Urban chaos in the capital of Bucharest is not only from central and local government corruption. It is also from the greed of a so-called ‘elite’ guild – that of the architects’. Some of its members, grouped in a true ‘brotherhood’ bent on the mutilation of the city and beyond, have massively and directly contributed with unprecedented determination to envoke real disaster on urban architecture. Shamelessly and for vast amounts of money, these are real criminals roaming urbanism; their roads and urban ugliness have not only made living unbearable in many areas, but they, along with the corrupt mayors with real estate business deals here and abroad have crippled the capital and many parts of the country.
Whether they were in management positions on planning committees of public adminstration, or worked in architectural firms and private offices, “chef d’oeuvres” of supreme hideousness have been achieved without hesitation. Even if they have made a fool of the guild, even if most of their colleagues are trying to do their job with professionalism, the ‘brotherhood’ members continue to stretch their tentacles into new areas: they have the right wads of money, the connections and the expertise always so necessary to benefit from high level political protection.
A little background: Towards the end of 2008, the general advisors approved the technical commission for urbanism and land management. This authority, the CTUAT, is composed of members that were chosen by the general mayor Oprescu and are architects: Gheorghe Patrascu (Chief Architect of Bucharest), Sorin Gabrea (Commission President), Iulia Dinu, Casandra Rosu (representative for the Ministry of Development), Constantin Enache, Dorin Stefan, Bogdan Bogoescu, Tiberiu Florescu, Dan Serban, Vlad Cavarnali and Dan Marin.…The approval for the CTUAT was contested for over 2 months by 34 ONGs,and considered as urgent according to the president of the commission on urbanism for the general council of Bucharest.
A number of members of the CTUAT are deemed highly suspicious since they are engaged in investment projects that have been deeply contested. The CTUAT even go as far as to approve their own projects. Some of them are worth millions of euros, which is certainly the case of the current PUZ for the suspended ‘autostrada’ at 8 million euros. Of the 5 winning companies, two are the property of members of the CTUAT (Gabrea and Cavarnali) and will be paid for from the city coffers. The project is submitted to the commission where they are all members and thus it can only ever be approved whether the people of Bucharest agree or not. So much for democracy. It is a clear-cut business for City Hall. It is a guaranteed prescription for success. More over, for the services offered by their company, each one will be awarded 1.6 mn euros each. These devious ‘architects’ have become ‘trusted men’… It is, in short, an architectural mafiosa.
Let’s begin with Cavarnali: backed by PDL he is engaged in a vast network with real estate investors from the businessman Marius Locic (who last year was in big trouble with non-kosher investments and implicated in the Voicu scandal) up to the Hungarian company Trigranit.
Cavarnali is one of the subordinates of Liviu Negoita (mayor of sector 3 and, with his brother, the proud owner of the newly unveiled largest hotel in Europe and voted one of the ugliest). Negoita included him in his team as inspector at his own office in sector 3. In this capacity, Cavarnali advises Negoita in all the real estate business for architecture and urbanism, despite the fact that sector 3 already has its own chief architect and a department of urbanism and land management. As Negoita favours Cavarnali, he is the lucky author of a PUD approved by the local council of sector 3 for the construction of a controversial residential development on the outskirts of Titan Park. Cavarnali is also a partner in the advertising company AS Locav SRL with the businessman Locic and Vasile Gherasim, the former PSD mayor of sector 1 (ex-Securitate). Moreover, Cavarnali is deeply involved in sponsoring the Esplanada project since he was the author of the PUZ, developed by Trigranit, a project that was very dear to the former Bucharest mayor, Videanu. It was also much contested by several environmentalist groups.
Cavarnali is also the person who approves the real estate projects in the county of Ilfov, since he is chief of the office for urbanism and land management there. From his comfy chair in Ilfov, Cavarnali can warn several architectural studios that he will disapprove their projects if he is not given his share, for este bagat in paine. Cavarnali is also a share-holder in several other architectural and advertising companies engaged in projects that make him incompatible for his job as advisor to the mayor of sector 3 and as manager of the county of Ilfov. Grosso modo, he is implicated in so many committees and companies, pulls so many strings that everyone wants to be on his good side… He is a powerful middle man who ‘taie si spanzura’.
Another ‘architect’ in the architectural ‘body’ of the general mayor is Sorin Gabrea, dubbed ‘arhitectul monstrilor Capitalei‘ and president of the Technical Commission of Urban Planning whom the mayor asked to participate in the competition for the job as chief architect after Adrian Bold was fired but finally didn’t get the job. His company Western Outdoor SRL won the bid along with SC Alpha Studio LLC (another Cavarnali company) for the Nord-Sud road. He has systematically lied throughout the whole process, promising first that buildings would not be demolished and then apologising that they were, that Hala Matache would remain and the changes would be minimum.
Gabrea is also a share-holder in three other architectural firms: Bucureşti Internaţional Proiect B.I.P. SRL, Town Design SRL and Rostrada SA.
Gabrea was the chief architect of Bucharest from ’94-’97 before Bold was appointed. It should be mentioned that Gabrea is an old aquaintance of Oprescu. It is known that Gabrea is a confidant of Puiu Popoviciu (what a click! What a real estate mafia this is), a well known businessman. It’s the same Gabrea who was the author of the controversial PUZ for the real estate development in the north of Bucharest bankrolled by Popoviciu. What we also know about Gabrea is that he approved the first tower in the city, the Bankorex building and approved the construction of a multi-storey in Pta Charles de Gaulle, one of the monstrosities built by a friend and business partner of the present minister Videanu, Raul Doicescu, the owner of BogArt and undercover agent in Ceausescu’s time. This millionaire is one of the most discrete but successful businessmen in Roumania. He is mentioned in WSJ amongst many other press sources and has expensive taste for property on the Cote d’Azur.
During Gabrea’s time as chief architect from ’94-’97, he approved the majority of the towers that have since defaced the urbanistic aspect of the capital over the last couple of years. Besides the Bankorex and the tower at Charles de Gaulle, he also approved those close to Biserica Armeneasa and on Bd Ion Mihalache, not far from the Filantropia Hospital. Furthermore, he endorsed a 35-storey building called Star Lido that should have been built next to the Ateneul Roman, a project deleted because of the scandal it caused in the media. In addition, Gabrea approved the construction of 85m on Bdul Aviatorilor next to the government building, but investors backed out. A wise decision…
Sorin Gabrea’s main architectural company, Western Outdoor SRL, is one of the winners responsible for the Nord Sud Highway, where he is a majority share holder with his son Radu George Gabrea, who holds, conveniently, around 85% of its shares. He’s also a business partner in the Est Terra construction company, owned by former deputy mayor of Bucharest, Paul Radu Popovat. Through his wife, architect Georgeta, Sorin Gabrea is in a business relationship with Ninel Nicolae Caval, another controversial businessman and childhood friend of minister Videanu, connected to garbage disposal sites around the city. Consequently, Georgeta Gabrea is an associate of Ninel Caval in his company, C.I.B.I.T SRL whose principal activity profile is ‘real estate development’. In this company there’s also an Italian shareholder by the name of Bosio, a partner of Caval in other businesses ventures. In a nutshell, Sorin Gabrea has complete run of the circuit in the field of real estate businesses from promotions to design and construction. His wife is also a shareholder in another company, Capitel SRL.
Gabrea says that he knows the city very well and thinks it would be immoral if a debutant participated in projects as important as his, referring more specifically to the autostrada ‘suspendata’ project… His own company presented 11 projects to the committee in 2010 and 7 have already been approved. He says that the commission has the very best professionals and that he is not a public employee and neither is he paid for his activity there – asta e buna!! Imagine being paid for approving your own projects! He added that he has the freedom to sustain his own projects. There is no incompatibility, he stressed. Vai de mine…
So, there are just two of the architects responsible for a great deal of damage done to Bucharest so far… and all in the name of MONEY, whilst dragging the admirable name of their profession brazenly through the mud.
Patrascu says, ‘from the legal point of view, there is no incompatibility. When we vote a project from a member of the commission, the person has to leave the room and the others have to vote. If we are talking from an ethical point of view, that is another problem that I prefer not to discuss.’ I’m sure. In other words, I’ll scratch your back if you’ll scratch mine.
Besides these two architects and their myriad of companies, City Hall also approved another three which already have contracts signed, such as SC Ecotera owned by Mihai Stanciu to whom is also registered the SC Search Corporation, a consultant for City Hall.
Dan Serban, another member of the CTUAT commission, designed several 13-storey apartment buildings in Bordei Park. Fortunately, these were only on paper because, due to public outcry via the media, City Hall returned the land, Satul Francez, to the businessmen. Right now, it remains a park.
Bogdan Bogoescu designed several buildings around Lakes Baneasa and Floreasca. He is also a shareholder in, amongst others, the architectural company Rostrada with his collegue and friend Sorin Gabrea. Rostrada was the general contractor for the Constantin Brancusi Development in Targu Jiu in 2004. This project, carried out by Bogoescu’s companies, ignited a huge scandal at that time because they approved the usage of controversial material. After a certain time, this scandal was forgotten…
But the scandal of crooked architects within a commission meant to preserve Bucharest and correctly advise City Hall on its projects cannot be forgotten. This is an outrageous travesty of justice in a country whose history and patrimony is being systematically and pain-stakingly annihilated to line the pockets of these bisnitari, falsely under the smoke screen of ‘progress’. It’s more than enough – this greed has gone too far…