Design the public space on top of the parking in Piata Universitatii
Specialist in the restoration of historical monuments: Irina Criveanu; Plot area: 4,721sqm; Year: 2011
Universitatii Square is the space with the most chances to become a representative urban square for Bucharest due to the relation with an important building, the history of the place (placed on the ruins of Saint Sava Monastery and the Royal Academy), the pedestrian space, the urban connectivity, the proximity of the old town center and the social and cultural symbolism.
University Square is designed as an urban salon with no useless objects, ready to meet its visitors, with the statues as central attraction points. These become ordering elements placed at the intersection of the structural axes, but also meeting and resting spaces.
Which is the representative square for Bucharest?
The heterogeneous social structure, the predominant seasonal trade, the fragile administration have generated an organic tissue and haven’t created coherent public spaces. Only after the mid-nineteenth century the social and state organization, the coagulation of civic life, the population growth and economic forces have led to the development of urban concerns and concrete actions on urban structure. Boulevards have been built, the streetscape has been regularized and public spaces began to spruce in the middle of the crossings. This when the squares on the East-West boulevard appear: Pache, Rosetti, Kogalniceanu as well as the ones on the North-South axes: Arch of Triumph, Victoriei, Romana, the crossing from the University. On Calea Victoriei are created pockets of urban space, plazas in front of public buildings: The Athenaeum, The Royal Palace, The Council of Ministers, The Odeon Theatre, The Military Circle. In front of the Royal Palace an urban major failure occurs: the intent to create a representative Royal Square leads to massive demolitions and dismantle the coherent urban space created before. There isn’t however time for reconstruction. After the Great War, the North-South axis extends to Scanteii Square, the square at the Palace Hall is organized and the new East-West axis named Victoria Socialismului (Socialism Victory) is configured along with Constitutiei, Unirii and Alba Iulia Squares. These are actually green spaces or big street crossings from which the public life is excluded. Being designed on the border between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and in the socialist period when the pedestrian and auto traffic could coexist, the city squares were invaded by contemporary traffic, became public transport interchange spaces and pedestrian space remained purely utilitarian. These sqaures are now just big and busy intersections. Apart from the major squares of the city, the University Square is the only one adjacent to a major traffic route.
The representative squares of a city, of a Capital, gain their importance and significance from the surrounding buildings of fundamental institutions of the State:
– The Cathedral – chosen site and architectural solution are peripheral.
– The Royal Palace – a failed project; the square can no longer have the necessary magnitude, major traffic.
– The Presidency – the palace is located amidst a fenced park, peripheral location.
– The Parliament – based now in People’s House which has a negative symbolism and is also fenced, major traffic, parking, lack of connectivity with the rest of the town.
– The Government – placed in a large intersection and fenced.
– The City Hall – located right across a major park, major traffic
– The National Theatre – the first design was never rebuilt and the present building has a questionable architecture and has a park in front of it.
– The Opera – relatively new building, with a park in front of it, peripheral location.
– The Train Station – collective housing functionalist buildings on two sides and a park in the middle, lack of connectivity.
The only buildings that generated quality public spaces are the Athenaeum (unfortunately the interwar demolitions unbalanced the space) and the University.
Quaestion: From the following areas/squares/boulevards which one is the most representative for downtown Bucharest?
For more than a quarter of the respondents, The University square is the main symbolic center of Bucharest. This is due to the fact that compared to all the others, the square is an important place for social memory with civil nature, being the only place for spontaneous manifestations in the Capital. All the other space, although loaded with political, historical or commercial symbols failed to assimilate sufficient social symbolism.
Sociological study conducted by SNSPA in 2011
The fragility of the monument. The mobile monument.
The statues that were destroyed by the communist regime after 1948 were the ones of the kings of Romania, the important political personalities from the beginning of the century and some memorials. Only a few of them have been rebuilt, many times on another place and mostly losing their artistic and symbolic value. A characteristic of the public monuments is thus precarity and the proviso of their site. An example is the statue of Lupa Capitolina, a gift from Rome dating from 1906: initially was placed in Saint George Square, at the entrance on Lipscani Street, moved in 1931 on Mitropoliei Hill, then moved in 1956 in Dorobantilor Square, the moved in 1997 in Romana Square and finally replaced at its initial place in 2010. A 100 years journey illustrating the idea of monument relativity.
The only coherent group of statues is the one from University Square, the alignment of the four statues supporting the axis of University building and giving rhythm to the long side of the space. Taking as pivot the statue of Mihai Viteazul, the other statues have varied their location over half of century, in 1936 finding their final optimal position.
Public monuments in Bucharest
Statues of medieval personalities – are generally grouped into the old town and positioned next to churches – Mitropoliei Hill, Saint George Church. The statue of Mihail Cantacuzino (1865, sculptor Carl Storck) was the first statue erected in Bucharest, being located on the axis of Coltea Hospital. The statue of Mihai Viteazul (1874, sculptor Carrier Beleusse) was the second and the first equestrian, located in the axis of University. The two buildings were, in their time, the most important buildings in Bucharest.
The Romania’s kings statues – Charles I (1939, sculptor Ivan Mestrovici) and Ferdinand (1940, sculptor Ivan Mestrovici) are on Calea Victoriei / Victoriei Square and are the only equestrian statues outside the one of Mihai Viteazul. There are the statues of the ones that unified the country. Calea Victoriei, one of the oldest and most important streets of the city, which is also the place for the Royal Palace, thus becomes a Way of Kings.
The statues of the other two kings, Charles II and Michael should be placed also on Calea Victoriei to strengthen the symbolic axis which is closed to the north by the Arch of Triumph and who should receive a counterpoint in the south end.
The statues of political personalities from the beginning of the century, the creators of modern Romania, are found mostly in the area between University Square and Romana Square. They support and open new axes, the city boulevards and plazas that are located there usually wearing their name. These statues were placed to coordinate coherent urban development and architecture of the buildings.
On the East-West axis we find Mihail Kogalniceanu, Ion Br?tianu, CA Rosetti, Pake Protopopescu and on the North-South axis Lascar Catargiu, Take Ionescu, Alexandru Lahovary, Barbu Catargi.
The statues are usually authored by French sculptors (Antonin Mercie, Ernest Dubois), Germans (Wladimir Hegel) and Romanians (Carol Storck, Oscar Han etc).
The statues of cultural personalities are placed in general in relation to important cultural buildings (University, Athenaeum, Opera). Their number is small and their impact area is low – the statues of Mihai Eminescu, George Enescu, IL Caragiale are placed among green squares.
A remarkable exception is the statues of scholars IH Radulescu, Gheorghe Lazar, and Spiru Haret located in University Square.
Memorials usually erected in memory of the heroes in the First World War are grouped adjacent to the central area, in the west and north (air heroes). Monuments to the heroes of the Revolution in 1989, often of incoherent style, are grouped in the center.
The statues of foreign personalities – politicians or cultural personalities – are clustered north of the city, where most of the embassies are located.
Other significant monuments (Arch of Triumph, Lupa Capitolina, Kilometer Zero) are placed mainly on the north-south axis of the city.
In this analysis we didn’t include the monuments located in the parks (Cismigiu, Harastrau) and those in the fenced yard of institutions (Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Army Museum, Romanian Academy, churches, cemeteries), decorative statues, fountains, carvings etc..