Author: Alexandra Rusu

In the first decades of the last century, Bucharest faced problems caused by the rapid growth of the population and the industrialization, which engaged more and more workers in factories or workshops. Many of them lived on the outskirts, often in unsanitary conditions. From the statistics we learn that just over 10% of the capital’s population worked in industry and commerce. But, considering families, the percentage of inhabitants dependent on industry amounted to 20%. On the eve of the First World War, 18% of the capital’s population occupied housing with insufficient space, most without water supply, sewage, sometimes even without latrines. Overcrowding and poor living conditions, responsible for the spread of diseases such as tuberculosis, required the formulation of long-term solutions. In order to protect the population from the negative effects of industry, regulations were drawn up to direct large factories to the outskirts of the city. In terms of housing, the municipality acted only in the sense of expanding the sewage system, implementing the garbage disposal system and demolishing houses that did not met hygienic standards. The capital’s doctors were the first to insist on building new housing for the poor and working class as a solution to both the “housing issue” and the eradication of tuberculosis outbreaks. The only factory in Bucharest that built standardized housing for its own workers at the end of the 19th century was the Phenix Vegetable Oil Factory (1897).

During mayor Vintilă Brătianu office term, the Municipal House was established (1908) for “the construction of cheap and hygienic houses for the poor population”. They were to be provided “with two rooms, a kitchen, a storeroom, a cellar and a sanitary latrine, as well as a yard that can be used for flowers and even vegetables.” The first 28 homes built from the municipality’s funds, according to the standard plans of the architect Ernest Doneaud, were inaugurated in October 1909, on Lânăriei street. The following year, the new legislative framework allowed the Municipal Council to establish the Communal Society for Cheap Housing in Bucharest, which aimed to improve the living conditions of Bucharest workers, “to empower every Romanian resident of the capital, preferably manual workers, tradesmen and civil servants public or private, to become the owner of an individual home, solid, healthy, quite roomy and at the same time cheap, also having a kindergarten, the total cost of which should be paid as cheaply as possible”. The reforming activity of the Communal Society for Cheap Housing in Bucharest was recomposed by the historian Andrei Răzvan Voinea in the volume “The ideal of Bucharest housing: the family with house and garden. The plots of the Communal Society for Cheap Housing-Bucharest (1908-1948)” (2018). From the exhaustive study, we learn that during the four decades of activity, the company built approximately 4,000 homes in 25 neighborhoods (called plots or subdivisions) that housed 16,000 inhabitants. The initiative was partly inspired by the “garden city” movement in Western Europe and the United States in the early 20th century, rooted in the socialist and utopian ideas of the previous century.

The movement promoted the development of satellite communities around a central city, separated from it by green belts. The “garden city” encompasses the benefits of the rural environment as well as the urban one, avoiding the disadvantages of both and integrating elements such as: the single-family home with a garden or yard, careful land planning and equipping new projects with modern facilities.

The name “garden city” appeared in the discourse of Romanian politicians only in the interwar period, but several architects and engineers popularized the concept in specialized magazines (e.g. “Bulletinul Societății Politehnice” and “Natura”) before the First World War. In the article “How I want to see my city” (Natura, 1912), the engineer Cincinat Sfințescu put forward the solution of the systematization of Romanian cities according to the principles of the “garden-city” movement, “the healthiest, most natural current, and in whose system, most of our cities could enter easely”, “preserving their character, corresponding to the region they belong to” (mountain, hill, plateau). In the matter of housing, he speaks, like the reformers in England and America, for the “spread of single-family housing” and opposes “housing barracks” (blocks) mainly for hygienic and economic reasons. In his opinion, epidemics and conflicts between families spread more easily in the “living barracks”, “morality breaks down, the love of the hearth and respect for order and the work of others are lost, man is separated too much from nature”. Following in the footsteps of Ebenezer Howard, the founder of the movement, the Romanian engineer considered the garden city “an independent city, with industry, agriculture, commerce and even its own residence, and designed as such. A garden city must have enough land to provide houses with their gardens for at least 30,000 inhabitants, as well as a wide belt of fields for agriculture (agricultural belt)”. The “garden suburb” and the “garden village” were complementary solutions that could be integrated into city extension projects or for industrialists’ factories. In Cincinat Sfințescu’s vision, for Bucharest to make the transition to the “garden city”, the municipality had to “buy a belt of land around the city, which in time will turn into a green belt”. Beyond these cordons, “garden cities” could be developed, composed of single-family homes “well ventilated, quiet, clean, warm in winter and cool in summer”, “with rooms arranged according to the needs of the family and its living” and provided with utilities. The architecture of the house had to follow the lines of a “simplified national style” and the cost of housing “should be in proportion to the payer’s income”. The principles also extend to the city as a whole, which was intended to be “hygienic, well divided, comprehensive in the present and future, beautiful, and the citizens should not have to pay heavy taxes for it.”

Although the subdivisions/parcelari of the Communal Society for Cheap Housing in the first decades of the 20th century had positive results in terms of urbanism and architecture, contributing to the aesthetics of the city, their social purpose was only achieved to a small extent, because the distribution of housing was directed to the members to the middle class, less to the vulnerable population or the working class in the periphery.

Text: Alexandra Rusu

Photo: Cheap housing in Lânăriei street, built by the municipality in 1909 as a model for those that where to be built by the Communal Society for Cheap Housing.


Andrei Răzvan Voinea, Idealul locuirii bucureștene: familia cu casă și grădină. Parcelările Societății Comunale pentru Locuințe Ieftine-București (1908-1948), București, Asociația Studio Zona, 2018.
Natura-Revistă Științifică de Popularizare, Anul VII, Octombrie 1911-Iulie 1912, București, Gutenberg, 1912.


Folosim cookies pentru a vă oferi o cât mai bună experiență online. Prin exprimarea acordului, acceptați folosirea cookie-urilor conform cu Politica utilizării cookie-urilor.

Accept Nu sunt de acord Centru de Confidențialitate a Datelor Setări confidențialitate Află mai multe despre Politica utilizării cookie-urilor