Tuesday, August 23, 2005
Monday, August 22, 2005
I am back in Bucharest after quite some time. I was wondering if I will find my return in any way different then previous occasions. I keep on coming back to the country after living abroad for various expenses of time. It is always an interesting experience. I am getting tired to see it trapped in transition.
This is my city. I love it. I do not find it easy to fit or belong but I still feel at home in its concrete desolation. Leving aside the tainted glass clad office towers, fashionable terraces, fancy cars and neon lights Bucharest still fights against older and newer urban plights.
Many things have changed these last 10-15 years bringing parts of the city back to their pre war beauty. The horrible scars brought about by communism are slowly melting under newer ones brought about by rampant and poorly managed advertising only made worse by constant lack of urban planning. After 50 years of manichaeist industrial development, matched by dormitory architecture on hormones Bucharest swelled to 2.5 million people. Today it is a dynamic city, a mixture between old and new, Byzantine churches and the ominous concrete palaces legacy of communist totalitarian megalomania.
I may be harsh but I want more for this city. I am far more fascinated by the modernist legacy of the '20s and '30s then by the concrete made communist "proletarian paradise". It is easy to understand that financial limitations will keep around the blocks of flats gathered like rat hole dormitory satellite cities. These will continue to produce generation of children whose horizons will be marked by the vertical slum. It is more difficult to see that transition and democracy have not only positive but also, every so often, a worsening effect on the urban perspective. To ad insult to injury it it is awfully easy to compare the new design banks and clubs and office buildings or the newly renovated pre war villas with the crumbling concrete blocks of flats. I only hope that enough will change to make it easier to have a choice. I want the "mahala" mentality - a Romanian inner city equivalent - to be challenged, attacked and checked. In urban visual terms this includes the way we treat the cityscape. The hordes of kitschy advertisements, horrible "new" buildings mixing concrete and glass in incredible irregular and terribly non esthetic masses, and limited public infrastructure need some response. Certainly I do not see the sprawling, mushrooming gated upper middle class community developments as a proper response. Nor do the new buildings and parking lots infringing on green space improve the result. If anything these lead the city in search of a new identity, image and renwed public space.
A patchwork of opulence and dire poverty is certainly not the future I hope for this city. In all truth there are many good signs. Several city district councils have started implementing urban development plans, architectural screening has vastly improoved. It will be a long uphill strugle to challange the vertical slums of Bucharest. What I can do, besides giving my vote to people I belive will work for the best interest of the city and its people, is witness and share. Photography makes it possible. This blog makes it easy.
Sunday, August 21, 2005
Moving goods is easy Century old ship loading cranes on the river bank in front of Hangar 29 in Antwerpen. These cranes have been there since late XIX Century and now are giving the riverfront a romantic appeal. The place, a formed dockyard, now houses the cruise-ship terminal and a first class but totaly unpretentiouss restaurant called De Kaai.