Cornescu

15/24

Delimitation

Calea Floreasca, străzile Turbinei, Aviator Muntenescu, Lt. Comandor Aviator Gheorghe Bănciulescu, Dorbtota, Paul Urechescu, Donizetti Gaetano

Directors

Andrei G. Ioachimescu, N.I Georgescu, D. Stoica

Architects

Ioan D. Trajanescu, Dimitrie Mohor, D. Ionescu

Construction

1922-1939

Personalities

Ion Dimitriu Bârlad, Dan și Cecilia Mizrahy, Margareta Pâslaru

In February 1922, the Municipal Company sent the building authorization request to the president of the Interim Commission for the Cornescu lotissement, signed by director N. I. Georgescu, together with the plans signed by Fr. Reiss. The Tei-Floreasca area was one of the most unsanitary neighborhoods in the Capital, affected by the epidemic of typhus and cholera, without public works and with a high mortality caused by tuberculosis. The zoning proposed by Sfințescu in the Systematization Plan considered that this area was conducive to the design of cheap housing for workers and public clerks. In the same neighborhood, very close to the Cornescu lotissement, the Company began in 1923, to execute a new parcel, Drumul la Tei, and the Princom Industrial Company was planning to execute another one, which was refused by the authorities.

Approval chronology and lotissement history

Cornescu was delimited by Calea Floreasca (an extension of Polonă street) to the west, by the Floreasca borrow pit to the east and south (where, later, the authorities built a velodrome) and a greenfield to the north, parceled in the late 1930s by The National Society for the Improvement of (the Breed of) Horses (SNIC). The land was probably bought by the Company from the Cornescu owners and was part of the second district (Black), fourth ring. In total, the plot occupies 37,800 sqm, 17% of the total area (6,450sqm) being reserved for the streets. Each of these plots measured more than 330 square meters, the largest surface in all the lotissements executed by the Company. Before the construction of these houses, the Company had built in 1915, on Calea Floreasca, a school for the Romanian Orthodox Society and the Carpentry Factory, based on the plans of the architect Dimitrie Mohor. In May 1922, the Company began to build the houses, although the Technical Commission of the City Hall had not given its consent to start the work. In addition, the Company also sent plans for the construction of three E-type buildings on Calea Floreasca. The request of the Company had not received a timely response from the Communal Council and, consequently, on May 15, Georgescu returned with an addition: “In accordance with art. 85 of the Company’s by-laws, any lotissement plan must be approved by the Municipality within 45 days and as this term has expired […] and the work campaign is already progressing, please kindly arrange for us to be given the proper building authorizations.” Although the City Hall had not authorized the lotissement, the Company announced that “the construction work that must be completed this fall” has begun and asked the City Hall to “stop the Police from seizing the building site”. The reasons behind the City Hall’s refusal were related to the new rules imposed by the systematization plan, which the designers did not take into consideration. The advice of the Technical Commission was “to draw the attention of the Company so that in the future, when drawing up the lotissement plans, [to] take into account the general systematization plan decreed and the probable connections of the existing and future roads”. Eventually, the City Hall approved the lotissement in November 1922 and sent the file to other institutions: The Superior Technical Council and the Ministry of Interior Affairs approved it in January 1923 and, finally, it was approved by royal decree in April 1923. Until 1927, the Municipal Company built almost all the houses from the lotissement based on the plans of the architects Mohor and Trajanescu. The two designed the houses in a complex Neo-Romanian style, using characteristic elements such as bellevues, verandas or window frames with trilobate arches. Thus, on Calea Floreasca, the first two houses-type E373, although separated from the rest of the lotissement, are characterized by the rich, semicircular frames of the windows, traditional motifs under the windows on the second floor and on the side facades. The first houses were built between 1927-1938, a characteristic fact from that period being the different plastering and some ornaments on the side facades. The same architects also designed a different type, in the console, the only one in the Cornescu lotissement. The rich floral motifs present on the front of the main volume of this building, the frame under the console and the dormer windows are elements that characterize the neo-Romanian style of this building. The following semi-detached houses on Calea Floreasca represent another type, which continues the street layout and was set back from the sidewalk. Furthermore, the type designed by Dimitrie Mohor at the intersection between Floreasca and the first street of the lotissement (“Proiectată” street)represents another conjugation of the Neo-Romanian language. After the intersection with the “Proiectată” street followed the school, designed for the Romanian Orthodox Society in 1915. Finally, the three semi-detached houses, which close the lotissement, occupied the plots between Calea Floreasca and the parallel street (Av. Paul Urechescu today), having as characteristic elements the trilobate arch present in both the doors and the windows and the discreet wooden balconies. On the (today) Dobrota, Urechescu and Bănciulescu streets, the Company has designed houses in a much more complex Romanian style.

After the completion of the houses and their distribution around 1927, the owners, mostly engineers, state and private officials, began to adapt their homes according to their needs, by constructing kitchens and garages. The houses were some of the most expensive that the Company had designed, and their price was between 600,000 lei and 1,000,000 lei, prohibitive amounts for the working class. Moreover, some houses even had seven main rooms, terraces, servants’ quarters, a total of 275 sqm, another five rooms and rooms for servants. This confirms that they could not be inhabited by other social categories than those of public or private civil servants.
Among the owners of these expensive homes were accountant Moscu Mizrahy and sculptor Ion Dimitriu-Bârlad. The memoires of their descendants, artists Dan Mizrahy and Margareta Pâslaru, fill in the image of daily life in the Cornescu lotissement. A house with three female effigies carved on the facade on Paul Urechescu street and two others, depicting Raffaello and Michelangelo, on the facade of Donizetti street is one of the architectural symbols of this lotissement. In a clear contrast to the Neo-Romanian dwellings, this house has large windows on the facades, and some classic details in the upper part resemble those of another representative house of the Company, the one of the architect Ioan D. Trajanescu, from the Clucer lotissement. (3 Ady Endre Road). The plaque installed for the numbering of Urechescu street keeps the memory of the name of the lotissement, Cornescu Park, the initial name of the street-D, and the house number-16. This was the home of sculptor Ion Dimitriu-Bârlad and of his wife, Nona. The two female figures represent Magda (the daughter of the sculptor and mother of the artist Margareta Pâslaru) and Sanda (the second daughter), while the figure in the center seems to be Queen Mary. Ion Dimitriu-Bârlad was one of the most important sculptors at that time in Romania, author of numerous monuments of the First World War victory, many of them dedicated to Queen Mary.
In this house lived Margareta Pâslaru, the only granddaughter of the sculptor Dimitriu-Bârlad. In her memoires, the artist recalled the childhood spent in this house: “The background of my first years of life was the workshop of my grandfather, the sculptor Ion Dimitriu-Bârlad, a teacher at the Lazăr Highschool and member of the Plastic Fund”. The house represented for the artist a place of memory, a return to the happy childhood with her grandparents: “The huge house in which I spent my childhood had each room differently tapestried, tastefully, in dark tones, with arabesques coated in old gold. The bedrooms and the cozy bathroom were upstairs, and the living room, lounge and the rest of the household, on the ground floor. The building was dominated by the huge workshop, with large checkered windows, like a chessboard, two floors tall; it also had a hatch to the basement, where the precious clay was kept at a constant temperature and steady humidity”. The elegant upstairs bedroom was tapestried with “embossed leaves, dark in color and bronze painted, so that the light made them real and you felt you could strip them off the wall.” Not only the interior of the house represented the artist’s childhood universe, but also the entire Floreasca neighborhood, under construction in the early 1950s. Having to move out of this house, but visiting it weekly, Margareta Pâslaru emphasizes the pleasant atmosphere of the neighborhood that included the lotissement: “The weekly movie like curse to leave behind my artistic paradise, the comforts and affection of my grandmother, the sound of the piano, Aviator Paul Urechescu street, friends, the old walnut tree that I used to climb playing Făt-Frumos […], the cradle in the sour cherry tree, the chocolate eggs hidden among the Easter blossom branches, the purple irises, so fragrant … All of it. The Floreasca public pool – the oasis of summer vacations -, the alleys with the bicycle rides and the friends that were lost in the distance”. These testimonies demonstrate, first of all, the way in which the inhabitants arranged their interior of the houses and, secondly, aspects of the daily life in the lotissement, testimonies that are missing from the documents in the archives.

Mizrahy Family

Born in the family of the accountant Moscu Mizrahy, in a type E house on the A street, built by the Municipal Company in 1923, composer Dan Mizrahy offers probably the most comprehensive description of the house and the lotissement in the 1930s. A direct witness of the changes that characterized this lotissement for almost a century, Mizrahy brings to the forefront a narrative based both on the ways in which the family acquired a house built by the Company and transformed it into a home, as well as the political relations that affected the lotissement since its construction. In his memoires, Mizrahy recalled that his father, Moscu, “married his mother (Henrietta) in 1920 and, both working as civil servants, having lived in rented rooms for three years, built the house by means of the Municipal Company for Low Cost Housing.  They paid for it in instalments, and I was born in this house (type E) three years later (1926)”. Their initials are carved on the front door. The future artist spent his childhood among the neighborsȘ civil servants or people with liberal professions. The earthquake of 1940 also left traces: “With the great earthquake of November of that ill-fated year, our house was badly damaged. As I mentioned earlier, the building had been built by the Municipal Company for Low Cost Housing in 1923. It was a two storey building. Upstairs, there were two bedrooms, a hallway and a small room that separated the hall from the bathroom. Once the children grew (my sister was 12 years old and I was 9), the parents decided to extend the house, by adding a room upstairs and, implicitly, enlarging the hall below. ” This extension was realized in accordance with the plans of the architect Stefan Ciocârlan after 1934. The house was requisitioned by the new authorities of 1940 and transformed into a police station. The artist had to leave the country. It was not until 1948 that the house was returned to the family, but the artist went through many difficulties in order to continue living in it. One of the most invariable problems faced by the inhabitants, a fact brought up by Dan Mizrahy as well, was the change of the street names. Like all other streets in the Company’s lotissements, the streets in Cornescu used letters from A to F. Initially, the lotissement was called Cornescu, the plots had numbers, but they were not numbered in the classic style of the streets. For example, the house that Moscu Mizrahy had bought was in “Cornescu lotissement, Polonă extension, no. 42 “, but the number referred to the plot. Gradually, the lotissement was renamed Floreasca, and the streets got other names: the Polonă extension received the name Calea Floreasca, later Aviator Craiu, and after the end of World War II, it was named back Calea Floreasca. In December 1940, the Nomenclature Commission changed the name of the streets as follows: street A (the current Turbinei) was called Breslau, the street that connected the street A and Calea Floreasca (now part of Turbinei street) was called Plut. Pilot I. Muntenescu (dead in the First World War), B street was renamed Lieutenant Commander Aviator Bănciulescu (dead on duty in 1935), and D street was named Aviator Captain Paul Urechescu (deceased in the First World War).
The zoning proposed by Sfințescu for this neighborhood, which was to accommodate office clerks , was implemented through this first project, but the inhabitants of the parcel were not poor state office clerks. On the contrary, they were part of a rising middle class, and the Neo-Romanian style was the only option for this social category, important for the creation of Greater Romania.

Expansion

In 1938, the Municipal Company continued the Cornescu lotissement, by constructing 9 semi-detached houses and one detached, according to D. Ionescu’s plans. The company extended the A (Turbinei) street and connected it with Calea Floreasca. From the beginning, the district was equipped with the modern facilities of the time. According to a document elaborated by the Roads and Bridges Directorate from the mid-1930s, “the company executed all the water, sewerage and electricity works, as well as all the constructions that are inhabited in the Company’s lotissement of Aviator Craiu (Calea Floreasca) and the extension A (Turbinei) from Cornescu Park ”, and was going to take care of “ paving works on the carriageway and sidewalks ”. The addition is visible through the architecture of the semi-detached houses next to Muntenescu street: one part had been built in the 1920s according to Mohor’s plans, and the second part had been attached in 1938. In 1938, the Company requested approval of this opening to the Technical Commission, presenting also the types of houses designed by Dan Ionescu. In contrast to the architectural variety of the parcel, Ionescu proposed a few simple plans, uniformizing this extension with an austere style. The types designed by Ionescu were composed of two floors, and the style adopted by him departed from the Neo-Romanian one promoted by the previous architects. The houses were set back 4 m from the alignment of Turbinei street. An important detail of the authorization issued by the City Hall of the Yellow Sector I was related to the fence of the property: “In front they are to be made of wooden lattices, painted with oil, and between neighbors there should be wooden planks […] 2 meters high at most , on a total length of 46 m, with a 5 meter chamfer ”. As for the technical details of these new homes, the Company had “the obligation to execute the last reinforced concrete floor on which-once the mobilization occurs- will be covered by a sand layer of 0.15 m, according to the passive defense service paper. Authorization and plans will be kept on site for control. The material will be deposited in the yard”. Most of the types designed by Ionescu are characterized by a jutty (three-step wall) that separates the individual dwellings.
The Cornescu lotissement was affected by the political changes both through the renaming of the streets, as well as by constructing new houses or demolishing the old ones. On Turbinei Street, the Institute of Agronomy designed in the 1950s three two-storey apartment buildings, but also villas in an austere style, tributary to classicism and the new Soviet-inspired architecture. After 1948, tenant families moved into the houses. Probably the most well-known tenant of the buildings on Turbinei street was Nicolae Ceausescu’s younger brother, Nicolae Andruța. Moreover, the testimonies of the inhabitants of the area indicate that, after 1945, some of the houses were nationalized, and the new inhabitants came from the ranks of sympathizers or members of the Romanian Labor Party or state institutions. Few inhabitants of the neighborhood know such things as the construction year of their own houses, some remembering the year 1925, others confirming that the buildings are at least 50 years old. Few are the ones who differentiate between the houses built in the 1920s and those on Turbinei street, built in 1938. Also, only one of the interviewed residents knew that the architect designed his own house in the neighborhood, without being able to name it, as well. and the fact that they were built by the Municipal Company for Low Cost Housing. Only a vague testimony reminds that they were built by various institutions that later sold them to the employees in installments. Some residents also remember the fact that the houses were paid in installments until the 1960s and that they were called cheap housing.

The memoirs of composer Dan Mizrahy complete the image of the evolution of the Cornescu lotissement, highlighting the abuses of the new regime, among which the attempt to take over the house abusively and the obligation of accepting the tenants: “An absolutely incredible event happened soon after our return home. One morning […] a guy wearing the flat cap of those times, knocks on the door, enters the house, takes out a paper in his pocket and with an indolent calm communicates to us the decision (supposedly of the City Hall) that this house is requisitioned to become the headquarters of « Spațiul locativ» ( Living Spaces, an institution that existed for decades, norming, distributing and controlling people’s living space). The decision – presented as final and inappeasable – was to take effect in 24 hours! Exactly the same as the first evacuation of the family in November 1941 ”. Although the home was not nationalized, eventually the owners were forced to accept tenants. “The living room at the entrance, with the two comfortable armchairs and the six chairs with the same upholstery, the Aubusson corner, the foot lamp, the splendid bronze chandelier with 12 arms, in tone with the two wall sconces of the same material, flanking the fireplace (with a marble plate destroyed by the occupiers during the war). In the rooms on the right (transformed into one room after the renovation of the house in 1935) was my father’s office with a street view, with its respective armchair and a magnificent library with crystal doors, and on the yard side, the oak dining room formed by a extendible table for 24 people, supported on two massive, sculpted legs, a huge cupboard covering an entire wall in height and width, a buffet on another wall and, finally, a wonderful crystal display case molded on a fantasy drawing , having as inspiration the Strauss waltz “Wein, Weib und Gesang” . Renaming the streets from the Cornescu lotissement is one of the most important changes brought by the communists. “The decision of the town hall had to record the restitution of the building located on Turbinei street, no. 1. But the deed of ownership of the house attests as an address: the Polonă extension, the Floreasca lotissement no. 42! Therefore, I had to prove that it was the same address. Only trouble was that, after being named the Floreasca lotissement, the new name became Cornescu Park, A street, no. 32, after which it became Breslau street, no. 1, to then become A again, but this time bearing the number 1, and then the “angelic” name of Turbinei, also no. 1 […]. Another important event of 1948 was the return in September to our house on the street called Turbinei today. […] Closely related to the odyssey of my parental home, the street name and the number of the house I was born and in which I live today, they would give me enough headaches when for the second recovery of the house, 24 years later, I had to provide evidence that the Polonă extension  is the same with Cornescu Park, A street, no. 32, same as 1 Breslau street, same as 1, A street. Finally, with 1 Turbinei street. But this is another story.” An interesting fact is that “happy to return to the long-abandoned furniture arrangement in its place, mother was concerned to restore the house to its traditional appearance, so beautiful and decorated with so much love and taste “. According to the list of nationalized buildings, the authorities confiscated the houses on Paul Urechescu streets, no. 14 (owned by Dan Alexandrescu), Dobrota 11 (owned by Maria Niculescu), Turbine 2 (Antoaneta Papp), Turbine 15 (Witel Smit), Turbine 5 (Maria Chitimia), Turbine 39 (Alexandru Costache), Turbine 17 (Elena Dorst) , Turbinei 11 (Viorela Enescu). The owners on 16 Urechescu street did not escape these confiscations either.