Streets: Feroviarilor, Pavlov, Volga, Herman Oberth, Ion Inculeț, Ciugureanu, Al. Pappia, Emanoil Ionescu
Andrei G. Ioachimescu
Ioan D. Trajanescu, D. Mohor, Constantin Pomponiu, Maria Cottescu
In 1912, C.F.R. (the Romanian state railway) signed an agreement with the Municipal Company for the construction of the Steaua lotissement and the completion of the Grant lotissement with houses for the railway workers. Thus, work began on one of the most successful lotissements in Bucharest’s history.
The workers from the Railways were mostly located in the northern area of the city, near the North Railway Station and the C.F.R. manufacturing plants. The reasons the railway directors hired the Municipal Company to build the houses for the railway workers were determined by their precarious living and working conditions. The difficulties experienced by the workers, presented in their main newspaper, Muncitorul Căilor Ferate, confirmed their radicalization and their grouping around socialist unions. The railway workers posed a strong resistance against the authorities of the liberal state, which led to the censorship of the newspaper and got the union banned.
The Steaua lotissement represented, together with Grant-Belvedere, the largest project of the Company, with an area of 118,600 square meters and with a typological diversity that exceeded that of Grant. The only mention related to the year when the construction started, 1913, belongs to Sfințescu. Therefore, the lotissement was probably approved during the mandate of mayors Constantin Istrati (October 1912 – March 1913) or Grigore Gh. Cantacuzino (March 1913 – December 1913). The lotissement was completed in the 1920s, when public buildings such as the church, maternity hospital, railway high school and grade schools were built.
The Steaua lotissement was located in the village of Grivița (which became a suburban commune in 1925 and was later integrated into the city administration), between Calea Griviței and the Filantropia boulevard, with the “Steaua Română” Oil Factory to the north(the origin of the lotissement’s name), and the Cuțarida garbage dump to the south. The architects designed the opening of four parallel streets (that occupied 28% of the surface of the project), oriented from east to west, joining the two large boulevards, and two more streets perpendicular to the four to ensure they communicated. In addition, along the Filantropia Boulevard, along the Cuțarida pit, the planners opened two additional parallel streets. The streets were identified with letters, starting with the currently named Pavlov (A) street towards Feroviarilor. The company divided the land into 350 plots, each of them 150 sqm – the smallest lots compared to all the lotissements built between 1911 and 1916. The plan included the construction of houses, but also buildings for public institutions. The lotissement does not have a main axis or a symbolic center. The streets are of relatively equal size, and the center is dominated by the railway high school, built at a later time. Public institutions, placed along Calea Griviței so that they would be close to the workshops, tilt the balance of the lotissement towards Grivița and there is no equivalent to counterbalance it towards the Filantropia boulevard.
Architecturally, the houses originally designed by Trajanescu take over the elements found in the previous lotissements and present new typologies and diversifications of the Neo-Romanian style. The houses on the two streets parallel to the Filantropia boulevard (two stories) have the appearance of collective houses that housed several families. Otherwise, the lotissement had semi-detached houses, covered with tiles or eternite, respecting the principle that each family had to own their own house surrounded by a garden.
From a social standpoint, the analysis of marriages shows that the distribution of housing leaned towards the civil servants and less to the workers. Of the 318 mentions of the lotissements inhabitants, 102 were civil servants and 75 were workers, and after 1920, their children were able to aim for liberal professions. The construction activity stopped in 1916 and was resumed in 1919, and after 1921 C.F.R. set up its own company and continued work on the lotissement, designing apartment blocks, public institutions buildings, but also almost all public works. The Steaua lotissement gradually became the center of communist and socialist propaganda, especially after 1919.
Post 1919 works
The house building activities began in the Steaua lotissement, where the Casa Muncii C.F.R. hired architect Constantin Pomponiu, one of the supporters of the Neo-Romanian style, to finalize the project and design the buildings for the public institutions. Pomponiu (1887-1945) was part of the second generation of Romanian architects, attended the School of Architecture (1909) and was a student of Mincu. He was 34 years old when the works in the Steaua llotissement begun. In parallel with the activity within Casa Muncii C.F.R., Pomponiu worked on the project of Mărășești Mausoleum and the Cathedral of Cluj, both symbols of the national affirmation. In the Steaua lotissement, Pomponiu designed the Sf. Gheorghe Church, between 1926 and 1931, two schools, a youth center, the “Regina Elisabeta” Maternity (today, the Hospital for Burn Injuries) and the “Aurel Vlaicu” High School (1923). In addition, he designed a carpentry workshop, where residents found materials to repair the houses. In the Steaua lotissement, Pomponiu and the architect Maria Cottescu, his deputy from Casa Muncii, designed eight apartment blocks on the Feroviarilor and Pavlov streets and 164 individual houses, thus completing the loitssement. Some of these buildings were along the Filantropia Boulevard.
The Neo-Romanian style
Constantin Pomponiu designed all the houses and buildings for public institutions in Neo-Romanian style, a style that was employed by C.F.R. for all the projects in which he was involved. The Neo-Romanian style was deemed indispensable in the building of the nation, and C.F.R. was one of the most important agents of this endeavor. The style contributed to “a unit of constructive design, with a simple and pleasant appearance, serving as guidance and example to the public”, and at the same time “to the beautification of the CFR network, constituting points of interest for the travelers and of awareness and admiration of the Romanian style for foreigners that roamed the country” but also “the cultivation of a pleasant environment that ensures the good mood of CFR staff, so important to its harmonious life and activity dedicated to the institution it serves. ” The blocks on Feroviarilor street (three floors), each of them with eight apartments, were designed with direct access from the sidewalk and presented elements of Romanian style such as ornaments under the cornice, dormers and window arches. Entries in these blocks were placed under consoles. The consoles supported the vertical volume of these buildings, and a discreet bellevue at the last level added a new Neo-Romanian element to this composition. On the opposite side of Railway Street, Pomponiu has designed different types of houses, with two rooms each at the first and the upper floor. Aerial photographs from 1927 show that the neighborhood had been completed by then.
A 1942 report confirmed that there were over 2,400 inhabitants in 542 houses in the Steaua lotissement, but the number of rooms was insufficient for large families. The report mentioned that the size of the houses ranged from 37 to 75 sqm and that “large families lived with many children: five families had between ten and 15 children, and 200 families had between five and ten children. These families live in buildings with four rooms and outbuildings”. The author of the report considered that “due to the considerable congestion, this area is further reduced, with homes set in a single room with a kitchen. […] Continuing the construction according to the initial systematization plan, the Steaua district suffers from an agglomeration of buildings in relation to the open spaces, and the spaces for courts, gardens, etc. are too small”. The public works of this neighborhood were not completed until 1939, when an internal report confirmed that “the works of water, sewerage, electricity were received by the Bucharest Municipal Factories and the General Gas and Electricity Society”. The streets were paved with cobblestone, sidewalks with asphalt, and the lotissement was connected to the city center by extending the tram lines. Between 1921 and 1927, the Communal Monitors keep records of 67 marriages, of which 20 were among the inhabitants of the lotissements. The 117 inhabitants married during this period were, in general, civil servants (41), workers (25) and housewives (39).