Page 1

a dis cov throu ery journ ey gh m coun y own try

bedford scholarship proposal 2017 west yorkshire society of architects

a post-communist romania

by catalina-elena ionita

romania in 5 chapters


chapter 1 / proposal


‘The Exile’ was an emotional, affecting phenomenon which described the inside of the architectural word of Romania during the Communist Regime. The central theme of this heart-rending period was the political-ideological intention of creating a new image of the country. ‘The Exile’ with its sufferings, nostalgia and hardship made the Romanian architects and architecture students experience an enclosed, uncreative environment which inhibited their imagination and architectural visions. They were captive inside their own minds as none of their creative ideas could be expressed in the real life. ‘The Exile’ was seen as a refuge, as a chance for the young Romanian architects to escape into a space where they could evolve and experiment with new ideas, an environment where they could find themselves. The purpose of this work is to explore the visions of representative Romanian architects and their different manners of experiencing this exile, both inside and outside the country. It is a work of contrasts and juxtapositions, an

understanding of how this period might have been perceived and furthermore experienced. Most importantly, this proposal aims to highlight how the architectural output in Romania has changed since Communism as a result of the changed education and different ways of teaching architecture. The proposal seeks to investigate the current situation in Romania, get insights from the architecture students and architects through interviews and field trip observations and to understand how this profession has evolved during the past post-Communism 28 years. Also, as a Romanian architecture student who studies and practices abroad, my understanding of architecture and how an architect should aim to be like is different from what it would be if I would study in my own country. As such, the proposal aims to relate to current architecture students in Romania and investigate the way in which they understand their profession, how the course is taught and what they imagine their careers will be like after they graduate.

This is a very personal project for me as it will be based in my home country. It will be an insight for me as well as for the future potential readers of the report.

Image from 1989 Romanian Revolution against Communism ‘Our children will be free’

Leaving Romania in 2011 to study architecture at the University of Huddersfield has given me a new perspective on the world and on what sort of architect I want to be. As I have progressed through my degree, I realised how diverse the environment is and I was completely astonished by the amount of information around me. It was fascinating and invigorating to see so much enthusiasm about architecture and what it means in today’s society. There is one question I always ask myself: ‘What would I be like if I stayed in Romania?’

Image from 1989 Romanian Revolution against Communism Tension amongst the Romanian folk

It’s something that comes to my mind every time I go home to visit my family, every time I talk to my friends who didn’t have the same opportunities as me to study abroad and every time I walk around the concrete blocks that were a home to me once. It is an emotional regret that I am experiencing in some ways as I realise that whenever I go back I feel like a stranger in my own country. As such, I looked at this proposal as

an opportunity for me as not only an architecture student who tries to get the chance to analyse and understand Romanian architecture but as a young Romanian who wants to keep her origins alive. In today’s uncertain context where Brexit will define the future of individuals like myself, this proposal could potentially become a driver in my career to start considering going back home and practicing architecture in Romania in the future. It has informed me on how architecture is taught and how nowadays architects understand the profession. It has been an opportunity to test if I can re-adapt to the world I left behind when I left 6 years ago.



present / FUTURE

the moment I realised I am growing up

2011 / ARRIVED IN THE UK enthusiastic full of hopes

2011 - 2014 / STUDIED ARCHITECTURE AT UNI OF HUDDERSFIELD learned that this is what I want to do as a profession made my best friends

what do I do after Brexit?


2015 - 2018 / MARCH @ SHU balanced an academic / work life where I study and work in a practice at the same time Thought that would be easy, right?!

2014 - present / WORKED AT WHITTAM COX ARCHITECTS understood the depths of real life practice

What if..?

Bedford Scholarship had the agency to create an opportunity for me to go back to my home country and not only analyse and understand Romanian architecture, but reinforce my roots and origins. It has become a platform for not only discovering my own roots, but ultimately, researching into a very sensitive, yet fascinating subject: Communism and its legacy.

Roots of Transformation (

chapter 2 / context


A legacy that defines nowadays Romanian landscape


In 1981 Ceausescu began an austerity program designed to enable Romania to liquidate its entire national debt ($10 billion). To achieve this, many basic goods—including gas, heat and food—were rationed, which drastically reduced the standard of living and increased malnutrition. The infant mortality rate also grew to be the highest in Europe. The secret police also known as Securitate had become so omnipresent that it made Romania essentially a police state. Free speech was limited and opinions that did not favour the Communist Party were forbidden. The large numbers of Securitate informers made organised dissent nearly impossible. The regime deliberately played on this sense that everyone was being watched to make it easier to bend the people to the Party’s will. Even by Soviet-bloc standards, the Securitate was exceptionally brutal. (Wikipedia, 2017) Ceausescu created a cult of personality, with weekly shows in stadiums or on streets in different cities dedicated to him, his wife and the Communist Party. There were several megalomaniac projects,

such as the construction of the grandiose House of the People (today the Palace of the Parliament)—the biggest palace in the world—the adjacent Civic Centre and a nevercompleted museum dedicated to communism and Ceausescu, today the Casa Radio. These and similar projects drained the country’s finances and aggravated the already dire economic situation. Thousands of Bucharest residents were evicted from their homes, which were subsequently demolished to make room for the huge structures. Nowadays Romania looks like a showroom of vast Brutalist objects scattered across the country. They are live memories of the regime and the life people used to have during Communism.

House of the People, largest administrative building in the world

Nicolae Ceausescu, the Communist Dictator during a public speech


The Romanian Revolution was a period of violent civil unrest in Romania in December 1989 and part of the revolutions of 1989 that occurred in several countries. The Romanian Revolution started in the city of Timisoara and soon spread throughout the country, ultimately culminating in the show trial and execution of long-time Communist leader Nicolae Ceausescu, and the end of 42 years of Communist rule in Romania. I feel emotionally attached to this culminating moment in the history of my country because it marked in vivid imagery the stories I used to hear as a child from my parents and grandparents. I remember my father telling me how he used to attend secret meetings where people were planning the revolution. I remember his expression when he was talking about these moments, his eyes big and a long, lost look...he was a different person. I remember I was scarred as the Revolution didn’t bring exactly salvation. The country was trying to find a way to go further.

1989 Romanian Revolution

Image from 1989 Romanian Revolution against Communism


As such, even though I am post-Communist born (1992), I feel that it took a long time for people to recover after the regime. Most people have lost their jobs.

Although difficult at times, the construction firm my family owns at the moment is doing pretty well. This has allowed my father to return home after many years of being apart.

I remember when my parents both lost their jobs around 1996. It was a really hard time for us as a family. We moved in with the grandparents and we were relying on the piece of land they owned. We grew food and we had 20 chickens and a pig. I used to go to the hen barn every morning with my grandmother to collect the eggs. It was the happiest moment of my day; I still remember the excitement of finding the eggs in the hay.

And as sad as it may seem, some people have never recovered.

Many people immigrated in the hope of a better life. My father emigrated illegally when I was 4. He went to Italy. He came to visit the first time after almost 2 years as he couldn’t get legal paperwork sooner. Those were the worst years of my life. He continued working in Italy for 13 years while my Mum and I steadily made a life for ourselves home. With the money my father was making abroad my mother started a business in Romania.

So, with this proposal I am interested in this particular part of Romania’s history as, through the realisation of numerous architectural examples, the intention was to manifest power, intimate fear of the state and inhibit the population. I am interested on the present situation and how we can re-purpose these monumental stones of Communist power which have once acted against the people of the country. As such, I have selected a representative example to be explored as part of the proposal brief.

People queueing for food and gas cylinders in Communist Romania

House of the People / Palace of the Parliament

chapter 3 / social housing


After WWII, a great housing crisis hit the country. Panaitescu (2012) states that this happened because of several different issues, different from other European countries such as Germany, USSR, or Poland (Panaitescu, 2012). He says that Romania was not hugely affected by the destructions of war but the increasing industrialization resulted in a massive migration from rural to urban areas (Panaitescu, 2012). In the first part of the new regime, between 1945 and 1969, private owners built 80% of the housing (NIS, 2010). Drazin (2005) indicates that this was contrary to the aim of the communist party (Drazin ,2005). He suggests that the communist ideology was against the expression of individualism which is linked with owning a home and thus, any official construction of individual housing was discouraged and even banned in the cities Drazin (2005). The actions of the communist government also support this idea. From 1970 until 1989, the state constructed 84% of all the new housing (Soaita, 2014). Many of the projects were massive collective housing blocks of flats that still stand today. Additionally, at the

beginning of the regime many private housing owners, especially the former bourgeoisie, were forced to give their properties to the state to be redistributed by the government (Soaita, 2014). Iacoboaea (2006) suggests that because the state owned all the housing developments, economic efficiency was the rule and not affordability which would mean balancing needs, quality and efficiency (Iacoboaea, 2006). She implies that this was proved by the small sizes of most of the apartments and the use of the same project typology all over the country in order to lower the costs (Iacoboaea, 2006). Vîrdol et al (2015) also states: “The fever of economies at the beginning of the years 1980 also affected the sector of housing, construction standards and costs of housing erected by the state, being modified. […] It was encouraged the valorisation of all areas” (Vîrdol et al, 2014, p.214). This resulted in low quality apartments and a division of space of just 8 to 10 square meters per person (Soaita, 2014). The space was less than 1/3 of the developed

‘Communist blocks cost a fortune’. (Agerpres, n.d)

countries that had around 35 square meters per person (UN, 1996). Despite the aggressive attitude of the communists against private housing, a limited number of unofficial, small, and poor quality dwellings were still built by low income families at the outskirts of the cities and in the rural areas, even after 1970 (Panaitescu, 2012). In the 1970s there were some attempts by the Romanian architects to design better housing which would allow the users to reorganize the space after the apartments were built, despite the strict laws and regulations (Panaitescu, 2012). These types of initiatives may suggest that the ideas of individualism and ownership did not disappear from the Romanian society during the communist regime. The housing crisis attenuated by the mid1970 but another one started in 1980 and the harsh construction regulations became even worse (Panaitescu, 2012). In the 1980s, the regime was building around 141.000 apartments each year which was close to the average of other European countries (Dan,2003). Dan (2003) points out the aim of the communist party was to move most of the population in the cities and by the 1990 to have 90% of the

inhabitants in apartment blocks (Dan, 2003). The communist constitution established that every Romanian should have adequate housing and had to be provided by the government (Tsenkova, 2014). This could be interpreted as a measure to build affordable housing for the majority of the population but Dan (2003) describes the government actions as “bribing the citizens for their obedience� (2003, p.15). Therefore, it could be said that through the housing provision, the government was trying to control the population. The reality, as the research shows, was that what the regime considered adequate was a low standard of quality and small spaces (Soaita, 2014). These actions have had impacts that are still seen today and some of them are, overcrowding, lack of basic utilities, and an excess of housing that cannot be used (Soaita, 2014).

Communist blocks (,2014)

Information gathered with the support of Laurentiu Popa, Romanian architecture graduate of The University of Huddersfield, Class of 2017. Dissertation: Affordable Housing after Communism: Affordable housing for young adults in Ploiesti, Romania



from 1000 applications for social housing, only 165 are solved


6mil Romanian use less than 8sqm of space compared to the 38 sqm EU average

In Romania, the term affordable housing is not a separate topic to social housing. It does not appear in the government official policies and there are not income thresholds relating to what the affordable housing costs should be. According to the National Housing Agency, there are programmes that deal with specific groups of people such as housing for young adults, young specialists or the Roma communities but they are not defined or included in affordable housing schemes but rather additional social programmes (NHA, 2016).The state owns the entire social housing and is just 2.3% of the housing stock (Valceanu & Suditu, 2015). It is the lowest in the European Union and far from the amount available in more developed countries such as UK, France, or Austria where they range from 10% to 30% (Housing Europe, 2015). This may indicate a certain issue that is contextual to Romania. The Romanian government defines social housing, in the Housing Law no. 114/1996 as a dwelling that is assigned by the state to an individual or a household that cannot afford the costs of owning or renting a home (MDRAP, 2016). The social houses are rented by their occupiers who receive financial help

from the state (MDRAP, 2016). The rent is much lower than the market value and is calculated at 10% of the yearly household income, and paid monthly (MDRAP, 2016). Local authorities manage all social homes (MDRAP, 2016). A study from 2005 shows that, in Romania, from 1000 applications for social housing, only 165 are solved. (Constantinescu and Dan, 2005). In Romania, only 2.5% of the population rents subsidized homes, whereas, in the EU the average is around 17% (Constantinescu and Dan, 2005). This results in almost 85% of unresolved cases and shows an inefficiency of the local authorities in dealing with this issue. Local authorities are the only investors in social housing in Romania (MDRAP, 2016). This is also the case for other European countries such as Bulgaria, Hungary, Slovakia, Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia (Tsenkova & Polanska, 2014). All these countries have similar historical context, especially the fact that communist regimes ruled them until 1990 (Tsenkova and Polanska, 2014). This indicates that the way the communist regimes dealt with housing, may have influenced the local authorities in having monopoly over the social

Activism in front of the ANL blocks (Ziarul de Roman, 2018)

housing. This is contrary to other countries from Europe with different historical contexts. For example, the Housing Europe Report from 2007 shows that in western European countries, in the 20th century, because of urbanization and changes in the industries, private investors were the main developers of social housing (Housing Europe, 2007). The report indicates that companies and charities tried to provide housing to a large mobile population of workers (Housing Europe, 2007). Habitat for Humanity 2015 study shows that today, there is an increasing number of public-private partnership models related to affordable housing all around the world (Habitat, 2015). These providers are nonprofit or minimum profit associations that use a different mix of financing methods, such as subsidies, the private market and funds or guaranteed loans (Habitat, 2015). In Romania, there are not any public-private investments in affordable or social housing (Habitat, 2015). In conclusion, the housing situation now in Romania is in a crisis that affects young adults. Lack of housing and bad quality

housing affect the user’s health and development. There are present and past factors that accentuate this crisis, such as: the rising prices of homes and the communist large accommodation stock. Some of the major findings are: •

The costs related to housing are increasing and 15.1% of Romanians are overburdened, which is higher than the European average.

There are around 10 million Romanians that live in overcrowded conditions, the highest percentage in the EU. There are more than one million unusable dwellings in Romania, due to low quality. Six million people use less than 8 m2 of space compared to the 38 m2 EU average.

Severe house deprivation is the worst in the EU and only 66.7% of homes have running water

The rising house prices have made it more difficult for young adults to buy a home and they have a small share of the housing stock, 12%

The local authorities are inefficient in providing social housing, with 85% of applicants not receiving one. There are not any private investments in affordable or social housing.

Information gathered with the support of Laurentiu Popa, Romanian architecture graduate of The University of Huddersfield, Class of 2017. Dissertation: Affordable Housing after Communism: Affordable housing for young adults in Ploiesti, Romania

chapter 4 / interviews

A crucial part of the research was informed by the interviews organised during the scholarship trip to Romania. There interviews have revealed aspects of how architecture is taught and professed in post-communist Romania. The entire proposal aims to present ‘the Exile’ as it was perceived by architects and their experiences. The regime had an impact on their lives and it could never be forgotten. At the same time, it made them better people and better architects. The motivation that they have consistently developed made them some of the most affluent Romanian architects of all times, names that will always remain in the Romanian national history. These encounters have helped me understand how would my life would be if I decide to move back home. They have portrayed Romania as a place where architecture is starting to make a difference - it’s finally recovering after all the hard times the Romanian folk have lived.

Diana Vasii, Director of Compass Arhitectura

Viorel Mahu, Professor of Architecture


Cristian Leu, Design Studio Leader at ‘Carmen Sylva’ Architecture College

de-a arhitectura organisation that introduces architecture to young children


Serban Tiganas, Head of OAR (equivalent of ARB)

Mioara & Mihai Radulescu


Viorel-Adrian Mahu Interview Transcription September 2017 A: interviewer (Catalina Elena Ionita) B: interviewee (Viorel-Adrian Mahu) A: What can you tell us about the experience of studying architecture under a socialist regime? B: Since the beginning, it must be clearly said that this entire process, anti-cultural in its essence, could only be achieved with the support of people from the interior of the certain fields (literature, fine arts, music or architecture). While studying, the overall intention was to control our minds and make us think the socialist ideology was the response to every question we had. We weren’t allowed to think outside this box, otherwise we would seem rebels against the regime and its principles. Our creativity was stopped. I felt frustrated and I was disappointed that my dream career is not as I have imagine it. A: What were the frustrating aspects about

being a student in that period? Every journal and book talks about a certain admission method the University of Architecture had. Could you describe that? B: The most frustrating aspect, I must say, it was the admission measures that the University of Architecture took. The majority of the students’ places, almost 80%, were reserved to candidates with “healthy social origins”. These candidates came from affluent families, with a socialist background. Also, very often, colleagues of mine were expelled from the University under the pretext they were supporters of The Anti-communist Revolution from Hungary or were part of different anti-socialist groups. A: What about the moment of graduation? How were the placements at that time? Did you choose where to work? B: Oh, no. It’s wasn’t that easy. After finishing university I was given a job at The Institute of Design in my home-town, Pitesti. It wasn’t a choice. Everyone went where they received a place. The wage was poor. Hard time I must say.

Adrian Mahu Architect (second from the right)(Arhiprofesor’s Blog, 2010)

A: How can you describe the projects you and the architects of the Institute developed that period? Were they engaging? B: I still remember when the lieder yield at me: ‘Do functional architecture, Mahu!’ He always rejected my innovative ideas or any intention of bringing something new to the dull sovietinspired apartment blocks. The functional blocks have become the common language in our practice. Ceausescu officially announced that by 1990, between 90 and 95% of the inhabitants of Bucharest would be housed in apartment buildings. Concomitantly, the height of these buildings was also increasing. I felt very depressed. I was just a simple drawer. I didn’t need Architecture School for that. A: How was the salary? B: We spent 15 hours a day in the office and the wage was still minimal. Some of my colleagues started to sell paintings and little art souvenirs in order to raise some extra money. I’ve started looking for particular jobs outside the Institute. It wasn’t easy. I only had as reference a prize for the Voina Chalet design project, near Campulung Muscel. A: What would you do if you could go back in

time? Would you emigrate? B: Sometimes I think it would have been better if I had left Romania. But I had my dignity. I loved my country and its people, but the system almost killed us. I had to fight all the time. I had an interior exile, that’s for sure; an exile from creativity and expression, from all my aspirations as an architect, from my ideals. A: Trying to focus on more specific examples, what could you tell us about the National Theatre of Bucharest? B: Well, as you probably know, the evolution of the theatre was very intricate and troublesome. After the bombardment, a new theatre was designed by Horia Maicu, but just after its completion, Ceausescu decided to change the overall exterior design of the building, causing some crucial structural and technological problems. He’s vision was to create an entrance portal that would resemble somehow with the old theatre. The most ironic part is that today’s National Theatre is refurbished following the Communist model. Many debates and controversy will occur. A: Thank you very much, Mr. Mahu.

B: It was a pleasure.


Mioara and Transcription




September, 2017 A: interviewer (Catalina Elena Ionita) B: interviewee (Mioara and Mihai Radulescu) A: I know that your architectural experience regarding the Communist period was mainly focused on master plans development and urban strategy. What can you say about this new image of the city? How was this concept perceived by the architects from your Institute? B: Well, numerous architects embraced the idea of a new city form despite of how authentic their linkage to the Communist project and ideology was. In a way, it seemed easier to them to not react and question the new socialist imposed model. Even so, and regardless of architects’ expectations, the model of reconstruction was imposed by Moscow and came together with socialist realism, also known as the new generic method of artistic creation.

A: What can you say about the life of an architect in a Design Institute at that time? B: We were continuously working on master plans development so the dictator would be pleased of the new country’s image. Ceausescu was always very critical when referring to the housing estates’ design and the ‘streets law’ as he often referred to. The microraion was seen as the basis of the complex urban assembly, the new urban structural unit. Unfortunately, Ceausescu tried to annihilate any substance of critical regionalism or genius loci and his ideology totally lacked any connection with real particularities or tradition. A: The result is quite obvious, even nowadays. How do you perceive this unconscious architectural development? B: As you pointed, the effect was harmful in every respect. The new high-rise blocks were placed unconsciously close to the existing ones; irresponsible construction sites destroyed landscaping and flora; the areas designed for public amenities were occupied. A new urban image was created and it has received the status of ‘dormitory town’.

A: At a more theoretical level, this entire period could be analysed as an exile. Did you had the feeling of being exiled in your own country, in your own interior world, with no possibilities of expressing your architectural thinking? B: We lived the Exile here. So many years of control. I wish we had the courage to leave the country. Most of those who survived in Exile acted like Ruxandra Urechia who used to say: ‘When you see that all the doors are closed in front of you, try to open inside yourself, to understand yourself better.’ In many cases the Exile has become a way of initiation, an opportunity to know yourself better, to understand the Romanian spirit better. A: Very poetic, I must say. Thank you very much for your time. B: You’re welcome. It was, indeed, a pleasure.


Serban Tiganas Interview Transcription September 2017 A: interviewer (Catalina Elena Ionita) B: interviewee (Serban Tiganas) A: You are leading one of the country’s most prestigious architecture practices. How would you define the current architecture scene of Romania? B: Well, thank you. It’s been a real hell of a trip to get here but we are proud to say that Dico & Tiganas is one recognisable practice in this country. The post-communist scenery of Romania is in need of development, good development. We can see how, throughout the last 20 years people have started thinking about their country as something that they could contribute to rather than accepting whatever the Dictator was deciding for them. This is particularly exhilarating as it give us, architects, hope for re-shaping our country. A: I understand that alongside running Dico & Tiganas, you are also the head of the Order of Architects Romania (OAR - equivalent of

ARB). I am particularly interested in your view regarding Romanian students who go to university abroad. How easy or difficult is for them to come back and practice here? B: Yes, I have been leading the OAR for a while now and I am happy to say we receive more and more applications for Part 3 coming from Romanian students trained in other countries - mainly within the EU. We believe these candidates will bring something new and good to the Romanian architecture field. As such, we are trying to make the process as easy as possible and not in any way restrictive to the people who got their degree someplace else. For instance, just this summer we have hired at Dico & Tiganas two students who graduated, one in Holland, one in Denmark. We are incredibly happy with their performance and innovative thinking as it offers a new perspective towards the conventional practice thinking. A: This sounds great. I was very worried that having studied in another country it might be difficult to come back and find a place to work. This is quite reassuring. What is the easiest way to get a job in Romania?

B: I would say that most jobs tend to be given through a recommendation, although a close second is taken by the experience of the potential candidate. With a good portfolio showing a variety of works and good recommendations, one could easily get a good job. A: At a more practical level, how well would you say a recent graduate architect is getting paid in Romania? B: I would say one’s experience is critical when discussing this subject. At OAR we have been undertaking a piece of research that has revealed that over 57.8% of the graduates earn somewhere in between 950RON and 1500RON (equivalent of £300) which is not great, really. This is justified by the lack of working experience of the graduates in Romania. As soon as one gets more relevant working experience, their monthly income will increase as well. A: I see. How much would you say a graduate with over 4 years of experience in the UK would earn if she/he decided to come back to Romania?

B: I would say much more than that. Depending on the portfolio and project involvement, one could start with something around 3000RON (equivalent of £600). An experienced architect earns around 5000RON (equivalent of £1000). A: I understand. Thank you for this information. That’s definitely something to think about. B: I’ll send you the OAR research to have a look at the actual numbers - maybe they will be of some assistance. A: That would be great. Thank you very much for all your time. It’s been a real pleasure. B: Pleasure is all mine. If you ever consider moving back, let us know.


the practice of a friend / relative


recommendation of a friend / relative

involvement in conferences and NGO involvement recommendation of a university colleagues

through OAR

networks established through the university placement


unpaid work

I am paying to work there


over 2500 RON

between 950 & 1500 RON between 1500 & 2500 RON


1h live interview about the motivation behind the Bedford Scholarship and my years in the UK


‘If you’re considering a career in architecture, watch this show!’


selfie at ‘John’s Generation’ / a national show with an age target of 16-35

national television interview

John’s Generation Interview September 2017 A: interviewer (John) B: interviewee (Catalina Ionita) Learnings: This has been an unique, fascinating experience from which I haven’t only learned how to smile to the camera when thousands of people are watching, but how to share my passions with the others and try and inspire them though my work. It has been a platform for talking to people about what this proposal means for me and my future as an architect. It has been a way of getting architecture students excited about this initiative and getting them to join me in the second part of the scholarship proposal - the Design Charette.

chapter 5 / design charette

Anthropological experiment at House of the People (febra vietii)

bedford scholarship proposal 2017 west yorkshire society of architects

a dis throu covery gh m y ow journey n cou ntry

OPEN CALL FOR ALL ARCHITECTURE STUDENTS ideas competition for architecture students running over 1 day with a specific briefs for each day group work students in

(3 each

to 5 group)

prizes: awards and for the winning calendar:


a take on a communist landmark 1 day / one landmark


gifts teams 2017

location: carmen sylva college of art, music and architecture judges: carmen sylva’s tutors & catalina ionita and antonio serban

email: for registration



one day ideas competition / re-imagining the greatest Communist landmark of Romania / House of the People (House of Parliament)

With this part of the project, I was particularly interested on the present architectural situation in Romania and how we can re-purpose the monumental stones of Communist power which have once acted against the people of my country.

architecture design charrette

As of 2008, the Palace of the Parliament is valued at $3.4 billion, making it the most expensive administrative building in the world. The cost of heating and electric lighting alone exceeds $6 million per year, as much as a medium-sized city.


The Design Charrette within ‘Ion Mincu’ ‘Carmen Sylva’ Architecture College invited architecture students to brainstorm and free their imagination on a set-up design challenge. It has been an opportunity for them to share thoughts and ideas through imaginative, visual representations that will have as a brief: Romania is 28 years Communism-free, does it feel any different? The Design Charrette will organise the students into groups and for a day they will be asked to suggest exploratory ideas for the aftermath architectural prospects of Romania. The Charrette looked at the re-interpretation of the communist landmark, The House of the People / Palace of the Parliament. In light of the current protests happening in Romania at the moment, the landmark chosen for the Charrette plays a fundamental role. 28 years after the fall of the regime, this building is still used to manifest power. The population still sees this building as

overwhelming force of a dark past that still dominates some parts of our existence. Each group was required to produce, using whatever media they could get their hands on, suggestions for redevelopment of the abovementioned landmark. Existing drawings have be provided together with maps of the site and wider context. There are no preconceptions about the form, media or content of the outcome, beyond those loosely defined in the brief; students were encouraged to be resourceful, to be imaginative and to be enthusiastic. The outcome of the Charrette has been incredible as it revealed the energy and vision Romanian architecture students have in respect to re-imagining their own country.


SECOND PLACE: Alexandra Zamfir, Catalina Persunaru, Claudiu Costache

2nd place

FIRST PLACE: Ioana Ionescu, Stefania Teleru and Ana Vlaiculescu

1st place

1st place


The feedback received for the Design Charrette was incredibly positive and encouraging. It was an amazing opportunity to go back to my home country and see how ‘me - six years ago’ imagines reshaping her country. It was nostalgic as I was walking through the corridors of my school, talking to my tutors and remembering how I felt before moving to the UK. The competition was incredibly well received by both students and tutors and has provided a great opportunity for all of us to share ideas and engage in thought-provoking conversations about the landscape of our country.

future. This would create an opportunity for Romanian students to explore architecture as a collaborative process, where the communist legacy is only a canvas for imagination. The positive feedback and the potential for a future collaboration as a result of the Bedford Scholarship has made me think about also continuing this research as part of a project that before this trip was only a distant dream: ATELIER A C S . As the Bedford Scholarship research has evolved, ATELIER A C S has emerged as a platform for projects and personal explorations in the field of architecture.

I think this was particularly appreciated by the tutors as they saw the spontaneity of the Charrette as a refreshing approach to architecture ateliers.

The outcomes of the Charrette are now documented within the website and the aim is to further continue the development of ATELIER A C S through similar projects such as this one.

As an outcome, ‘Carmen Sylva’ Architecture College has proposed that this project be continued next summer. Other schools of architecture expressed their intention to be part of the project as well. As such, a wider collaboration could be explored in the near

The Bedford Scholarship has been one of the most interesting, yet unexpected experiences of my life - it’s been an opportunity to learn more about my country, to share ideas with students and tutors, and to learn from some of the best practitioners in Romania.

It has been a fantastic opportunity - the kind that makes me realise how much I enjoy what I am doing and what I would like to pursue as a future architect.

bedford scholarship proposal 2017 west yorkshire society of architects

a post-communist romania

by catalina-elena ionita

2017 a post communist romania by catalina elena ionita  
2017 a post communist romania by catalina elena ionita  

Report by 2017 Bedford Scholar, Catalina-Elena Ionita who travelled to Romania to see how it has changed since communism ended and discuss w...