(Photo: Alexandru Mitache) The (once) beautiful villa, casa Solacolu, on the corner of bd. Lascar Catargiu and str. Visarion is no more... It has stood waiting for the 'coup de grace' since 2001 and managed to remain as upright as it possibly could despite the appalling, willful neglect causing at least half of its illegal disintegration, the constant theft of just about everything in it (no one has ever been charged) and two terrible fires (no one was ever charged for those either, funnily enough...) in as many days. Today, however, Visarion 8 has gone. It is beyond criminal, beyond shameless. Frankly, I have no word for it.
In the place of this house in the Caderea Bastiliei PROTECTED ZONE (capitals just in case the point was missed) built between 1898-1908 by architect Ion Berindei, sector 1's townhall has approved a five-storey block. Lovely. I am sure that it will be MUCH nicer than the house that stood there for so many decades watching over the boulevard and the comings and goings of the city-folk around Piata Romana. Beauty? What do we need that for when we can build hideous office complexes (such as that now on Povernei at the cost of two stunning villas with great historical and architectural value) that are completely unrentable and turn the city into a failed effort at modernisation with no past?
(Photo: Silvia Colfescu) Everyone knew about the deplorable state of Visarion 8 - you'd have had to be blind to miss it. Little by little with the help of greedy, thieving and destructive hands along with a few matches struck at convenient intervals, Visarion 8 was allowed to die. It tried to keep its dignity malgré tout - but with no help from anyone. Nobody was brought to book over its dilapidation, no one charged with neglect. Live and let live in Bucharest!
In 2008, its 'owners' (I put that in inverted commas since they don't deserve such a responsible term - a little like 'parents' who beat their children) asked permission to demolish, not for the first time. The demand was refused (as had been the case previously) and work that had already begun ILLEGALLY before the decision had been given was halted. Since that day, Visarion 8 with no roof to protect it against the elements and the facade little more than a shell lay open to every Tom, Dick and Ninel who fancied a free home, ceramic tiles, parquet, wooden doors, panels and window frames etc, etc. It was soon over-run with illegal 'residents' that no one bothered to throw out or jail for theft. Asa este in Bucharest if you happen to be a historic monument. Don't imagine anyone will defend you - the single person that tried lost the vote in his run for Mayor of Bucharest whilst oprescu, the 'surgeon' of chopping up arteries and creating rubble with a great deal of input from the ministry of culture (it doesn't deserve capitals anymore than oprescu does) was voted back again - because, you see, the majority of Bucharesteans love their city SO much, they want a mayor and a commission who will help destroy it. Bravo.
Yes, I'm angry. VERY angry. It's hard to concentrate on being objective. What kind of objectivity can one have anyway?
(Photo: Art Historia) Back to 2007... Because the 'owners' had asked several times for a permit to demolish and been refused, they put the house on the market. A wreck though it was, they asked 3 million euros for it. Negotiable. Well, that would surely have buyers queuing round the corner as far as Piata Victoriei: 3 million euros for a ruin one cannot demolish (ahum) and, by that time, was too far gone to save, but, said the announcement, one can build round the back. And so, it became public and the townhall for sector 1 with the local council approved a Plan Urbanistic de Detaliu, allowing the future owner to build a five-storey block in its place. The document is dated (if I have understood correctly) 20th December, 2007 and signed by the chief architect of sector 1, Oana Radulescu (may she have severe piles for the rest of her days - and fleas too - for signing such a paper. Architect, my eye) - Stefan Damian too had his fingers in that particular pie (see HERE for more). From that moment, well, you know what happened next. The villa was utterly massacred in just about every humiliating manner one can think of, stepping up the pace from 2009, hurrying along its entire annihilation.
Theoretically, there IS a law that protects buildings in protected zones and historic monuments from destruction. But as we have seen far too often, the real-estate mafia of Bucharest can circumnavigate it or simply bulldoze over it without much of a fight. The list is endless - the two villas on str Povernei, str D.Lupu 70-72 that once belonged to A.Rosetti, Maria Rosetti 38, Camelia 38, Hala Matache, Casa Nenitescu, Casa Miclescu, Muzeul Spiru Haret... on and on it goes. In CIVILISED countries, memorial houses, museums and historic monuments are loved and cherished - they are a nation's heritage and something to be proud of. However, in Bucharest (and elsewhere throughout the country, too), it is an endless list of willful damage, destruction, indecency, greed and shameless, shameless arrogance. Laws? Pff! They apply only to little people - the likes of you and me. Not to those with deep pockets and such long tentacles with friends in high places who consider themselves invincible and, judging by the terrible damage they have done so far, might well be...
Those who condemned Nicusor Dan and voted Oprescu have their wish. The demolitions continue and Bucharest dies little by little under our very eyes. Those who battle to protect it are a rare minority and hardly even make a ripple in the press. What is left of the city's quiet loveliness is under threat every single day. Those that mourn or even notice are few and far between on the great scheme of things. 'Who cares about bricks and mortar when the country is falling apart?' someone asked me the other day on Facebook. Hmm.... this has been going on far longer than just the last month or so - it's a legacy from Ceausescu and beyond with many of the plans drawn up for projects dating back to the communist era. People seem to forget that a country without history, patrimony and heritage is a country with no past, no memory, and worse still, no heart.
When will this end? When there's nothing left?