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Mazzocchio #3

The architecture of the ordinary: The marketplaces of Bucharest

The marketplace is that milieu of the contemporary city where such a prosaic functional routine as buying groceries can induce a direct and profound interaction between body and its environment: smell, taste, imagery, sound, scale. This complex landscape is the visible face of an economic exchange characterized by social and cultural interaction.

The life we lead is urban. Our way of understanding and discovering the world goes through the complex apparatus of the contemporary city environment linked to certain ideologies. To understand this phenomenon, Academia has provided the tradition of visionary schemes for the generic city accompanied by manifestoes, with an implicit or explicit social agenda. History becomes the accumulation of relevant stories and discourses of how the urban environment should be envisaged; utopia is such a moment of fantasy.

Another alternative to understand and develop the city could be to grasp it as a series of related fragments. In order to be relevant, the fragment has to have conceptual stability, while opening up towards its otherness. Through this feint archeology[1], we believe that is possible to better calibrate the way we understand the urban milieu.

Such a relevant fragment to examine Bucharest’s urban structure is the marketplace. It has a long tradition, going from the old fairs and the at-first-informal maidan where people gathered and exchanged goods, habits, feelings, values or ideas. This type of informal places was a practical way to foster the community’s relationships. As Dana Harhoiu reveals in hers’ innovative study[2], they have acted as physical and mental centers of neighborhoods, mundane pendant to the Axis Mundi of the Church.

Then, throughout the pre-war modernity, these exchange-places have been formalized as marketplaces, metabolizing the distant heritage of the Persian bazaar. The complete re-imagination of the city, with rational orderly axes[3] cutting through the medieval urban fabric, invented a new type of infrastructure for the sanitation of the commercial act. Frameworks like Hala Traian, Matache, Amzei or Obor Hall established instead or nearby the old maidan grounds, covering the entire historic city at a foot distance length.

In this way, living in a neighborhood in Bucharest also meant having a precise weekly ritual of walking to the marketplace, where a city person meets peasants coming from the countryside to sell fresh agricultural products: tomatoes, cucumbers, salads, melons, apples, prunes, eggs, milk, cream and so on. Personal relationships developed.

The present society tends to replace the authentic with the warranty. The product is being judged rather by its quantitative measured attributes, such as price, expiry date, etc. Only if these glacial numbers correspond, quality is being evaluated. The small urban-scale of the marketplace is being replaced by the large-industrial-scale of the supermarket, empowered by the automobile infrastructures.

Bucharest still has such marketplaces, circularly spread around the city center. They are still an important constituent part of the neighborhoods and of the urban structure of the historic city. By expressing the inertia of society, they represent a resistance and a healthy alternative to the generic consumerist ideology, the supermarket.

Mazzocchio’s 3rd issue brings into debate an archeological research into the particularities of the marketplaces of Bucharest: analysis of their urban situations, their physical characteristics and of the architecture they inhabit, with a generous look forward into how this type of infrastructural architecture could become noble – as the outcome of a student project that took place in 2017 at UAUIM[4].





[1] As Michel Foucault points it, the notion of archeology can be used as an evaluation form that is not entirely historic analysis, neither an epistemology, as a complete interpretation of the internal structure of a specific domain (Michel Foucault interviewed by J.J. Brochier regarding L’archeologie du savoir in Magazine Littérarie:28, 1969, pp.23-25)

[2] Dana Harhoiu – Bucureşti. Un oraş între Orient şi Occident / Bucarest, ville entre Orient et Occident – Simetria, Bucharest 1997 (2001)

[3] Nicolae Lascu – Bulevardele Bucureştene până la Primul Război Mondial – Simetria, Bucharest 2011

[4] The 6 weeks project took place in autumn 2017, in the architectural studio led by professor E.B.Popescu, Stefan Simion, Emil Burbea and Ilinca Rădulescu, with our 3rd year students together with our critic guests during the evaluations: Irina Melita, Doru Frolu, Christian Berros.

[0] legend: 0. Union Square / 1. Obor Hall / 2. Gemeni Marketplace / 3. Traian Hall / 4. Vitan Marketplace  / 5. Norilor Marketplace  / 6. Flower Marketplace / 7. Cotroceni Marketplace  / 8. Matache Hall / 9. Amzei Square

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