M. Culescu, A. Teodorescu, I. Tudora
Landscape Department, University of Agronomical Sciences and Veterinary Medicine, Bucharest,
In time, especially after World War II – in the context of industrial development and the ecological imbalances caused by it – urban green structures have become, one of the foremost aspects concerning the strategies for urban and land development. Nevertheless, Bucharest is yet to develop such a strategy, despite the fact that the deindustrialization has generated in its wake important resources that can be used for this precise purpose.
This study’s goal is to achieve a better understanding of the dynamics of urban development and of the different models for regional planning, in order to formulate a realistic solution for the planning and development of the City of Bucharest, in the context of the serious environmental problems it is facing.
We shall not insist on Bucharest current, disastrous, situation, especially from an ecological perspective. There are many analysis of this situation. A starting point would be the manner in which Bucharest’s Greenbelt project was conceived by the urban planners. A greenbelt cut away from the urban structure, unconnected with the inner open spaces, and that, for all these reasons, would bring no real ecological contribution to the urban territory. In this context our goal is to draw up a possible vision for the development of a green structure meant to rectify this situation, vision based on the city’s current structure and on the development opportunities of several land resources ignored so far.
A first category is made up of areas adjoining the water flows and the natural areas developed in their vicinity, as well as of natural peri urban regions. However, we shall not further elaborate on this subject, as it has already been studied at large and it presents obvious qualities and opportunities.
A second category of land resources consists of the city’s industrial areas that are presently in decline. Bucharest’s industrial areas have developed during to main stages: at the end of the nineteenth century and during the interwar period – thus generating a ring of industrial spaces at the edge of the historical center – and, the second industrialization stage, started during the communist regime, which marked the urban structure in a completely different manner. The new industrial platforms developed from the inside outward, following the railways built during the nineteenth century, thus creating a structure of wedges inside the urban tissue, and forming a type of „ridges” between the great residential ensembles developed during the same period. The deindustrialization process started after 1989 involved the desertion of many such sites and the displacement of production outside Bucharest’s belt. This process left in its wake many abandoned buildings, structures and wastelands, without an apparent functionality or use. And still… these seeming holes in the urban tissue have their own life and special dynamic. Some of the former industrial spaces are being rented and rehabilitated by small enterprises, garages, workshops, etc. Yet, while buildings can find such users/ new uses, the huge spaces in between, once filled with trucks, equipment and people become true no-man’s lands. An outcome of the desertion of these sites is their devaluation (both from an economical and a social perspective).
On the other hand, they represent new resources. First of all, we can consider these spaces as being a „social” resource, for their role as extensions of the apartment buildings neighborhoods – playgrounds for children, improvised sport fields, spaces for rising carpets, cars or… on the down side – for disposing of garbage. Secondly, these sites have evolved into an ecological reserve with an important influence on a city level because these industrial wastelands have been gradually pervaded by various plant species. We are facing a complete ecological cycle. The deserted areas soon take in pioneer species, characterized by a fast cycle, which quickly disappear in favor of more stabile species. This replacement cycle is carried on until a state of equilibrium is achieved. This fast appearance of pioneer species, and afterwards their disappearance in favor of stabile species represents a phenomenon distinctive for wastelands: pioneer plants can only settle down on an empty soil, devoid of competition. The flora of the deserted lands does not consist exclusively of natural indigenous species, but it integrates all the pioneer exotic plants compatible with the environment. The ruderal flora is a particular category included in the anthropogenic flora. It is the result of human activity and consists of species with a great ability to adapt to the urban environment: pollution, wear, poor soils, etc. Therefore, these sites are all the more valuable for our capital, as they are home for a vast diversity of plant species adapted to „city life”. This fact increases the environmental potential and importance of these places, adding to their contribution towards adjusting the local micro-climate, regenerating the soil, adjusting the temperature, etc. Because they grow on deserted lands, ruderal plants from the urban environment are associated with wastelands and seen by most as weeds. Even some of the specialists who interact with such spaces fail to recognize these plant’s singular features, of adapting to the urban environment, and consider them to be harmful, or (absurdly) “unaesthetic”. The paradox lies at the intersection with the eternal natural model so thought after by man, especially in the age of flamboyant ecology: how is it possible that today we find ourselves incapable to wisely assimilate these open spaces and this spontaneous vegetation, when they probably represent the sole „complete” expression of the ecological philosophy? Why is it that in Bucharest post-industrial wastelands are still black holes on the development plans? The easiest answer would probably be the lack of a coherent and global development strategy, a strategy that would define not only land-uses but also a general vision for a Bucharest pertaining firstly to its inhabitants, and secondly to big phantom investors. In today’s urban “policies”, these open spaces are devoted to a type of short term development, meant to answer certain private financial interests and punctual issues, and that fails to take into consideration their connection with other urban areas, or, most of all, the long-term consequences of such interventions on an urban level. These lands are subjected to ever increasing land speculations, and, having small chances faced with the simplistic financial reason, they stand the risk of disappearing in the future, regardless of their potential or of the consequences such loss will have on the city and its development.
This reality becomes even more absurd and sever as all the cities (that don’t benefit from such territorial resources), are making extreme efforts in order to create a green network to connect the inner-city parks with the outer-city open spaces. Earlier we emphasized the way in witch Bucharest’s industrial spaces were structured into wedges and rings: therefore, post-industrial wastelands follow a pattern extremely favorable for the development of a well balanced and quasi-continuous green network. Moreover, most of these spaces afferent to the railway and industrial networks are state-owned (ministries, administrations …), which supports the idea of a mixed development (public-private; habitat, activities, recreation, transport…). Taking into account these aspects, we should strongly consider the issue of protecting an including these territories into a city scale green system. This is not to be understood as a „civilization” of wasteland, or the „planting of daisies”, but as the incorporation of the existing nature and the spontaneous social uses in a series of projects based on the functional and social diversity, which will put forth a balanced urban development.
There are also plenty of studies in this direction as well, amongst which we could mention here the USAMV landscape students’ final presentations (graduates 2007), or Andrei Fufezan’s study, presented at the 2007 Architecture Annual (Anuala de Arhitectură). Those studies discus o possible development of a R.E.R type of public transportation network along these sites, doubled by bicycle tracks, urban walkways, etc. Therefore, we are not talking of green spaces for the sake of green spaces, but of the development o ecological networks and public spaces, which could revitalize the neighboring apartment buildings ensembles. While waiting for new development strategies for Bucharest, these areas will continue to be used as extemporary public spaces (that is in the happy alternative that they won’t disappear, casualties of financial interests) and the landscape will exist only in the eyes of those able to acknowledge its huge aesthetic and ecological potential.
The goal of this study is to prove that, despite the bleak statistics, there is still a real possibility of at least partially restoring to “the region of Bucharest the character of islands of buildings amid a sea of green, instead of that of islands of green amid a sea of buildings”. And to this end, the greatest resources are represented by these industrial areas, which seem to have been left with no apparent purpose. All it takes is political support.
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- Contact Person : Ioana Tudora
- Image Title : bucharest green network study