what you get here

This is not a blog which expresses instant opinions on current events. It rather uses incidents, books (old and new), links and papers as jumping-off points for some reflections about our social endeavours.
So old posts are as good as new! And lots of useful links!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Heritage and change - destroyers and builders


Yesterday I had my first set of winter tyres fitted on a car – not just because of my experience a few weeks back but because a law could be passed very shortly making it compulsory to have them at this time of year. And I didn’t want to be caught out with a mad scramble – and rising prices. Although I’ve had the car for 14 years, it;’s done only 120,000 kilometres since, for long periods (and particularly winters), I’ve been elsewhere on assignment and the car has just languished in the street (on one famous occasion for 2 years on a Brussels suburb street). This will be the first winter spent in Romania – which puts more pressure on to find a properly sized urban flat. But prices are still coming down. House prices on the outskirts of the capital have apparently halved – and flats in the city are forecast to drop another 20% over the winter. But I would still prefer Sofia – or Brasov – to Bucharest.
I’m glad to report that Maritsa has now returned home safely from hospital – no rest for her – I bumped into her in the farmyard in the light rain and got some cream from her for my experimental mushroom soup.

I haven’t had an opportunity to refer to another great post which Sarah in Romania made a few weeks back. She shares our concern about the utter disregard the Bucharest city authorities (and most citizens) show for their architectural heritage which has so many gem; and this post danced on the grave of someone who was apparently one of the worst offenders – Stefan Damian. Thank goodness we still have people prepared to call a spade a spade! One of the main purposes of my blog is to reflect on the experience of trying to improve government – whether from an administrative or political aspect. The first twenty years of my life, I focussed on the political – the „what”. The last 20 years the focus has been on the „how”- on reforming the machinery of government. I’m still interested in the latter but, as the masthead quotation from JR Saul indicates, I think the value of technocrats is overrated and the role of citizens and the maligned politicians has to be asserted. And one of the things wrong with a lot of the reform writing is that it is too abstract. Change is a question of individuals – and we need more of the naming and shaming approach such as this Sarah in Romania post. I used it myself for the first time a few weeks back when I picked out a State Secretary and analysed his (outdated) declaration of interest form which appeared on the Ministry website.
We also need to celebrate more those who are trying to make a positive mark on life – and, as I noted on my friend Ion’s obituary, while they are still alive. One of the reasons I enjoyed Paul Kingsnorth’s book on the protests against the iniquities inflicted on the world by multi-national corporations is that it focussed on the individuals in different parts of the world who are risking their lives and livelihoods to protest against the destruction being wrought by people running these organisations. Business has been using the journal „portrait” for a long time to glorify their class – and most management books are little else than hero creation and worship. Only women like Rosabeth Kantor (with her marvellously mocking ten-rules-for-stifling-innovation and Shoshana Zuboff, it seems, are capable of resisting this inclination of business writers! But you don’t find such positive write-up of reformers – presumably because media ownership is so neo-liberal. And the publications of the reform movement tend to concentrate on ideas.
For example, I’ve wanted for some time to say something about one of the people I admire most – a Slovak friend of mine who, as Director of a training centre run on cooperative lines in a village, has utterly transformed an old palace, building up not only the facilities it offers (and the labour force) but commissioning local artists to create glorious murals to remind us of the place’s historical heritage and holding vernissages with painters from central europe, the Balkans, Central Asia etc. Walk into his huge office and he is almost lost amongst the books and paintings which are piled up around his desk. And his house is like a (living) museum – from all the artefacts he has brought back from his vacations throughout the world. He is such a lovely, modest man and I always feel a taste of heaven when I visit him at the Mojmirovce Kastiel.
And, while we’re on the subject of heritage, you must view this video - Prince Charles promoting his Transylvanian Trust – if you can stomach the posh accent which I fiind so difficult to take as a Scot. I’ve always felt sorry for this guy – a bit of a mummy's boy inevitably but his heart in the right place.
Stefan Damian has suddenly kicked the galeata. Bucharest is a safer place, structurally speaking... I would like to say I'm sorry and offer my sympathies to his family as one should do after the death of anyone, but since I am grieving for the assassination of beautiful houses and the slowly dying history and heritage in both bricks and mortar (and also because I may be many things but a hypocrite isn't one of them), I shall elegantly refrain, if you will excuse me. The article below from Vreau Dreptate reports on the mafia-controlled mass destruction of Bucharest bursting with patrimony and memories, history and stunning beauty - for money speaks louder than respect, homage or tears. Stefan Damian – who died recently – was one of guys who destroyed a great deal of what Ceausescu didn't manage himself and with just as much energy and absence of regret. See HERE in an extract from Romania Te Iubesc, Bucuresti Orasul Fara Istorie on Pro TV. The pix above is of the beautiful villa destroyed on str. Visarion. May its soul and the laughter that once resounded within its walls rest in peace. May those that demolished it be haunted all their days...
And HERE is one more article for you - a list of victims one by one, houses, villas, bijoux of architecture and bygone years - a city mutiliated by the very institution which is supposed to protect it.
Stefan Damian will be missed, but not by any lover of beauty nor national pride. HERE is an article from last February on the heritage Roumania's answer to the Demolition Man has left behind him...

4 comments:

  1. Hi there! Great post and thank you for including my rant! Actually, its a common one - one that I make very often with every house that is demolished, every brick doomed. Check out Stefan Micu's 'Art Historia' blog - superb and dedicatedly documented. The houses on str. Visarion, C.Rosetti and Clemenceau (behind the Ateneul Roman just about broke my heart and yet there are so many, many more waiting under a trembling guillotine. What is it about the Roumanian people who insist on destroying their own history? That isn't a quote from me, by the way but from Iorga, I think. Bucharest is one of the most beautiful cities I have ever seen - behind those main arteries, the gems beg to be unearthed...'casei care plang' long to be swept up, renovated and loved after decades of neglect. So much corruption... leaving houses to rot because the land is worth more, committing arson as a short cut...ripping off tiles so the rain will come in and set off the auto-necrosis process... its a horror film to history and homage.
    Take a walk down str. Scoala (parallel to C.Rosetti) and hug the Nenitescu house from me when you get a moment. It hasn't crumbled yet despite a bunch of gypsies who broke in and smashed up everything they couldn't steal...the most beautiful porcelain stove, wooden wall panels, oak doors and rich parchet...(google my blog and Nenitescu house for more...) and what about that incredible mill at Obor slowly going to wreck and ruin. Its a national outrage and I wish there were more people than the few who raise their voices a little above whispers - Dan Ghelase, Valentin Mandache, Cristina's great blog 'Unknown Bucharest', Bucuresti Noi si Veche, Art Historia, organisations like Artrad... Sadly though, the root of all evil weighs heavier in the pocket than heritage, respect, history and patrimony weighs on the heart to those Fat Cats at the top....
    Sure, Damian was one of the worst, really, one of the very worst. There are a few comments below my post on this man who say that it wasn't his fault, orders came from the top...yes, yes... it failed at Nuremberg and the same excuse fails here too. No one had a gun to his head and the huge amount of 'spaga' he took is truly mind boggling... Yes, perhaps now he has gone, the destruction will slow down a little. Let's wait and see. My fingers are crossed. Certainly, with regards the Stirbey Palace on cal.Victoriei (that used to be the museum of Ceramics), the Hungarian min of Culture in Roumania has refused the proposal and sent it back to the commission with a vibrant 'nooooo'. That was great news - a small reprieve, but for how long, who knows...
    Bucharest deserves to be loved and cherished...but with little sense of national pride, my heart bleeds for the scars upon a capital already so terribly mutilated in more ways than one...

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  2. Great post and thank you for including my rant! Its a common one that I make very often with every brick doomed. Check out Stefan Micu's 'Art Historia' blog - superb and dedicatedly documented. The houses on str. Visarion, C.Rosetti and Clemenceau (behind the Ateneul Roman just about broke my heart and yet there are so many more waiting under a trembling guillotine.
    Bucharest is one of the most beautiful cities I have ever seen - behind those main arteries, the gems beg to be unearthed...'casei care plang' long to be swept up, renovated and loved after decades of neglect. So much corruption... leaving houses to rot because the land is worth more, committing arson as a short cut...ripping off tiles so the rain will come in and set off the auto-necrosis process...
    Take a walk down str. Scoala (parallel to C.Rosetti) and hug the Nenitescu house from me when you get a moment. It hasn't crumbled yet despite a bunch of gypsies breaking in and smashing up everything they couldn't steal - the most beautiful porcelain stove, wooden wall panels, oak doors and rich parchet(google my blog and Nenitescu house for more...) and what about the Avram(?)mill at Obor slowly going to ruin. Its a national outrage and I wish there were more people to raise their voices with those who make such admirable efforts:Dan Ghelase, Valentin Mandache, Cristina's great blog 'Unknown Bucharest', 'Bucuresti Noi si Veche', 'Art Historia', organisations like Artrad. Sadly, the root of all evil weighs heavier in the pocket than heritage, respect, and patrimony weighs on the heart to those Fat Cats at the top with zilch education and zilch national pride....
    Damian was one of the very worst. There are a few comments below my post: it wasn't his fault, orders came from the top.Huh! That failed at Nuremberg and the same excuse fails here too. No one had a gun to his head and the huge amount of 'spaga' he took is truly mind boggling. Let's wait and see. Certainly, with regards the beautiful Stirbey Palace on cal.Victoriei (ex museum of Ceramics), the Hungarian min of Culture in Roumania has refused the proposal sending it back to the commission. A small reprieve, but for how long, who knows.
    Bucharest deserves to be loved and cherished, but with little sense of national pride, my heart bleeds for the scars upon a capital already so terribly mutilated in more ways than one...

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  3. Many thanks for that - and for pointing me to the various houses I should check out. I must admit I have been very lazy - I collect the various books which have been appearing celebrating this architecture but have so far not got myself organised to see them for myself. You encourage me now to do so - and perhaps also make personal contact with some of the inviduals here who do actually care
    Yrs; Ronald

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  4. Best go see 'em fast whilst they're still standing... bless them all. Start with the Nenitescu House on str. Scoli (parallel to C.Rosetti - you cant miss it - the house is on the bend of the street if you've entered Scoli from the top end. Theres a nice guard there who'll let you take photos if you flatter him!!) which belonged to the brilliant chemist who sadly had to give Elena Ceausescu her PhD...he did it between his teeth, revolted at the task in hand and told her so. He died soon after, some say coz he was terrified she would have him killed for throwing her out of his office. A brave man.
    You missed the neautiful houses on Cobalcescu and Ostasilor near Cismigiu unfortunately and also the gems on Rosetti and str Clemenceau both now done away with. I cried for the one on Risetti. Last time I was in Bucharest, I stood in front of it for what seemed like ages and litterally sobbed whilst trying to hug a bit of wall!!! People must have thought I was nuts.
    Was very shocked by the state of the villa on str Visarion (off Catargiu) as it was entire when I was last visiting. It was absolutely beautiful.
    I'd advise the Stirbey Palace on cal Vic as God knows how much longer it will be there. When you fo, please give it my best love and tell it I'll see it again before the year is out :o)

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