Bucharest, waiting city_ di Luigi Pintacuda TESTO FINALISTA

Abstract di un un testo più ampio pubblicato in AA:VV., A world of fragments, Essays on East and Central European Architecture, Arhitext, Bucharest 2013, ISBN 978.606.92734.7.0

We can assert that an aspect of Bucharest ‘s identity is somehow that of an long uncompleted city. Every single town plan has left on it traces and fractures that now expect to be recomposed. These repeated detachment in the meaning and in the material construction made Bucharest ‘s urban fabric very fragile and it now attacked by destructive interventions. Though ignoring the history of the city and beginning from scratch would permit the destruction of every funding reference, the loss of its identity in order to build a new city similar to any other.1

This text by Nicolae Lascu summarises the distinctive characteristics of the urban fabric, which are elements of continuity in the discontinuity. The trace and the fractures, keywords in the author ‘s work, generate detachment in the meaning and in the material construction. This statement needs a deeper analysis of its fundamental concepts. The concept of trace carries along the idea of guide: these guides, already traced, go through the whole urban organism and can show the development way of the city and help in tracing a possible prosecution of its ongoing development process. Trace can be therefore intended as the evidence of processes occurred and its translation proves to be necessary for the operations of doing architecture2. If the trace represents the element of continuity the fracture is the place of the discontinuity. The idea of fracture implies the division into parts, which can be heterogenous or not, of an organism which before its manifestation was a whole. Fragment is the positive of the fracture. Fragments can be considered as homogeneous places, which, cropped together, build up the phenomenological dimension of the urban fabric, and together with the traces they become major elements of the city.
If we accept the idea that the historical process follow a cyclic pattern, as Giambattista Vico theorised, also urban phenomena might have their return time thus it is possible to analyse them by detaching from their consecutiveness time: their reconstruction may be carried out using their peculiar features and this fare will highlight their oscillatory though continuing development. This concept loses its absolute character as never completed and involves the concept of continuity as for which Bucharest seems to be manifold uncompleted and, then, manifold waiting for an ending or better for a continuation. Bucharest must be seen as a living organism rather than a consolidated reality, it is a place where interventions must be considered as a deviation from the flow, rather than an absolute answer.
Although the words of professor Lascu are very clear and precise, I believe the need of recomposing traces and fractures is to be understood more as a process of understanding their internal dynamics3, because they are signs of a growing city and places of its possible transformation. As for this it is very interesting Lebbeus Woods ‘ viewpoint about the scares of the city:

A deeper level of construction fuses the new and the old, reconciling, coalescing them, without compromising either one in the name of contextual or other form of unity. The scar is a mark of pride, and of honour, both for what has been lost and what has been gained. It cannot be erased, except by the most cosmetic means. It cannot be elevated beyond what it is, a mutant tissue, the precursor of unpredictable regenerations. Acceptance of the scar is an acceptance of existence.4

The scar can be understood as the result of all urban phenomena, but in cases where the distortions accelerate these phenomena it becomes visible: it is the effect of a radical change whose speed and power do not let the city absorb the impact. The war keyword in the title of Woods, is the principal opportunity, it suddenly and vehemently, accelerates the processes of change in the city, but such a change may be the result of different event: all disasters (not only the natural ones) if they hit a large part of an urban organism, accelerate, just as war accidents do, the processes of change. The catastrophe, thus identified, becomes one of the most interesting phenomena in the study of urban dynamics, a interruption within which we can understand the permanences and the loss of a genetic heritage. The scars, a sign of pride and honour, a sign of everything that has been lost and what has been earned, are tangible signs of this disaster, we should start from these if we want to understand their essence as a mutant tissue precursor of a change which is not predictable. Scars are the places where the city ‘s history flows in the open air. The analysis of the interruptions proves to be as important as the study of the established parts. It’s the phenomenology of an inconstant development that, in these places, has not yet been absorbed.

Studying Bucharest development we can identify and describe two main shape of growing that have alternated theirself in time and, even today, continue to be (with the necessary changes). The first one is suburban city: natural development of the big village a city that grows freely, even today it could be identified as the background noise on which the city has grown. The second one is superimposed model: it starts in the mid-nineteenth century with the rising need of modernization, it acts as a principal objective in the designing phase, what Kevin Lynch calls imageability, the quality which gives a physical object a high probability of evoking a strong image in every observer.5 The result of the crush between these two models is what we can call Potëmkin city. The term Potëmkin villages (from the name of A.G. Potëmkin prince and Russian politician of the XVIII century) is used in a journalistic jargon, it describes those cities exclusively built for propaganda purposes. It is a lining that gives back one coherent thing, an image, unless we are on the right side, which means in front of it. Potëmkin city is the synthesis of its face and its back and in this duality it gives us the dimension of the absurd. In the contact surfaces there is no attempt of any mediation, the old road stop at the new blocks and the suburban fabric appears fringed, destroyed only what was necessary to the realisation of new buildings. The resulting spaces are sometimes immense, other times they are less than a meter, but what unites these spaces is their non definition. For a project which implied the complete replacement of the old city with a new one this was only a transitional phase, but today, when the idea of substitution does no longer make sense, the Potëmkin city has become a consolidated form: its consolidation process has not resolved its problems, and neither history could correct, or at least mitigate, its imbalance. We can say that the image of Potëmkin city is a symbol of a discontinued Bucharest made of traces and fractures, now well consolidated.

To understand this complex urban texture made of traces and fracture we need to use the process of analysis and synthesis, the heart of the scientific method: the analytical breakdown and the subsequent consolidation of parts. This study is helped by the identification of minimal elements that define the constituent clusters having in common their function. By composing all clusters we get an inverse map of all those spaces that cannot be classified: a map made by what we call waiting spaces, spaces that do not have a specific function. These are distributed in large numbers and to all the urban area, they are residual spaces within a fabric that is generated and modified and to which no process has ever given a configuration; they are public property waiting spaces, being modified. These are the behind parts of the Potëmkin city, the grounds not designed of the large residential developments of the twentieth century, long breaks between clusters, but they include also those open spaces for witch their current configuration does not have a reason to be without the reasons that generated them. Places where their definition is linked to the morphology of the spaces between different parts of the city. Their being in waiting should be understood in relation to their past and future condition, the context in which they are settled and their potential. For these reasons, it is clear that from these waiting spaces does not uniquely derive the need for their transformation. On the contrary, as for some of them, the condition of suspension stays within their being a break in an continuously developing process, they are traces of what happened, or places for potential future changes.
These spaces are settled throughout the whole urban fabric: a design process that identifies these spaces as resources can aspire to affect much of the city (if not the entire body). Their location in the interstices between the parts drive the design on the relationships between existing elements. Like a acupuncture, their small architectural scale is an answer to a largely lacerated urban context for which big projects are always a partial solution and small one may catalyse a widespread and sustainable transformation. It is useful to read these waiting spaces as unfinished places, for which the transforming action should be considered as a possible continuation: study and research of its generative dynamics are at the basis of the identification of the traces on witch design process must move on. The project will demand an attitude to relativity, to declinability, it should be a state of transition.
Bucharest is then an interesting case study: a city of two million people accepting its history, its lack of balance and, therefore, its urban form, this can convey a sustainable renovation, a possible alternative to the colonisation by pre-established models for the construction of a more real one, the product of an original story.

1. Lascu, Nicolae, in Cinà, Giuseppe (2005), Bucarest dal villaggio alla metropoli, Identità urbana e nuove tendenze, Milano: Edizioni Unicopli
2. In architecture the trace is given by the movement of the process and by the heterogeneity of its procedures. Its translation is at work already within the discontinuity of the architecture operations. (ÔǪ) The trace, if it remains, persists as an unexplainable excess according the simple tectonic logic in Allen, Stan (1993), Track, traces, tricks in ┬½ANY 0┬╗, in Tschumi, Bernard & Berman (2004), Mattew, Index Architettura, Milano: Postmedia Books
3. Restore, rearrange, reassemble, refurbish, renovate, revise, retrieve, return o the marbles from the Parthenon o repeat, relet, respectively: verbs beginning with re- produce Junkspace. in Koolhaas, Rem (2006), Junkspace, Macerata: Quodlibet
4. Woods, Lebbeous (2003), War and Architecture, «Panphlet Architecture 15», New York: Princeton Architectural Press
5. Lynch Kevin (1960), Image of the city, Cambridge: MIT Press
Nome: Luigi
Cognome: Pintacuda
Data e luogo di nascita: 29/12/1979
Professione: Architetto

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