Until mid-September 2023, the Golești Museum invites you to discover the stories of model villages in the Romanian countryside. The exhibition carried out by the Romanian Order of Architects, the branches in Argeș and Oltenia, represents the result of field and archival research, transposed into images and reliefs that visually narrate two of the most interesting sociological experiments, born from two disasters caused by fire and water in space Romanian countryside.


The interwar period, beyond its significant political challenges, witnessed substantial economic progress coupled with efforts to rapidly introduce elements of modern civilization into the Romanian rural landscape. The ambition of political decision-makers and intellectuals of the era was to modernize the material culture of rural areas without undermining traditional spirituality.

Alongside Dimitrie Gusti’s grand project in Bucharest, initiatives to create model villages proliferated across Romania. Some aimed to improve living standards and education, while others arose in response to unfortunate events or natural disasters.

In Vânjuleț, Mehedinți, educator and politician Teodor Costescu (March 30, 1864, Rovinari, Gorj – March 25, 1939, Bucharest) established such a model village. In 1913, using his wife’s dowry, he purchased the Vânjuleț estate. Soon, he discovered that the entire region was marshy, and its inhabitants were plagued by the dreadful disease of malaria. Thanks to Teodor Costescu, this swampy land transformed into a settlement with new houses, well-laid streets, electric lighting, a beautiful park, a civic center, a communal bath, and no fewer than six modern schools. Using his financial resources and unwavering vision, he began draining the marshes by constructing an 8-meter-wide canal linked to another 12-meter-wide and 12-kilometer-long canal. This system collected rainwater and snowmelt, making the area drier and safer. Roads within the village and those connecting it to neighboring villages were raised and paved; bridges and culverts were built, facilitating access and connectivity for the entire community. But Teodor Costescu didn’t stop there. He fought for the residents of Vânjuleț to obtain agricultural land and plots for houses. Additionally, he established a brass band composed of 30 villagers, thus bringing musical art to his community. Perhaps his most significant contribution was in the field of education. In place of a modest school where, in 1934, a priest taught just 17 students, Teodor Costescu built no fewer than six large and modern schools, equipped with terracotta stoves. These schools employed an impressive 33 teachers and instructors, educating no less than 664 students. This transformation made education a central pillar of the local community. Just a few weeks before his death, Teodor Costescu made one final gift to his community: he constructed a hospital for childbirth and child care. The model village of Vânjuleț received an honorable visit from King Carol II in 1934. On this occasion, the king signed a special decree awarding Teodor Costescu the “For Merit” Medal, a very rare distinction. This was the second royal medal received by this local hero, the first having been awarded by Carol I in 1890. Through dedication and vision, Teodor Costescu shaped the destiny of this place and became an example of a community leader for future generations.

In Tigveni, Argeș, from 1938 to 1940, Gabriel Marinescu, the son of the teacher Marin Marinescu, modernized the village center by providing it with electricity from a power plant with two diesel engines. He built a mill and a water tower, installed water pumps on sidewalks equipped with trenches and culverts for drainage, cemented base fences, a communal bath, and twelve standard houses, transforming the locality into a model village.

In Topoloveni, Argeș, in 1938, Ion Mihalache inaugurated a series of edifices as a result of the cooperative movement he had initiated. These included the construction of the Cârcinov Market with a hotel and restaurant, a meat and fish market, ice cream parlors, shops, a village museum, and an exhibition, as well as paving, sewerage, and water supply. The project also featured a dispensary, public bath, electric lighting, a park, a sports field, a girls’ school with dependencies, the renovation of the Federal Hall’s auditorium, and the completion of cellars with tanks and installations. A band was formed and cooperative festivities concluded with a stadium meal and dancing in the park.

In Dioști, Dolj, a prosperous village in the former Romanați County, a fire broke out on April 1, 1938, when only children and the elderly remained in the village as the adults were working in the fields. In the dry conditions caused by the south wind, a child started a fire with embers near a straw barn. In less than half an hour, the fire had spread to dozens of households and annexes. Twenty-eight houses and various outbuildings were completely destroyed out of a total of 115 households. Five days after the fire, King Carol II visited the village, promising assistance for rebuilding the houses. Dimitrie Gusti, the leader of the sociological school in Bucharest, proposed systematic reconstruction and transformation into a model village. The idea of a model village had been introduced in the 19th century by Bogdan Petriceicu Hașdeu and further developed by sociologists in Bucharest. The project was placed under the direction of Gheorghe Focșa, who lived there between 1938 and 1939. In addition to erecting houses according to standard plans, extensive work was carried out, from renovating old roads to laying out new ones, sewage systems, and electrification through the construction of a local power plant. A modern section was built north of the village center, and a civic center connecting the two areas was constructed, housing public institutions such as the town hall, school, church, gendarmerie, cultural center, post office, and dispensary. Based on studies conducted, three types of households were established. Typically, a household had between 3,000 and 3,300 square meters and included a house, stable, outbuildings for agricultural machinery, a warehouse, flower garden, vegetable garden, and orchard. The works in Dioști were completed in 1940, at great cost but with the satisfaction of presenting a development ideal to the Romanian rural world.

In 1941, three days of torrential rain created a log accumulation reservoir from a timber exploitation in the Argeș River. The accumulated and downstream released waters destroyed parts of the Căpățâneni village, and bridges, railways, and roads were severely affected. At the order of the Vice President of the Council of Ministers, Mihai Antonescu, and under the effective leadership of Constantin C. Popescu, immediate efforts were made to rebuild the flood-affected areas. Working from morning till night, a pioneer platoon from Craiova restored traffic between Oești and Corbeni, constructing new paths and bridges. Subsequently, the reconstruction of the affected railway and roads commenced. For house rebuilding, previous experiences from the construction of model villages were utilized. The project envisioned three types of houses, sized according to family needs. In the civic center, several public units were planned thematically: an administrative group comprising the town hall, tax administration, gendarmerie, cooperative, and popular bank, and a medical group consisting of public baths, a school canteen, a kindergarten, a pharmacy, a dental office, and a hospital. A cultural center with a theater/assembly hall, housing a local museum and a bookstore, completed the list of public institutions. Tourism development was considered through the establishment of an inn, while economic development was stimulated by the construction of shops, bakeries, groceries, butcher shops, artisan workshops (pottery, blacksmithing, carpentry), and a cheese factory. Additionally, a stadium and a swimming pool were included in the project. The church and the fire station built at the top of the village completed the image of the model village in northern Argeș. Plans included the introduction of drinking water, sewerage, and electricity, as well as the construction of a viaduct over the Argeș River to connect with the old village. Land plots for household construction were sized at around 2,000 square meters. Final allocation of residences occurred after three years, provided certain conditions were met: bringing and raising pedigree domestic animals, furnishing houses in a rustic style according to administration-established models, cultivating land with selected vegetables and trees. The construction site began its activities on May 20, 1942, and by the end of October 1942, 16 out of the 37 planned buildings had been erected, and 6,000 trees had been planted. Work resumed vigorously in March 1943, and on October 17 of the same year, the official inauguration took place. In 1944, work continued on unfinished buildings, but as the front situation grew increasingly dire, and financing became harder to secure, one of Constantin C. Popescu’s concerns was to find a legal formula to protect this locality and ensure its future development. He initiated efforts to transfer the constructions to the prefecture’s ownership. In Corbeni, some of the buildings erected in the 1940s still exist today. The houses were purchased by former tenants, doctors, teachers, and civil servants. Some began efforts to document and publicize the fascinating history of the village, aiming to transform the area into a reserve of Romania