Henri Coandă’s Prefabricated Dwellings Between France and Romania

by

Andreea Cel Mare

Keywords

  • prefabrication
  • mass-production of houses
  • innovation
  • interwar housing policies
  • political ideology

This article is part of a wider on-going research that tries to reconstitute the trajectory of prefabricated housing in Romania, off the beaten track of the Communist rhetoric. The paper spotlights a forgotten chapter of the architectural and civil engineering history, the housing experiments of Romanian engineer Henri Coandă, carried out in two political milieus, in France and Romania, in the 1920s.

Decades before the post-war, Soviet-imposed industrialization, Henri Coandă sought to apply mass-production techniques to the construction of dwellings in France and Romania. The first proposal, dating from 1921, operated with a system of precast reinforced concrete elements, while the second one, originated in 1927, was based on an unprecedented use of folded sheet metal. Both construction methods aimed to produce low-cost housing, with efficient use of materials, reduced manpower and shortened construction time. The innovative construction methods were widely exploited in France, but failed to convince in Romania, where Coandă’s other building innovations were successfully applied, specifically the ones hidden under a traditional appearance.

This paper tries to highlight some reasons behind the different assimilation in the two countries. Coandă's prefabricated dwellings, a singular and surprising moment of Romanian Modernism, obliterated by the official history of the Communist regime, came to reaffirm the role of engineers in the debate for the low-cost housing and to illustrate the subtle and nuanced relations between architectural thinking, politics and political ideology.