Rădiței și Corneliu Popeia
Between 1932 – 1933, the architect of Armenian descent Kriakir Navasartian designed on 228 Calea Rahova (Corneliu Popeia and Rădiței streets), a 51 buildings lotissement for the investor Aron Mayer. The information from the archives and from the communal monitors recreates the construction history of this lotissement, one that can compete with Vatra Luminoasă, the most known modernist lotissement from Romania.
In the thirties, modernism was gaining more and more followers among the artists, architects and urban planners of Bucharest, and the first sponsors of their projects were part of the financial or political elite. After a series of experiments in the late twenties, especially with villas, architects such as Horia Creangă extended the modernist project to the growing masses of inhabitants who arrived in Bucharest. Thus, in 1933, the Construction Company began work on the Vatra Luminoasa lotissement, in which the architects Ioan Hanciu and Neculai Aprihăneanu had planned the construction of over 600 buildings with a certain modernist influence, and in 1937, Horia Creangă signed the plans for the Victor Manu houses built by the City Hall for artists and journalists. In the same year, the architect Marcel Iancu projected on the land owned by his father-Herman Iancu, the Trinității lotissement (Max Popper) a series of 11 buildings in the same style.
228 Calea Rahovei, Blue Sector III
The 1925 Administrative Law generated a series of changes including the division of Bucharest into the sectors Yellow, Black, Blue (which included Calea Rahovei), Green and Red. They had their own town halls and communal councils, introduced in order to facilitate the city’s administration. However, these changes generated a series of disputes regarding the autonomy that these sectors had towards the General Council. The ambiguous wordings of the laws and the de facto power of mayors or councilors had more weight, in many cases, in decision making rather than the letter of the law. From an architectural and urbanist point of view of, the decisions of the Technical Commissions subordinated to the Sector or General Councils were based on the 1927 Construction and Alignment Regulation. At the same time, a Special Commission was established to reinforce the Regulation and to impose its application. Despite its efforts to correlate the urban development, the Regulation was criticized by the engineer Cincinat Sfințescu, because it did not contain sufficient provisions related to the management of the lotissements. Moreover, the ambiguities of the Regulation together with the administrative ones created a series of interruptions and violations of laws that delayed the construction of houses.
The history of the lotissement
The study of the Aron Mayer lotissement offers an important perspective on the tensions between the sector town halls and the general one. In 1932, the Construction Company “V.A. Ureche” requested the notice of the Blue Sector Technical Committee for a lotissement on 228 Calea Rahovei. On April 11, 1932, the plans were rejected by the Special Commission for the Application of the Regulation, which called for the widening of the newly opened street (renamed Popeia in 1935) from 10 to 12 meters, based on Article 7 of the Regulation which explicitly stipulated: “the width of the streets, according to the provisions of the organic regulation, maintained by the constitution, will be at least 12 meters, except for the streets with a maximum length of 100 m, declared to be of local interest by the special commission, which can be 10 meters wide. ” The reason the company demanded both a smaller width of the streets and the possibility to design houses next to the sidewalk alignment was determined by the desire to design a larger number of houses. The decision to reduce the width of the street was not to the liking of the new owner of the land, Aron Mayer, who requested the examination of the plans, finally receiving the approval of the deputy mayor D.I. Niculescu to start the works, despite the fact that the lotissement had not been approved.by the Commission for the Application of the Regulation.
As a result of these controversies, on May 16, 1933, the General Council actied and organized a meeting at which the deputy mayor D. I. Niculescu was summoned to give explanations for the unilateral and implicitly illegal decision to approve the lotissement without the consent of the Commission. Mayor Dem Dobrescu insisted on stopping the works and modifying the lotissement plans, bearing in mind that, “regarding the lotissements and the building works, the communal authority must have an unmovable norm – because the «legal»(sic!) mentality must be formed in the Capital as well” and that “the Municipal Administration must be severe in suppressing all violations of the regulation.” On the other hand, Councilor Anghel Dumitrescu pointed out that, once the sectoral authority had approved the lotissement, the blame fell on the sector’s town hall, not on the owner, who should not pay because the legal ambiguities. This was also D.I. Niculescu’s point of view, who asked “whether a citizen should suffer and be sanctioned due to the conflict or differing opinions between the Municipality and the Sector.” Councilor G. Manea was of the same opinion and argued “that the Sector III Council should be reprimanded, because it would have erred against the norms of the city, but it is not right for the citizens to suffer for this reason and asks for this lotissement to be overlooked, when put next to other things that are not perfect in Bucharest.” Counselors Em. Dan and Calypso Botez thought that the City Hall had to intervene and stop the work, and Mayor Dem Dobrescu invoked the principledness as the most important characteristic that should guide the Municipality: “the commune can only work according to principles.” The Communal Monitor presents Dem Dobrescu’s position: “Mr. mayor is passively protesting against this violation of law, regulation and aesthetics – he does not give ratification (because it is a violation of the regulation) and leaves the citizens without ratification. He says he lets the sector do what it wants, allows it to continue work. Mr. G. Aslan adds that the decision of the sector council is final as the tutelary authority has not ruled in 30 days. ” Therefore, the lotissement became legal as the deadline for the City Hall to intervene had expired.
The architecture and the inhabitants
Despite missing the final approval, the architect Krikor Navasartian began the design and later the construction of the houses. Navasartian was a young architect of Armenian origin, born in 1900, married in 1931 to Vartinica Gheragoș. In Bucharest, in 1933, he signed plans for other buildings such as those on 20 Nifon street (in the same sector),4 Petru Cercel Street and 4 Rădăuți street (unable to tell its location). From an architectural point of view, the houses are characterized by a symmetrical composition, with common elements, despite the different typology, such as the round windows, inspired by portholes, and the horizontal volumes. The houses are not withdrawn from the alignment of the street and are semi-detached. The types depend on the number of floors, as there are single-storey, two-story and even three-story houses, and their surface area is that of at least 82 sqm. Some of them have balconies, others are characterized by the design of a staircase house marked by square windows and with a main façade composed of three volumes, successively withdrawn from the alignment. Entries are on the side in almost all cases.
There is little data from the archives about the inhabitants of the parcels. The careful registration of the marriages in the pages of the Communal Monitor together with the few building permits granted individually by the City Hall in 1933 certifies that military and civil servants lived in the lotissement. Thus, on Popeia street (on the left side), on the number 4 plot lived Nora Igner, at the number 8, Maria Ion Barbu, and at number 14 Ana Vasilichia Vișănescu lived. On the right side, at the first house (plot 36) lived the U.C.B. clerk Nicolae Jean Stanef, and at number 52, Stefan Adamescu. On Rădiței street, lot 32 belonged to H. Winert, later to Stelian Tanase.
The construction lasted only one year, and the beneficiaries moved to the new houses, starting, most probably, with the spring of 1934. Despite the approval problems, the Aron Mayer project represented-at the beginning of the thirties-probably the first example of a modernist lotissement . Despite all these qualities, the lotissement is not on the list of historical monuments.