Drumul Taberei: Utopia Interrupted. What happened to the ideal Modernist city on the edge of Bucharest


By Michael Bird, Vlad Odobescu (text), Sorina Vazelina (illustration)

With the air rank with dust, thick with exhaust and deafened by the burr of drills and car-horns, Bucharest’s western district of Drumul Taberei is a typical zone of the Romanian capital, with its monotonous slabs of concrete, anarchic parking and war on free space.

Where once there was Communist centrally-planned housing, lawns and open land, now there are new churches and supermarkets, while patches of grass between the blocks are gated off by the authorities, and littered with trash. Public space is no more than corridors that thread around cars, fences and building sites.

An underground line has been under construction here since 2012, further suffocating the gridlocked zone, where apartment prices have plummeted in value since the financial crash of 2008.

Yet when the packed number 368 bus from the city centre ascends the wide boulevard that bisects the zone, a brighter light from the west enters the vehicle, the streets open, and one can sense balance and harmony, as though this neighbourhood grew from a concept that centred on the needs of citizens, not a plan to build fast, cheap and big to appease a cut-price vision of Communism.

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