I believe that anyone interested to invest efficiently in Bucharest real estate and especially in its period buildings would need to have a minimal amount of information on its urban history in order to really understand the market and avoid its often deceiving traps.
- Bucharest encompasses on a relatively small, but representative territory the history of the Romanian real estate and its architectural heritage.
- The city has until very recently gone through a huge building boom, which has already changed its urban landscape. The construction sector is still one of the main engines of economic growth of the country and attracted the bulk of foreign direct investment.
- The current boom has also many negative aspects: most of the developments are ugly, poor quality and damage the landscape. The city’s rich older architectural heritage suffers considerably, many magnificent buildings falling in a state of profound disrepair. The architectural qualities of the new buildings and town quarters are non-descript and characterless, often mirroring the nearby communist developments. The building boom has created a speculative market that distorts the local economy and created tensions within society.
However that phenomenon is nothing new in the city’s modern history. It has in the last 150 years gone through four major urban transformations, including the actual one. I compiled here for your benefit a brief outline of the four successive building booms of Bucharest from the Victorian era to the present days:
-1st boom: The reign of King Carol I (1860s – first decade of 1900s) when the city acquired the character of “Little Paris”. An iconic building of that period is the Romanian Athenaeum (now universally considered the symbol of Bucharest), a concert hall that follows the style of Opera Garnier from Paris. The boom was fuelled by the efficient organisation of the country on Western lines by the German origin King Carol I and the revenues generated by large grain export. The numerous residential buildings erected in that period imprinted the city with an intense charm for which became famous for decades to come. However many of these buildings were erected unsystematically, without a proper urban master plan, on the old oriental lines inherited from the previous times of Ottoman influences. They are now period building gems, some of the best such acquisitions which can be made in Bucharest. Today most of these buildings are in advanced state of disrepair, and many are being pulled down in order to erect ugly ramshackle commercial structures under the indifference of authorities and ignorance of many of Bucharest’s citizens about their own heritage and identity.