“A rich city is one in which all or most of the eras have left their mark.”

PressOne is the media partner of Architectural competition that will bring to Yash an architectural collection designed by an international firm. This series of articles is supported by the Iulius Group, in their desire to provide as much transparency as possible regarding this process.

Romania has finally come out of the period when the city center was either ignored or just colored and patched. It is entering another phase, in which bold projects emerge, but they also come with a risk: if not implemented properly, they risk further damage to the urban fabric, thus being sold off through repeated and distorting interventions during communism and transition.

I often write to PressOne about urban renewal projects coming up for public debate, so I can’t miss the opportunity to discuss the project prepared for the Iași Centre: an international architectural competition in which some of the most important architecture offices have been announced to be participating. Globally relevant: Foster + PartnersAnd the MVRDVAnd the UNStudio And the Zaha Hadid Architects.

For starters, it suffices to mention some of the projects that these offices have already offered: the Apple headquarters, the transformation of the Reichstag building in Berlin, the National Museum of XXI Century Art in Rome, Arnhem Central Station, Markthal Rotterdam – the list is truly amazing.

What should these companies look for in Iasi? I was invited by the Iulius Group to come up with an architectural solution for the St. Andrew district – the square of the Palace of Culture, which respects both the history of the city and the development needs.

It is only a stage in a long process that involved the consultation of the local community, but also the creation of a jury that included historian Cătălin Turliuc and architects Șerban Țigănaș, Augustin Ioan, Dragoș Ciolacu, Mihai Corneliu Drișcu and Matei Bogoescu.

The solutions proposed by the international offices will be presented to the public at the Palace of Culture in Iasi, between June 30 and July 14, 2022, and the architects who worked on them will present their vision at a specialized conference, to be held on June 30, also at the Palace of Culture.

We tried to find out from Augustin Ioan, Architect and Professor at Ion Mincu University of Architecture in Bucharest and jury member of the International Architecture Competition, what are the expectations from this competition. We will then obtain information from each of the respective architectural offices, and then attempt to cover in full the details of the project that will be decided the winner, following the presentation at the end of June 2022.

Architect Augustin Ewan

What is the architectural heritage of Iashi? What are the historical and architectural layers on which the city is now built?

This is a difficult question. It is clear that there are important buildings, on a national level, from all the historical eras of the city, but there are also intentions to radically rewrite, certainly the state of the Palace of Culture and an important part of the architecture of the communist period.

The coexistence of heritage buildings from different periods is a very important feature of the centre. And it is not necessarily a question of scale: the Dosoftei house seems to me more important than the cathedral, and is now more interesting, together with the support works and spaces obtained with the two bodies surrounding the main entrance, GM Cantacuzino, than it was originally.

Palace of Culture, Yash. Photo: Adrian Mihălțianu

In addition, Iai has what other cities in Romania do not have: starch We tell him today, it’s a work by Gustave Eiffel (Grand Traian Hotel). It is hoped that after architecture’s ongoing international competition with guests, it will also acquire a prestigious signature collection and set the tone for a radical renewal of the way it has been designed and built in the country.

How do we build contemporary architecture with respect and gratitude for the past, where it is not just a footnote, but the essential element from which to start?

There is no single answer to this question, but fortunately there is an infinite number of answers. Certainly, preventing development, in the name of an already established reality, is not one of these solutions, just as demolishing the old and replacing it with architectures inferior to the pre-existing is neither legitimate nor desirable, although it is practiced in our country.

Dosoftei House, with Church of Saint Nicholas Prince and Hotel Moldova in the background. Photo: Adrian Mihălțianu

From appropriating the elements of scale and formal vocabulary to the background against which the star monument is designed and from the old and new joint presence in/in the same building, all approaches have been proposed, with varying degrees of success. A rich city is one in which all or most of the ages have left important marks.

The only international architecture competition with the participation of prestigious offices around the world is currently taking place in Iaşi, and you are one of the jury members. What are the challenges of this site and why did the contest promoter feel the need for a solution from the outside?

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I accepted the invitation precisely because the investor took this risk by holding an international competition. I have been writing about the architecture competition for the past twenty-five years, and when you have the opportunity to be a part of exactly what you preach, you cannot decline the invitation, on the contrary, you have to do everything in your power to make the experiment a success.

If this first example works, I think other developers will have the courage to take a similar step, even if it’s a competition with guests from country only, or an open national/international competition.

As a member of the jury, I have the same expectations as the other colleagues involved: to find a perfect and exemplary solution to high site problems.

What kind of development should the residents of Iasi in St. Andrew’s region expect? What are the criteria offered to contestants and how is community opinion integrated?

I must insist that the topic includes, of course, the requirements of the developer, without which this competition would not have existed, but is primarily driven by the social relationship of the whole that will be proposed there.

Balas Band, Yash. Photo: Adrian Mihălțianu

It is not just a matter of aesthetics, although it is also necessary. The way in which the subject demands that the proposed ensemble be positioned in relation to the adjacent features, with the very complex urban site, with the multiple public functions required – all this wants to result in a building that fundamentally increases the quality of public spaces from the area from the urban ground floor (Although there are two different ground floors due to the corniche, one at the level of the Palace of Culture square and the other in the Pahlavi direction).

The theme incorporates requirements that were formulated, through various public consultations, by civil society that wanted to be part of the process.

Obviously it shouldn’t be a very tall building or a building that overshadows heritage buildings, but it shouldn’t be boring either, but it should be a future heritage element; It should not compete with the Palace of Culture, but rather be in a dialogue.

It’s also complicated because the world is very attentive to what’s going on there, not just the world in Yash.

It is a signal that will set other priorities, create, and change for another generation the national architectural discourse in Iaşi if it is successful.

Far from the architects’ vision, why does it take for a building to become a true icon, to become a cultural landmark?

Adoption by the community is a mystery, and the quality of architecture is clearly one of the criteria, although not the only one.

I think the social significance of the intervention, there/then, plays a role, and the way it responds to collective needs, perhaps only suspected, but not yet formulated, prior to the emergence of the intervention in question.

It is important to be part of the collective will of a society that wants to assert itself even through representative buildings.

Iasi was not lacking in brutalist interventions in the urban fabric, the buildings not yet incorporated into the architectural details of the city. Photo: Adrian Mihălțianu

Do you think this international competition is the best solution?

Who is the best designer: someone from the place, feel and understand or someone from the outside? We are stuck and then we need an outside look. We don’t necessarily need better architects, but we do need people from a completely different professional and technological culture. It’s such a complex solution that we all have high expectations for future proposals.

Competition is not always equal to solution. I believe that the outcome of the competition as well as the discussions that will follow during the lengthy approval process will lead to a solution.

The people of Yash should demand as much as possible from those who do real estate development, and in general we should all demand it.. Because it is a difficult location, Iaşi residents may start to get answers to questions they haven’t asked yet.

The four companies participating in the competition represent four of the most important trends in global architecture. In the top ten, they will definitely appear in it. The contest, however, is just the beginning. Work on the proposed solution will continue, but will be subject to changes in the approval process.

Do you have a message for the people of Yash?

Give this object a chance to add and update, because surely with this distinctive combination Iași cuts its tail and sits in the foreground. This opportunity calls into question what kind of pact was made and not respected. It is the cultural capital of Iai Romania. It is a gain that the city can make and it will change the not very happy relationship that connects public space with real estate development. The city has a chance to come out of its slumber, and Romania is gaining world-class architecture.

The Iași Pentru Viitor platform, launched by IULIUS on the occasion of this initiative, invites visitors to discover two sections, “Iași Today”, which showcases some of the architectural icons that can be admired in the city, and “Iași Tomorrow”, presenting an international architecture competition with guests to design a project new.

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