had already kissed (!!) some day when they were on “hallway duty” (something we had to do at school in the 1990es). I cried for some nights.  I decided to go to her birthday that Friday in May, to see the disaster with my own eyes and get it out of my head once and for all. 

We were dancing in semi-darkness to the Dirty Dancing soundtrack, a bunch of unfinished, excited teenagers. He eventually asked me for a dance. Surely out of pity, I thought… The tense atmosphere, he sure felt bad for me, cos we`re friends, he knows, of course he knows.. let’s have another dance, he said. More pity, I thought.

But then he suddenly kissed me breathless. I almost fainted. We stuck together for another few songs, discovering… nothing mattered and no one seemed to be around us any more. And then he suddenly left.

I didn’t sleep `til Monday. 

When he told me in the corridor that it had been a mistake. A debt, so to say.

It took me a while to gather my broken ego off the hallway floor. 

I kissed some idiot three houses down on his street two days later.

We were both left with a weakness for one another, but somehow never got the timing right. 
“I didn’t know what else to do that night, so I ran away,” he told me much later.
The diva became a successful writer.

Like a snake sheds its skin, I shed my white shirts while writing a series of memories – to be found in this link.