At the end of the First World War, the Romanian Railways began the construction of houses near the stations for the C.F.R personnel. The architects designed these apartment buildings (pavilions) in Neo-Romanian style.
C.F.R. and the 1920s innovation: collective housing pavilions near the railway stations
After 1919, the legislation goes through a series of changes that slow down the initial pace of reform in social housing and the construction of single-family houses in the capital. As such, the projects initiated by the Municipal Company for Low Cost Housing are hindered until the legislative problems are solved, while C.F.R, one of the largest employers of the period, needs to quickly solve the need for housing for its clerks and workers. This urgency led to the change of the strategy from C.F.R: The newly established Labor House takes over the project of housing construction for C.F.R. The architectural conception of the new houses is also changed, C.F.R. opting for the construction of social housing projects in the form of blockhouses, as they are called at the time, or collective dwellings. Despite being uncomfortable with this type of approach, the architects end up experiencing it gradually throughout the 1920s. The divergences of opinion regarding the option for the collective block or the individual houses endured, as shown by the memo sent by C.F.R. to Ion Antonescu in 1942, where the main criticism towards these buildings appears: “their agglomeration in superposed floors, as a consequence of the reduced space, as well as the lack of backyards, vegetation and gardens, make them uncomfortable and especially unpleasant for large families. ” Several buildings resulting from this project still endure, both in Bucharest and in the rest of the country.
A change in shape, but not in style
The idea of collective housing will be gradually accepted on a social level after the First World War, when the construction of “pavilions” begins. Thus, on the Gara de Est Boulevard, the Labor House C.F.R. built 3 blocks, “a pavilion of 12 dwellings (all the houses have bathrooms), built on a plot of land of 819sqm, the built surface being 338sqm”) and “two pavilions, built on a plot of 1602sqm , with a 431sqm building surface ”. In total, 24 homes were built. In the south of the capital, at Gara Filaret (today the Bus Station), the Labor House builds a pavilion with 16 collective dwellings, with 2-3 rooms and annexes, five floors, with a common staircase, a main entrance, a service entrance and a shared bathroom for each floor.” The style is similar to that of the Gara de Est blocks, almost unmistakable, and none of them is included in the current list of historical monuments.
These buildings, together with the Steaua, Grant and Viilor neighborhoods are cited in the aforementioned C.F.R. memo. The same document mentions the construction of two pavilions (three houses each) in the Mogoșoaia railway station, of five pavilions with 38 dwellings in Depou-Triaj and four pavilions with a total of 33 dwellings in the Bucharest-Triaj station. In addition, in the Chitila station three blocks with four dwellings each had been designed. Also, on this border “280 dwellings grouped into villas” were designed, of which “only a first lot consisting of 9 villas, totaling 18 dwellings, which can be seen from the train in the vicinity of the administration building and the large materials deposit of the Chitila treasurership”.
In the Inginerilor lotissement, C.F.R. built an apartment house on no. 7 Petre Poni Street, equipped with 4 elevators and central heating. The building was built between 1930 – 1933 after the construction of the individual villas (by the General Directorate for the Protection and Assistance of the C.F.R. Personnel). It is a five storey building (the last floor is set back), with a total of 38 dwellings and it is equipped with 4 lifts and 4 freight elevators, bathrooms for all apartments and central heating. The architects have opted for a modernist style for this building, different from the national style that dominates the houses in the lotissement. The wrought iron gate, in ArtDeco style has endured. The land surface is 1,913sqm, and the built area is 1,721sqm (including an inner courtyard with an uncertain administrative status). The tenants do not retain much detail, pointing out that it was built in the 1920s for C.F.R. and passed into the administration of I.C.R.AL. (The Construction, Repair and Housing Administration Company).
Another pavilion was built on General Lahovari street (today, Ion Movila street), no. 69 with 11 apartments, with central heating, on a land purchased in 1920.
The largest building in this list is located on Calea Griviței, no. 337 bis, with 44 dwellings (five storeys), with 3 rooms apartments. The building has no elevator, no central heating, only 10 apartments have their own bathrooms and was built between 1927 – 1928 by O.A.P. C.F.R. Residents of this block know that it was built in 1918 or 1921 by C.F.R, for their own employees. In fact, our interlocutor was a former C.F.R. employee, retired in the 1990s, after moving to the building in the 1960s. After the Grant Bridge was built in the eighties, the noise gradually increased, becoming difficult to bear, she recalls. As with the P. Poni block, this building was also managed by the I.C.R.A.L. Probably the most appreciated aspect of this block is the back garden, a place of relaxation partially protected from the noise coming from the bridge. Like the rest of the lotissement, the construction is executed in Neo-Romanian style.
Conditions for receiving a home from C.F.R
In 1937, C.F.R. publishes a guideline regulating the conditions for granting houses. Thus, employees with a minimum of five years of work, who were married and already had a family, could obtain work accommodation. The houses were assigned on the basis of various criteria for a period of five, ten or 15 years (“the terms … are considered to have expired on St. George and St. Dumitru on the following date of use”). The houses were made available to the employees as follows: “a maximum term of five years for married or widowed with one child, 10 years for married or widowed with 2 to 4 children, maximum 15 years for married or widowed with 5 or more children”. Keeping the house had strict rules: if the husband resigned or was fired from CFR, he would lose the right to accommodation, and the wife was also forced to evacuate the house. Moreover, “if the husband is a civil servant, agent, craftsman or CFR worker the house is placed on the name of the husband ”.
The third chapter of the regulation stated that “the distribution of the built housing will take into account the necessity of the service, the family difficulties of the applicant, the financial situation and the years of service. The office clerks, agents, craftsmen and workers in the executive operating service (M.T.L.A) will have priority.” There were many particular situations provided for, such as the possibility of living with the parents, the evictions, the repairs that the tenants have to do, but also the conditions in which, in the case of the husband’s death, the widow could remain in the house. The tenants were withheld up to 25% of their salary to pay the rate for housing, and the house did not remain in their property. The building belonged to the C.F.R., those who received work accommodation paid the monthly rent, and after a break in collaboration (retirement, abandonment, dismissal), the apartment did not remain in their property, as the tenants were not able to purchase it.
In conclusion, the building of pavilions/collective dwellings near the railway stations completes the efforts of the C.F.R. to provide housing to the subordinate staff. Their regime is different from the previous ones, they are not sold to the employees (as in the case of the Grivița lotissement). The pavilions are criticized for their lack of intimacy and reduced facilities, but they have the advantage of being close to the train stations and the city centre. The structures are built in Romanian style, except for the one on P. Poni Street, where the modernist solution proposed by the architect comes as an exception.