Bucharest gets architectural nip/tuck

Newsroom 22/01/2014 | 08:51

The Council of Europe Development Bank, the European Union through Sectoral Operational Programs, the Romanian government and Bucharest’s City Hall have all contributed financially to a facelift for the so-called Little Paris. BR took a look at what procedures have been carried out so far and what’s due to go under the knife next.

Oana Vasiliu

The Bucharest National Opera has recently celebrated 60 years of existence in the same building, which has been undergoing EUR 8.8 million of renovations (excluding VAT) since August 2013. According to Razvan Dinca, director of the cultural institution, the works should be completed in March 2014 and are on schedule so far. The Council of Europe Development Bank financed previous improvements in 2005.

The Bucharest National Theatre is also having a major facelift, with a new façade and a more spacious interior. The total investment is almost EUR 51 million, with the money coming from the Council of Europe Development Bank and the Romanian government. According to the official documents, the renovations were originally meant to be finished by June 2013, but Ion Caramitru, director of the institution, then announced that the 2014-2015 theatre season will take place in a complete refurbished building.

City Hall is also under reconstruction, as the building needed reconsolidation and renovation. The total costs of the edifice’s facelift are EUR 38.1 million, not counting the rent paid for the building currently housing city hall operations.

Gabroveni Inn is probably the best surprise of the city: with an investment of EUR 8.3 million (not including VAT) from both the Sectoral Operational Program and City Hall, the inn will be a cultural space with diverse performance rooms, as well as an exhibition space, offices and a tourism information center. ArCuB, the cultural division of the city hall, will move here from Batistei Street.

Coming soon

Starting this year, the town will have two new attractions: one theatre, the National Operetta Theatre, the first built since the Communist period, and a sports center, the Multifunctional Arena Bucharest, for sporting competitions and live performances. For the theatre, the official investment is set to reach almost EUR 11 million, financed by the Ministry of Culture, with a deadline of March 2014. The sports center will have 12,000 seats, of which 2,000 are mobile seating and 400 VIP seats, while the entire building will be situated on over 43,000 sqm. The estimated value of the investment is EUR 60 million, and the site will come into use at the end of 2015. It will be constructed near the National Arena.

Asked by BR about this new construction, Nicusor Dan, president of the Save Bucharest Association, said, “This sports center is mandatory for a European city like Bucharest, but the location is the problem. Aside from the minimization of the park’s space, that neighborhood is completely paralyzed when an event takes place there. In other cities, these buildings are situated outside town, in locations near metro stations, to avoid traffic jams.”

Last week, the Romanian Village Museum chose the construction company that will renovate and consolidate its buildings at a cost of nearly EUR 5.2 million (excluding VAT). According to officials, the Horia Bernea room, which currently hosts a cinema, will get a new look, and a permanent exhibition space will be created in one of the museum’s attics.

arcul de triumf

The Arch of Triumph, a Bucharest landmark, has obtained financial support for improvements from the European Union through the Tourism Development Sectoral Operational Programme. This will fund the required renovations to integrate this historical monument into a permanent tourist circuit. The works involve creating several exhibition spaces and pedestrian pathways inside the building. According to the Ministry of Tourism, the aim is to attract about 25,000 visitors in the first year after it opens permanently. The total value of the project is almost EUR 6.5 million, of which EUR 5 million is the grant.

Bucharest builds hopes for better infrastructure

Bucharest infrastructure has been the subject of significant debate for many years and the progress made towards improving its systemic problems continues to be limited.

The Buzesti-Berzei-Uranus Boulevard that links the north and south of the city in a 20-minute drive is coming into being. The first phase of the project, between Victoriei Square and Berzei Street, has recently been completed after a EUR 29 million investment (excluding VAT).

The project took so long because it has been contested since the beginning by many NGOs, which criticized the decision to destroy some historical monuments in its way. In November 2010, Sorin Oprescu, the mayor of Bucharest, described the Buzesti-Berzei-Uranus project as “the largest urban operation in the last 20 years”. Local authorities estimated the value of the investment at about EUR 330 million at that time, while the new deadline for the entire construction is 2017.

The second phase of the project consists of the construction of an 800-meter underground pass underneath the Parliament hill, according to Ion Dedu, head of the Infrastructure Department within City Hall. The tunnel will be built at a depth of 10-15 meters and will start before the intersection of Izvor and B.P. Hasdeu streets.

The second segment of the new Buzesti-Berzei-Uranus boulevard will be about 3 kilometers long and have two lanes in each direction. NGOs say that this second segment of new Uranus Boulevard in Bucharest will eat into 6 percent of IzvorPark. After a public debate, the project will require the approval of the general council of Bucharest.

Calea Victoriei is also set to undergo a complete transformation. According to the project draft, Calea Victoriei will have 4m sidewalks, while the road will consist of two lanes for drivers and bicycle lanes. The project is being financed through City Hall’s Urban Development Integrated Plan, at a total cost of EUR 8.9 million. Works should start immediately, and one of the project requirements was the completion of the first phase of Uranus Boulevard to avoid traffic jams between Victoriei Square and the city center.

 

Architect Florin Balteanu, also reporter for Observatorul Urban Bucuresti, the publication of the Romanian Architects Order, told BR,

“It is not only the traffic, pedestrians and cyclists that are important in such a project; so too are the functional aspects such as street furniture and paving types. However, what is most important is to capitalize on the great heritage of the area, the buildings that earned Bucharest the nickname Little Paris. For example, if the section in front of the Athenaeum could have an expanding square , the image of the historic monument would be perceived within the true extent of the framework that has been developed.”

While celebrating the opening of the first phase of Uranus Boulevard, mayor Sorin Oprescu said that at weekends, Calea Victoriei would be closed to drivers and transformed into a pedestrian area, to bring back the spirit of Inter War Bucharest.

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