The House of the People and Matchboxes for People to Live In. Socialist Architecture in Romania after 1989: Perceptions, Transformations, Continuities

Ştefan Ghenciulescu's article attempts a discussion of the way that urbanism and the architecture of the socialist period are perceived in Romania today: the reading and the values attached to it, but also how certain objects have turned into models. The principal hypothesis is that the perception of this period is not strictly connected to ideology. Moreover, there is a certain (hidden) continuity of practice, even in the circumstances of functions, of a social and economic context and an ideological discourse that stands under opposite signs. The author examines dwelling and its evolution from a homogenous stock to a superposition of individual units, as well as the two main post-socialist models: the interpreted suburban villa, and, later on, the new speculative collective housing developments.

The perception of public buildings oscillates between indifference or rejection (having more to do with the refusal of postwar modernism than with political reasons) and the enthusiasm for the House of the People (Ceauşescu's delirious palace) and the adjoining boulevard. The paper examines this identification process and the ways that the Palace has become a model even for projects such as the building of the huge new Cathedral of the People in Bucharest. The conclusion advocates a logic of contradictions instead of a linear and exclusive causality between attitudes towards a political regime and those towards architectural production; it also emphasizes the existence of hidden continuities between two eras, continuities that are always absent from the public discourse.

 Key words: post-socialist architecture, urbanism, ideology, identity, continuity.