Urbanity and Civil Society. The Rise of a New Urban Generation in Bucharest during the 2000s
Associate Professor, PhD, “Ion Mincu” University of Architecture and Urbanism, Bucharest
Articol publicat pe pagina Volume 3/2015 – De Urbanitate. Tales of Urban Lives and Spaces:
KEYWORDS: civil society; urban resistance; urban renewal; social media; gentrification
“The right to the city is […] far more than a right of individual access to the resources that the
city embodies: it is a right to change ourselves by changing the city more after our heart’s desire. It
is, moreover, a collective rather than an individual right since changing the city inevitably depends
upon the exercise of a collective power over the process of urbanization. The freedom to make and
remake ourselves and our cities is […] one of the most precious yet most neglected of our human
”1 (David Harvey, 2008)
Urbanity and Civility
We inherit the modern definition of civil society from G.W. Hegel, who discusses the question
of association of individuals in the part dedicated to Ethical Life of his Elements of the Philosophy
of Right (1821).2 For Hegel, ethical life – Sittlichkeit – is marked by the intertwined relations
between family life, civil society and the state. He defines civil society as
“[the] association of members as self-subsistent individuals in a universality which, because
of their self-subsistence, is only abstract. Their association is brought about by their needs, be
the legal system…and by an external organization for attaining their particular and common
The idea of common interest and participation, as well as the ethical dimension of the civil society
are features that have been largely commented by social sciences scholarship – where especially the
trait of associability has been understood to create trust and solidarity within groups.4
An important moment for the current understanding of the civil society has been the German
debate upon the actuality of the term Bürgerliche Gesellschaft versus the Zivilgesellschaft,5
indicating a more involved, participatory dimension. Participation is an essential quality of civil
society today. What interests me is to address this participatory dimension in looking at the urban
question itself: the part of public life that directly addresses the common interests of the city and
of the citizens. This might remind Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s statement about the relations between
the city (cité) and its citizens: “la plupart prennent une ville pour une cité et un bourgeois pour
un citoyen. Ils ne savent pas que les maisons font la ville et les citoyens la cité.”6
We may then say that there has always been a direct connection between civil society7 and
urbanity. The name itself has its origins in the Latin civilitas – civility, initially the quality of being
a citizen – later with a broader sense, involved in the quality of urbanity. Whether it defined
life in Rome, manners, politeness, elegance, the trajectory of the concept of urbanity describes,
historically, “a moral quality of that which belongs to the city.”8. American sociologist Louis Wirth
even defined, in a famous text from 1938 “urbanity as a way of life.”9
Participation in the public life and in the issues regarding the construction of the city itself is
a question of utmost actuality, in reclaiming something that David Harvey named, following
Lefebvre, “the right to the city: one of the most precious yet most neglected of our human rights.”
My paper intends to discuss the relations between civil society and the gradual construction of a
new urban awareness in Bucharest. Timidly starting at the beginning of the 2000s, this conscience
became more and more present especially after 2010, in the context of some radical urban
changes but also linked to the appearance of a young, hip, educated, western-oriented middleclass,
more and more concerned for the fate of the city and the new urbanity it describes.
In order to discuss the growing implication and interest of the civil society in issues directly
linked to urban problems and indirectly addressing urbanity, I will first draw the Bucharest
context, in describing a few cases of buildings and demolitions that triggered public attention.
These cases are representative of the new corporate architecture in Bucharest, and at the same
time stand for both the corruption in the municipal offices (which issue illegal construction
permits that affect the historical substance of the city) and the questionable decisions (in terms
of collective profit and public good) of the city´s administration. The examples that I chose to
discuss here are among the most visible ones, in terms of urban impact and economic or political
agendas. But Bucharest during the last quarter of a century has been affected by a whole range of
less spectacular situations (in scale or impact) that resulted directly in the destruction of urban
heritage: abandonment, decay, evictions following the retrocession of confiscated property during
communist times, combined with real-estate and land speculation involving the destruction of
historical houses. This landscape could be described as a scene of diffuse yet constant violence
against the city. This whole highly conflicted landscape has determined the development of
actions and associations of the civil society engaged in urban development, heritage protection,
social housing equity, etc.
A wave of new buildings appeared in Bucharest in the early 1990s, and, although architecture was
timidly and rather unsuccessfully trying to mimic – using local materials and construction skills –
occidental postmodernism, it respected more or less the existing building heights. Poorly built, they
were, however, less flashy than the corporate architecture that began to appear towards the end of
the 1990s, triggering less – or almost no – public attention until much later on.
The first case of a high-rise building in the city center was the construction in 1997 of a corporate
large building in Bucharest, initially the headquarters of the Bancorex Bank10 and later known as
the Bucharest Financial Plaza (Fig.1,2). 83m high, the tower was erected just at the limit of the
Historical Centre, on one of the most famous historical streets (Calea Victoriei) and next to a
series of historical monuments, visually affecting the entire historical area, but especially the turn
of the 20th century CEC Palace11 and the National Museum of History.12 Situated in a protected
area and surrounded by class A historical monuments, the building provoked some indignation,
mostly among professionals (architects, urban planners, urban and architectural historians, etc.)
but at the time failed to trigger a lot of attention from the general public.
Starting with the year 2000, the construction of high and large architecture intensified. This
coincided with the increasing presence of large corporations on the Romanian market as well as
the establishment, in Bucharest, of local or regional branches of multinational companies, also in
need for architectural representation.
Fig.1: CEC Palace (the Savings Bank), image taken before the construction of the adjacent tower
Fig.2: The implant of the Bancorex (Bucharest Financial Plaza)
Fig.3: Armenească Millennium Tower, 2009
Fig.4: Cathedral Plaza, next to the Sf. Iosif Cathedral
Many of these buildings were situated in central areas, in close proximity of historical buildings,
and probably for the beginning of the decade the most famous case had been the construction,
next to the Armenian Church, of a 72m high tower (18 floors above the ground and 4 technical
grounds) – the Millennium Business Centre (Fig.3). Started in 2001, the construction was finished
in 2006 and the very deep foundations seem to have seriously affected the structure of the church.
Again, without much vigor, the professional milieu and the Armenian community protested, but
the case came to the attention of the press only much later, in 2009, when a large fire destroyed a
few floors of the newly inaugurated building and made it unusable for many years.
The building wave of the early 2000 continued with a few large investments, among which
some had been received with protests coming mainly from the professional community, divided
between the urge to modernize Bucharest and the need to protect what was left of the historical
architecture and the urban structure of the city.
By far the most controversial project of the first decade of this century was the construction,
started in 2006, of a 75 m and 19-storey high business tower in the immediate vicinity of the
Sf. Iosif Catholic Cathedral in Bucharest: the Cathedral Plaza (Fig.4).13 Not only has this project
triggered more public attention than any of the previous ones, but it also opened a long series of
legal disputes and highly publicized controversies, spanning almost a decade.14
Unlike the Armenian Church, representing a relatively small community, the Roman Catholic
Church is the second most important religious cult in the country and Sf. Iosif is the Cathedral of
the Archbishopric of Bucharest. The direct implication of the Church and the public statements
and campaign of the Bishop of Bucharest have contributed to the media success of this real-estate
story. Thus, the symbolic significance of the project, connected to religious values, added to the
direct urban consequences of the high-rise tower, finally contributed to an apparent benefit of the
city in the name of urbanity.
Promoted by the Millennium Building Development company, the project of the office tower
was designed in the period 1999-2006 and received a construction permit in February 2006.
The works started immediately, in March, and only weeks later, after having notified the
Municipality about potential irregularities regarding the construction of the tower, the Roman
Catholic archdiocese (ARCB) filed a complaint in the court of law, asking the authorities to stop
the works and to investigate the legality of the building permit. A report of the Construction
Inspectorate confirmed the illegal aspects of the permit, and was followed by a decision of the
Romanian Senate to initiate a commission that would look into the legality and opportunity of
the Cathedral Plaza project, as well as into other projects that could affect protected and historical
areas in Bucharest. Following the conclusions of the commission, in November 2006 the Senate
asked the Romanian Government and the Construction Inspectorate to stop the works of the
tower. 2007 followed with more lawsuits, public complaints and open letters addressed to the
Romanian President and even the European Parliament. The latter condemned the construction
and asked the Romanian government to stop the works. Yet the construction continued. More
lawsuits and appeals followed in different courts of the country (from Dâmbovița to Craiova,
Constanța or Suceava) – each of them contesting the legality of the construction. 2009 was
probably the most intense and visible moment – marked by a series of public protests15 (which
gathered the catholic community but also involved some of the civil society and heritage
protection associations). The construction stopped in 2009, pending the court´s decisions, but
the works resumed later on, and the tower was finished in 2013. In the meantime, in 2010, the
Suceava Court of Law irrevocably sentenced the construction as being illegally built. In 2011 the
Municipality asked the owner to start the disassembling of the building, while the Cadaster Office
erased the construction´s official record. Yet nothing happened, and the works continued until the
final stages of the facade and of the interior works. Another public petition initiated by the ARCB
and signed by 12,500 persons urged the General Mayor to proceed to the immediate dismantling
of the illegal building. This action was reinforced by the court´s final sentence to demolition and
the obligation of the owner to bring the land to the physical condition prior to the construction
as well as the restoration of the natural environment of the protected area.16
The corporation contested the court´s decisions and initiated new procedures to re-authorize
the building. Yet the final sentence of the Ploiești court of law issued earlier this year compelled
the Municipality to proceed to the dismantling of the building. At the time of this article, the
situation is still unclear, and the building is still in place, with more legal actions to be followed by
the new owner of the tower.
Although still unclear when it comes to the direct results, this example illustrates the attention
and interest of the public opinion that gathered around the cause of the city. Certainly, the
variable that played a decisive role in the campaign was the involvement of the Catholic Church
as an actor in the play. People remembered the quite recent and painful destruction of churches
during the communist 1980s, and in a way this augmented the intensity of the conflict: once
again churches (seen in the 1980s as symbols of anti-communist resistance) were threatened by a
“public enemy,” this time embodied by the large international corporation.
The issues raised by the protests were the arrogance of the tower, the ways in which the new
building affected the historical monument – the main Catholic Cathedral of the city, the illegality
and irregularities in obtaining the construction permit (a recurrent situation in many historical
areas, only to be exhibited publicly) and finally, the city as a threatened body.
We may speak here about a legal war but also one that could be seen as a war about public
interest and urbanity. A conflict which ended with only an apparent gain of the city: the area is
permanently damaged, opening the way for other large-scale projects, suffocating the traffic in
the area for many years. Its demolition would also be highly problematic, gravely affecting the
structure of the historical monument and the structure of the surrounding buildings.
As observed by socio-urban scholars, the late 2000s “brought about a different pattern”17 in the
dynamics of construction and re-construction: along with the refurbishment of old buildings, the
period was marked by the progressive large-scale real-estate investments. Moreover, in looking at
the construction permits issued especially during the second half of the decade, it seems that the
number of new residential buildings was declining in favor of refurbishments and remodeling
of the historical ones. Out of 100 general construction permits, 39% were remodeling and only
7% reconstructions; new buildings even less, around 4%.18 Yet, in a field survey, most of this
remodeling is either destruction of the original substance of the building or, worse, masked
demolitions where the so-called “remodeling” actually means tearing the building down and
reconstructing a completely new one.
There is another very peculiar element that became more and more present towards the end of the
2000s – the growing implication of the Municipality in large-scale regeneration or redevelopment
projects that involved systematic and aggressive relocations of economically and socially deprived
residents, who could not put up any resistance to these processes. This was happening on the
background of a psychological distance, acquired 15 years after the change of the political regime
– from the trauma installed by the previous demolitions and redevelopments that had taken place
in the 1970s and 1980s, in most of Romanian cities. This violent history, occurring at a national
scale, compromised any attempt that would have been made immediately after 1989 in terms of
municipal and state interventions in the urban development of cities.
On the other hand, a shift in local governance took place after 2008, when along with the new
zoning regulations, the state was allowed to use the eminent domain for the construction of local
roads, thus allowing and encouraging the Municipality to expropriate land for the construction
and rehabilitation of the latter. These new zoning regulations, along with the post-EU adhesion
processes (the pursuit of EU and public funding) facilitated the initiation of large infrastructure
or urban projects developed by the Municipality. As shown by Elena Ion,19 most of these projects
were designed (everywhere in Romania) to rapidly access funding and only superficially met the
criteria of the EU, without really relying on local development needs. Ion concludes that “far
from delivering on the promised agenda of infrastructure modernization and boosting economic
growth and job creation, these projects resulted in increased disparities, made worse by the
redirection of funding that could be used for more pressing needs.”20
One example of such urban projects is the recent and highly disputed Berzei-Uranus Boulevard,
a large re-development project involving an important protected area, developed mainly at the
end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th. Started in 2010, the operation supposed
the construction of a multi-lane urban express-way and in the process it involved the clearing of
93 parcels, the expropriation of 83 buildings21 (all of which were situated in the area of protection
of a historical monument) and the demolition of 13 historical monuments, together with the
almost entire clearing of the North front of the Buzești street, built in the period 1852-1911. It
also implied the eviction of 1000 residents, some in very aggressive circumstances (at night, in
winter). Many of the demolished buildings were already in an advanced state of physical decay
and inhabited by a poor population, some of whom were squatting.
These actions of the Municipality were met with an unprecedented wave of protests organized
by organizations of the civil society questioning the public benefit of the whole operation, the
implication on the further development of the city, the destruction of architectural and urban
heritage and finally the moral and human consequences of the evictions. More than 100 lawsuits
intended by the NGO Salvați Bucureștiul (Save Bucharest) addressed the City Hall and were
related to the legality of the evictions and of the demolition of historical buildings.
Mapping the Associations. The New Urban Generation
The continuous decay, during the last 25 years, of the urban architecture in Bucharest has been
commented upon many times – either in the reports of the professional associations22 or through
the ever growing protests of the civil society, whose public initiatives have become more and more
visible, especially during the last five years.
Urbanity, as well as civility and civil society are not an historical concepts. Furthermore, civil
society is neither ahistorical nor is it a unified sphere, acting homogenously. In looking at the
groups, associations and civil movements that have been active in Bucharest recently, I am fully
aware that these do not represent the whole complexity and diversity of the civil society: the
initiatives are as diverse as they are motivated by different agendas. My paper looks at those
initiatives that are directly targeting urban issues, architectural and urban heritage, public space
and city governance.
The growing number of associations dedicated to the protection of heritage and to sustainable
urban development, the coalition of some of these associations into a platform (2008), as well as
the more and more numerous initiatives meant to culturally activate historical houses or industrial
architecture or just to educate the public about the city – all these show an important change of
perspective of the new generations about urbanity. They attest a growing interest in assuming
the city and its identity, by acknowledging its values, its history as well as the responsibility to
preserve and enrich its cultural life. Moreover, these types of activities as well as the sometimesconflicting
situations they generated (public protests, legal lawsuits against the Municipality) lead
to a new relationship towards governance, significant for the general evolution of Romanian civil
society: the bottom-up initiatives.
As mentioned above, an important moment in the development of civil society around urban
issues was the creation, in 2008, of the Platform Together for a Better City (Împreună pentru un
oraș mai bun).23 The Platform was a coalition of more than 40 associations interested in urban
matters rising from heritage to social equity, education, sustainability, mobility, etc. One of
the most visible outcomes of this coalition was the Declaration for Bucharest, a document that
reclaimed the citizen´s right to participate in the city´s governance, but also the administration´s
duty to act according to the real needs of the city – in terms of society and culture and not only
infrastructure or economy. Some of the statements of the Declaration were further developed into
a Pact for Bucharest, partially adopted in the electoral campaign by some of the candidates running
for mayor in 2008.
The most prominent voice of the Platform was probably the Save Bucharest Association (Asociația
Salvați Bucureștiul).24 Recently (summer of 2015), the Association was transformed into a
political party, Save Bucharest Union (Uniunea Salvați Bucureștiul), with its President, Nicușor
Dan preparing to run for the second time (first in 2012) for General Mayor of Bucharest in
the future elections of 2016. It is interesting to observe how bottom-top urban initiatives have
gradually been evolving into more institutionally-oriented structures. When addressing the
international context, the combined initiatives (bottom-up, top-down) followed by concrete
negotiation regarding governance have been described as “bottom-linked” strategies.25 Still, for
the Romanian context, such developments are quite recent and could difficultly be evaluated.
What is interesting is the local profile of such “multilevel governance initiatives”, as well as the
evolution of the general public interest from purely political towards more subtle, political urban related
The main actors traditionally acting in the field of heritage protection or conservation (the
Commissions of the Ministry of Culture and the Municipality, the National Institute for
Heritage) have been recently supplemented with a whole series of associations, foundations,
private or collective initiatives (neighborhood associations), independent and alternative cultural
centers or initiatives of the professional associations (the Chamber of Architects – OAR; the
Union of Romanian Architects – UAR). Although still fragile, these initiatives depict a more
complex and much more interesting scene of the heritage protection actors than it appeared at
the end of the 2000. Mapping these initiatives is a difficult task – they are very different in size,
intensity, life span, or types of actions. More interesting is to identify some general tendencies:
– Watchdog or heritage protection associations (Pro Patrimonio, ProDoMo, Asociația Salvați
Bucureștiul, Case care plâng [Crying houses]…)
– NGOs that are not directly concerned with heritage, but whose activities target public space or
the built environment (Active Watch, Kommunitas)
– NGOs and collective initiatives regarding the production and cultural activation of public space
(Street Delivery, Manasia Hub)
– Alternative cultural centers – cultural squat, re-activation of industrial architecture
(Carol 53, WASP, Postăvăria Română, Halele Carol)
– Alternative guided tours of areas outside the main touristic attractions (ARCEN, Zeppelin,
Make a Point, etc.)
– Neighborhood associations that have become surprisingly active in defending the public spaces
of the districts (Grupul de inițiativă Salvați Cartierul Floreasca, Grupul de inițiativă civică Salvați
Parcul Drumul Taberei, Luptă pentru strada ta26).
Contagion and the Space of Appearance
An excellent tool for investigating the interest in the urban questions is to observe the social and
virtual media. The online medium appears to be the favorite and by far the main communication
tool for the new generation. A variety of websites, blogs, Facebook, Tumblr or online magazines
have exploded recently, especially after 2011. A research of these pages lists at least 30 such new
entries for the last two or three years. Their content is extremely diverse: from old photographs
of disappeared or remodeled urban places, memories about Bucharest, comments and critiques
of the Municipality and the recent projects, or just descriptions of the interesting spots of the
city. They all speak of a new type of archive, more volatile and fragmentary, but also about those
issues that are triggering the interest in the city. If civil society´s protests against large corporate
buildings became more present around the mid 2000s, towards the end of the mentioned period
they intensified and multiplied, certainly related to the disappearance of a significant part of
the traditional urban tissue through the development of the large infrastructure projects of the
Municipality. Their multitude and diversity say something about the emergency to save a city
whose partial disappearance starts to worry its own inhabitants, and to the salvation of which they
are willing to participate.
We may say that “the online” is the mark of the new urban generation. This is a very important
change in people´s attitude towards their city. If the protests and actions of the civil society
regarding large corporate investments started towards the mid-2000s, they intensified and
multiplied towards the end of the 2010. As mentioned earlier, an important moment of these
actions coincides with the street protests against the Berzei-Buzești demolitions and aggressive
evictions. These protests were stronger in the period 2011-2013, around the debated issue of the
demolition of Hala Matache, an old market hall that had to be demolished in order to leave space
for the new boulevard.
Yet, regardless of the protests of the civil society, the market was destroyed in March 2013. The
disappearance of the market – that had become, during the last few years, a symbol of urban
resistance – lead to a gradual decrease of intensity and interest for the project, as the harm has
been irreversibly done. But the democratic exercise to reclaim the right to the city had not been
lost, and other urban and heritage causes have been embraced: the same protesters (and many
others) gathered in Fall 2013 – Spring 2014 in the civic movement for the salvation of the mining
area Roșia Montană.27
Starting from the symbolic kilometer zero of Bucharest, Piața Universității, tens of thousands of
people marched every Sunday afternoon, for almost six months, to protest against the planned
destruction of the villages of the mining region by the actions of a large Canadian mining
Piața Universității is one of the most important urban spaces for the political and social life of
post-communist Bucharest. As shown by political theorist Alexandru Gussi,28 Piața Universității
has been invested by the anti-communist political resistance of the early 1990s as a proper lieu de
mémoire: a physical trace of the creation, in Romania, of a new political identity and subsequently
the symbol of the post-1990 public space. Although the direct, anti-communist significance
attached to the place has been altered during the last 25 years, it is precisely through the repeated
use of the place in politically charged contexts that Piața Universității has become a veritable
place of memory. Thus, it is not by chance that the Salvați Roșia Montană protests reconfirmed
the place as a high place of democratic actions: unlike Piața Matache (situated in the centre
of Bucharest), the physical space to be saved was remote, so the immediate and spontaneous
reaction of the civil society was to return to Piața Universității. Still, it is interesting to observe
that spatially the phenomenon defined a new landscape of protests in Bucharest: although initially
concentrated around the center, the marches spread around other streets and districts of the city.
Moreover, the movement became viral and involved other important cities: Timișoara, Cluj,
Brașov, Sibiu. In mapping the trajectories of these protests, Ștefan Ghenciulescu 29 shows how
these street movements have redesigned Bucharest, activating urban areas that have never been
part of the usual manifestation routes. We may argue that the online media not only facilitates or
creates a new public involvement model, based on the internet, but also implies a reconfiguration
of the spatial model of the street movements.
It is perhaps not by chance that such actions took place in a historical moment globally marked
by street movements such as Occupy or the Arab Spring, publicized all over the planet. Of
course, the internal triggers as well as the type of movements are very different, yet we should ask
ourselves if this particular historical moment – that became global precisely by being viral – had
not participated in a certain way to reclaiming publicly the “right to the city.”
In a recent book about the Occupy movement, art historian W.T. Mitchell was asking a similar
question, in defining this historical moment a revolutionary one – in an extended contemporary
understanding of the “revolution”:
Would it be better to think of revolutions not as specifically definable events, but instead as
subtle shifts in language, imagery, and the limits of the thinkable?30
And he continues: And yet we know that something links these places and the events that transpired in them. In
the nineteenth century we would have called it the spirit of revolution, and understood it as a
kind of ghostly, uncanny return of familiar images of popular uprisings and mass movements.
(…) In our time the preferred language is biological and bio-political, employing terms like
“contagion” to describe images and words that have gone viral in the global media.31
If ten or twenty years ago the proliferation of the social media and the online medium could
have been interpreted as a failure or retreat of the public space – away from the physical, actual
space of the city – they have now become quite the opposite: instruments for resistance and tools
to reactivate the social and the political. The invisible virtual space has turned into an agent of
activating the space of action and the space of appearance – where one sees and is seen by others,
in the sense of Hannah Arendt: the space of appearance comes into being wherever men are together in the manner of speech
and action, and therefore predates and precedes all formal constitution of the public realm and
the various forms of government, that is, the various forms in which the public realm can be
Interestingly, phenomena such as Piața Universității at the beginning of the 1990s were a form of
occupy long before such movements would become a global, viral form of resistance.
What could then be the role of civil society when it comes to understanding today´s urbanity?
I would argue that, besides contributing to the construction of a real social capital – the civil
society´s role as a watchdog and alarm trigger – we assist at the growth of a new urban generation
and of a new public conscience, more and more aware of the values of living together in the
city and of the city itself. The force of this generation is important and cannot be neglected: it
represents the history in the making.
On October 30th 2015, an apparently benign and common Friday evening rock concert gathering
a few hundred young people in a non-conventional former industrial space transformed in
an underground club (the Colectiv Club) turned into a tragic, incredible event ending with
the terrible death of dozens and the injury of many others in a fire that started during the
concert. The late response of the emergency units, the series of the illegally obtained permits for
functioning in a non-appropriate space resulting in a horrible tragedy – all these triggered an
immediate and extraordinary public response. In the days following the event, tens of thousands
of people marched along the streets of Bucharest (and other cities of Romania) – first silently,
honoring and mourning the victims, and then protesting against the corruption in municipal
offices but also, generally, against a long period of general political atmosphere of corruption
and incompetence. The protests reached a size and intensity unseen in Romania since the fall of
communism, 25 years ago. The same, young generation (the media estimated an average of 40
years) but in a much larger and more determined way protested against a corrupted political class
and municipal administration – many of the participants were the same ones as those involved
in the Matache and then Roșia Montana case. On Wednesday November 4th the Prime Minister
resigned along with the entire government. Two weeks later a new a-political technocratic
government was mandated to govern Romania.
The public response has been extraordinary in its solidarity and intensity. I would argue that many
of the groups and individuals of the civil society described here are the ones that determined the
political changes taking place in Romania.
In the Colectiv Club many of the victims were architects, urbanists or students in architecture.
Some of them were our friends and colleagues. This issue is dedicated to their memory.
Funding: The research for this paper is supported by the Sectorial Operational Programme
Human Resources Development (SOP HRD), financed from the European Social Fund and by
the Romanian Government under the contract number SOP HRD/159/1.5/S/136077.
1 David Harvey, “The Right to the City,” New Left Review 53 (2008): 23-40.
2 Grundlinien der Philosophie des Rechts (1821). Translated to English in G.W. Hegel, Elements of the
Philosophy of Right (Cambridge University Press, 1991).
3 Hegel, Elements, 157.
4 Robert Putnam (ed.). Democracies in Flux: The Evolution of Social Capital in Contemporary Society (New
York: Oxford University Press, 2002).
5 Gerometta, Julia, Hartmut Häussermann, and Giulia Longo. “Social Innovation and Civil Society in Urban
Governance: Strategies for an Inclusive City.” Urban Studies 42, 11 (October 2005): 2007-2021; Enquete-
Kommission, Zukunft der Buergershaftlichen Engagements (ed.), Bürgergesellschaftliches Engagement
und Zivilgessellschaft (Opladen: Leske and Budrich, 2001).
6 Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Le contrat social (Paris: Flammarion, 2001), 57.
7 The term first appears with Cicero but enters the European world via Aristotle´s translations into Latin, in
the form of societas civilis.
8 Pierre Merlin and Françoise Choay, Dictionnaire de l’urbanisme et de l’aménagement (Paris: PUF, 2000).
9 Louis Wirth “Urbanism as a way of life,” The American Journal of Sociology. 44, 1 (1938): 1-24.
10 That went into bankruptcy in 1999, after a media scandal linked to corruption and money laundering.
11 The Savings Bank, an impressive eclectic construction built in 1900 upon the plans of French architect
Paul Gottereau and supervised by Romanian architect Ion Socolescu.
12 Built by architect Paul Smărăndescu, 1894-1900, initially the Post Palace
13 It is however interesting to note the recurrence of the name “plaza” for these large corporate buildings –
an ironic attempt to retrieve the lost qualities of a public space that would attest the richness of an urban
public life that could unfold in these spaces.
14 Still continuing in 2015, at the time of writing of this article.
15 According to the ARCB (Bucharest Roman Catholic archdiocese), all Catholic churches in Romania closed
on Sunday July 12th 2009, celebrating only one Liturgy, in the St Josef Cathedral. The same day, 6000
persons participated in a public demonstration in front of the Romanian Government building, asking for
the construction to stop.
16 Decision no. 2520/2012 of the Dâmbovița county Tribunal.
17 Liviu Chelcea et al., “Who are the Gentrifiers and How Do They Change Central City Neighborhoods?”
Geografie 120, 2 (2015): 113-133.
19 Elena Ion. “Public Funding and Urban Governance in Contemporary Romania: the Resurgence of Stateled
Urban Development in an Era of Crisis,” Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society (2014)
20 Ibid., 17.
21 Adrian Bălteanu. “Dosar mut – Buzești Uranus” [Silent File – Buzești Uranus], Arhitectura 1 (2011): 16-23.
22 Such as Raportul Comisiei prezidențiale privind patrimoniul construit, siturile istorice și naturale [Report
of the Presidential Commission regarding Built Heritage, Historical and Natural Sites], 2009, http://patr.
presidency.ro (accessed 15.03.2015).
23 A detailed account of the creation of the Platform, its history and outcomes, see Vera Marin, “Mărturie:
un spațiu public virtual pentru București,” in ACUM (vol.4), Dosare bucureștene (Bucharest: Editura
Universitară “Ion Mincu”), 318-331.
24 http://www.salvatibucurestiul.ro (accessed 15.03.2015).
25 Eizaguirre et al. “Multilevel Governance and Social Cohesion: Bringing Back Conflict in Citizenship
Practices,” Urban Studies 49, 9 (July 2012).
26 Just to illustrate the types of actions of these associations: the Association Lupta pentru strada ta started
in 2014 as a reaction to the destruction of a small community park on Aleea Luncșoara, to leave space
for the construction of a 10 storey-building in the very close proximity of the already dense area of
collective housing units. Alarmed by the Association, the Prefect of Bucharest opened a lawsuit against
the Municipality of the 2nd District for issuing an abusive construction permit and managed to stop the
construction. The action is still pending the Court´s decision regarding the legality of the permit.
27 http://www.rosiamontana.org (accessed 01.05.2015).
28 Gussi uses the term as an extended definition of Pierre Nora’s concept from his monumental work Les
lieux de mémoire… . Nora initially refers to all the modern instances that replace the traditional institutions
of memory, evoking their multiple dimensions: material, symbolical or functional. These may be figurate
as well as physical places, participating in the construction of memory and identity. However, the physical
characteristics of the commemorative places as places of memory have been most often highlighted.
Although his initial account of the modern lieux de mémoire is rather ambivalent (they attest the
disappearance of an entire traditional value system, where memory was naturally and directly transmitted
through family, school, etc.). In the 1992 Preface to the book, Nora revisits the actual, physical importance
of the place in the constructions of places of memory.
29 Ștefan Ghenciulescu,”Recucerind orașul. Prin Roșia Montană,” http://e-zeppelin.ro/recucerind-orasul-prinrosia-
montana (accessed 15.08.2015).
30 W.T. Mitchell et al., Occupy. Three Inquiries in Disobedience (Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Kindle
Edition, 2013), 80.
31 Ibid., 92.
32 H. Arendt, The Human Condition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998),199
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http://patr.presidency.ro (accessed 15.03.2015).
Fig.1: CEC Palace (the Savings Bank), image taken before the construction of the adjacent tower (1996,
photo Mihai Ghyka).
Fig.2: The implant of the Bancorex (Bucharest Financial Plaza), 1997 (photo Mihai Ghyka).
Fig.3: Armenească Millennium Tower, 2009 (source Curierul Național).
Fig.4: Cathedral Plaza, next to the Sf. Iosif Cathedral (2015, photo Călin Dan).