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Bucharest's buildings and Ceauşescu's balcony

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I hope all Romanians have had the chance to stand on what was Ceauşescu's balcony and look down the humungous boulevard. When you see the ridiculous opulent excess of the palace, a vast building visible from many other parts of town, and the two-mile boulevard carved through the city to provide a view from the balcony, it's no wonder they had a bloody revolution.

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The palace looks like it's on a hill, but it's not. It's twelve storeys tall, so big that on three sides the earth is banked up so that you have to go up through the steeply-sloped gardens to get to the entrance. The scale of what was done to the city is amazing, apparently referred to as Ceauşima ("Ceauşescu"+"Hiroshima").

UntitledUntitled Elsewhere, Bucharest is a beautiful city, but even with my superficial awareness it's clear that part of the beauty comes from its tumultuous and inequitable recent history. Picturesque pre-communist buildings sit side by side with bold Stalinist and brutalist buildings - and the contrasts between the different styles enhance each other's impact. Lots of old chapels nestling in the shadows of utilitarian housing blocks. Whatever the type of building, many seem unkempt, and occasionally there's a modern glass-and-plastic thing, plus of course the decidedly un-socialist polished pomp of the palace.

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Bucharest has some lovely parks, and well-used by the locals - notable examples of large-scale civic planning done well. I don't know what era they're from, but they provide some great open spaces right near the middle of town.

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Untitled Less perfect are the pavements... and the phone cabling, very often provided by a crazy mass of separate black wires slung from post to post, often sagging down below head height.

Untitled The "Casa Radio" just North of the river is a massive building, never completed I think, impressively decaying and ginormous. It was going to be a museum of communism. Now, Wikipedia tells me that it's intended to become a kind of monument of capitalism, in the sense that an international company intended to turn it into a huge shopping mall and hotel. That idea too is on hold, so for now we have twice over a monument to our own overreaching hubris.

One of the cutest historical references is in the park in front of the palace. There's a children's playground with a mini climbing palace in it, very obviously echoing the huge palace behind it:

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I wonder, do the children play on it and play-act little Ceauşescus and little revolutionaries?

Sunday 2nd September 2012 | architecture | Permalink

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