COTROCENI and the Association that works to preserve it
By Dana Tudose Tianu
Every end of May and early June, the smell of linden trees and jasmine takes over the streets of Cotroceni, one of Bucharest’s most beloved neighborhoods.
On a warm weekend in May of this year, thousands of residents, passers-by and tourists took to the fragrant streets, of which 90% are named after famous Romanian and European doctors, to enjoy the neighborhood’s signature event, Bazar de Cotroceni.
The two-day event began as the “Cotroceni Neighborhood Days” in 2015, and has been rebranded, three years later, as an open-door fair called “Bazar de Cotroceni”. Over 40 local small businesses and an equal number of private homes opened their doors to passers-by who were able to discover the streets and architecture, and shop for (mostly) vintage items at the tens of yard and street sales.
Most of the beautiful houses in the Cotroceni residential neighborhood were built in the interwar period. Professors, doctors, artists, writers, were among the first notable residents. The Carol Davila Medical School, the Botanical Garden, the National Opera, several memorial houses, are a part of this old, historical neighborhood, that luckily survived both the bombings of 1944, and Ceausescu’s vision of “modernizing” Bucharest, which destroyed other beautiful historical neighborhoods.
The biggest challenges facing Cotroceni are related to preserving its socio-cultural character, related mainly to its architecture, and consolidating its infrastructure.
Dinu Drog, 40, an attorney, has been living in Cotroceni for six years.
In 2014, together with Iulian Ungureanu, an architect and fellow resident, he imagined Incotroceni – People, Ideas, Stories – a community initiative group. The Incotroceni Association was born in 2015, and it currently has more than 500 residents who are actively involved in various community projects. Before setting up the Association, together with four other neighbors, Dinu and Iulian researched different types of historical neighborhood communities –in Switzerland and the United States – to come up with an action plan for the Association and with the right community organizing activities and events that would motivate the residents to get involved.
So far, the Association, the projects of which can be found on its Facebook page and website (www.incotroceni.ro), organized several petition-signing initiatives, public debates on very important neighborhood preservation issues, such as the ones related to the renovation of old houses with beautiful architecture.
Two very heated debates were organized in 2017 around rehabilitating and repurposing the Romniceanu Park. The park, considered the “green heart” of the neighborhood, is in need of significant re-planting and rehabilitating.
Several organizations have partnered with Incotroceni so far, such as DocuArt, Festivalul ShortUp, OneWorld, Active Watch, as well as the Bucharest chapter of the Romanian Order of Architects.