A Postmodern Treatment of a 19th Century Villa in Revolution Square, Romania.

Revolution Square is a sprawling plaza in the center of Romania's capital city, Bucharest.

On the northern side, lining Bucharest's showpiece Calea Victoriei (Victory Street) is the former royal palace, now the National Museum of Art.
Other occupants of the plaza include the Athénée Palace hotel, once described as the “most notorious caravanserai in all Europe … the meeting place of the Continental spies,
political conspirators, adventurers, concession hunters, and financial manipulators”; the ornate, domed, circular Romanian Athenaeum, home of the “George Enescu” Philharmonic; the neoclassical library of the University of Bucharest; and a building that has housed at various times the King’s ministers, the Communist Party Central Committee, and, for 15 years after the 1989 Revolution, the Romanian Senate.
Novotel Bucharest City Centre under construction, 2006.
Facing Calea Victoriei is a replica of the front portion of the National Theater that was demolished over five decades earlier.
Among other historic buildings occupying the square is a fine old villa, located at Str. Demetru Ion Dobrescu nr. 5. Built in 1884, it became an integral part of the landscape on one of the city’s most famous plazas. Under the regime of dictator Nicolae Ceauşescu (1965-1989), it became the Direcţia V Securitate building, local headquarters of Ceauşescu’s widely loathed secret police.
In 1989, Revolution Square was, as its present-day name indicates, “ground zero” for the fighting in Bucharest. Nearly all of the buildings on the square were severely damaged by bullets and firebombs. While international help was quickly forthcoming for the restoration of the art museum, university library, and other edifices, and Hilton International bought and remodeled the Athénée Palace, no one was initially sure what to do with an infamous building so identified with the dreaded securists. Many Romanians looked at the ruins of the hated building with the same pride they reserved for the beautiful restoration of the neighboring library and Atheneum. But the country could only leave the firebombed ruin of the historic building in the heart of its capital city for so long. Demolition was out of the question: the building had been protected in 1992 as a “monument of national interest” and a reassessment in 2000 raised its rank to “a monument of international interest.”
Faced with this quandary, distinguished Romanian professor of architecture Hanna Derer undertook to study the villa and make recommendations. She found its origins shrouded in mystery. As late as the mid-19th century, this area of Bucharest was still semi-rural, with half the land being used to grow crops. The owners were wealthy families who liked having large estates within walking distance of the city center. …

Researched, written and photographed by
Joe Mabel

The fire-gutted villa at Str. Demetru Ion Dobrescu nr. 5 (photographed November 2001) was the last building on Bucharest’s Revolution Square to be rehabilitated after sustaining damage in the 1989 Revolution.
Dan Marin & Zeno Bogdănescu’s postmodern headquarters for the Romanian Architects’ Union (Uniunea Arhitectilor din România, UAR) left intact most of the villa’s surviving exterior walls and staircases. At left is the library of the University of Bucharest.

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