Emily Badger is a former staff writer at CityLab. Her work has previously appeared in Pacific Standard, GOOD, The Christian Science Monitor, and The New York Times. She lives in the Washington, D.C. area.
Spend a moment sitting in the shoes of Bucharest.
Romanian authoritarian ruler Nicolae Ceauşescu infamously left a heavy mark on the capital city of Bucharest with a massive urban planning scheme known as the Centrul Civic. In the 1980s, the project displaced 40,000 people, demolished churches and monasteries in the way, and replaced it all with 8 square kilometers of communist-era concrete buildings and government complexes in the heart of what had been a historic city.
One of the new monuments, the 3.7 million square-foot Palace of the Parliament, is thought to be the largest administrative building in the world, and it anchors the Centrul Civic along a dramatic axis in much the same way that the U.S. Capitol does in Washington, D.C. To this day, the palace and the brutally rebuilt urban fabric around it remain “perhaps the most violent scar left by a totalitarian regime,” in the words of Bogdan Ilie and Dan Achim.
The two have built a depressingly dramatic web project illustrating the scale of this exercise in totalitarian urban planning when transposed onto other cities (hat tip to Google Maps Mania for directing us to it). Write Ilie and Achim of the Centrul Civic (the bold emphasis is theirs):
This project is our baggage, the people of Bucharest’s baggage, and the question that we started with was “What would happen if we were to take this baggage with us through the world?
Well, this is what it would look like in Washington:
The scale of the irreparable damage makes most regrettable American urban renewal schemes look modest in comparison. The web project, at portmanteau.ro, even calculates the share of local citizens that would be displaced in any city (based on local population density) by such a grandiose rewriting of the urban map.
Top map is taken of Portland, Oregon.