- Andrea Katalin Szabo - arhitect - Dan Damian - arhitect - Alexandru Malaescu - arhitect - Iulia Fratila - arhitect - Ovidiu Micsa - arhitect / fotograf
Situated in Romania’s western most corner, Timisoara is a typical Central European city. It was surrounded by a huge stellar type Vauban fortification endowed with moat. On the XVIII century historical city west side an urban regeneration project, City Business Centre, was finalised recently. It replaced several buildings belonging to a textile industry which was erected in the seventies over the eighteen century Vauban type defense walls foundations. During communism this area became part of the industrial framework of Timisoara, which started with the construction of the Textile Factory and the Civil Engineering High School and after 1990 continued with the building of more and more interventions, public and private buildings, all developed in the absence of a coherent urban planning system or strategy. On the site of the City Business Centre project, following foundation works, a number of artefacts emerged, defence walls including a XVIII century sluice used in the defence system around the citadel .
Instead of a brown field, the development offers public galleries and plaza, semi-public spaces, halls, multipurpose foyers, conference cluster, services, co-working spaces and a start-up hub, commerce and, at upper levels, offices. The entire investment did not exceed 60 million euros and for some parts of it there was also available an EU co-financing. Another goal of the project was to connect main pedestrian routes transforming the ground floor and the mezzanine in public and semipublic spaces. From the beginning it was expected that some urban art and some interesting archaeological artifacts will be exposed in some parts of the gallery or plaza. More than a little city full of life, C.B.C. was expected to be the regenerator of the whole west part of the city center. From the beginning , during the design and construction , several urban strategies were examined and the idea of a “Gate to the center” came to life with the purpose of regenerating the whole western area including other old citadel walls and cellars, an old military church and the old military hospital and other buildings along the west-east path that is crossing the entire citadel.
Between the northern and southern poles of the urban plaza, a pedestrian gallery emerges and generates a gate towards the first two buildings from the east and integrates the two atriums from the west. Thus, for the City Business Centre, the longitudinal gallery following the site’s north-south axis becomes the backbone of an ensemble where pedestrian passages host lively landscaped spaces, urban art and glass funnels.
To the south emerged an “urban plaza”- type of public space, this one being located within the site boundaries. Considering the existing level difference, this space is an amphitheater, an event space where the artistic material can be easily integrated. Although the initial project featured an emblematic work of art in this location and only a smaller surface was dedicated to archaeological artifacts, an archaeological surprise offered a whole new perspective and purpose for this particular space.
After a careful consideration of the discovery of the old hydro-technical artifact , the final and best option in dealing with the relics was to disassemble and reassemble them within the urban plaza; while keeping their original orientation, they were translated to the east by 30 meters and lifted from underground at a height of approximately 5m. Meanwhile, both the idea of imprinting the exact spot where the ensemble was found and the idea of a public display of the information gathered by the archaeology department remained among the project’s aims.
It was born an exterior exhibition to be perceived from different levels by the visitor, thus defining an open-air museum which is illuminated at night and at the same time present information about the old city wall and its features through exterior exhibition panels. This particular example of an environmental control device is the proper symbol for a technological innovative city. It generates a fragment of an open air museum, but also it enhances the whole atmosphere of the pedestrian gallery and plaza, a surprise with all the artefacts, with the controlled layer of water and the little exhibition dedicated to it and to the Timisoara’s modern history. (See video on: http://bit.ly/1RDAbPk)
A private and speculative investment generated a little city in the city, full of events, art exhibitions and an open air fragment of a technical museum which became an attractor for the citizens. The archaeological find determined the postponing of the construction works until an appropriate solution was found for dealing with the artefacts. In this context, the ensemble’s discovery generated intense public debate on the value of the artefacts to the city’s heritage and led the National Heritage Committee, the archeologists, the architects and the investor to the consentaneous conclusion that the sluice ensemble should be removed from underground water and placed in a public space in order to showcase its true value.
The public gallery offered the presence of open art , a sculpture belonging to the avant-garde of the seventies of the Timisoara SIGMA GROUP ; different art and architecture exhibitions happened in different spaces of the ensemble, including two of the various exhibitions of the important international art biennial “ART ENCOUNTERS” which was hosted by Timisoara in October 2015. Among them, the exhibition “Sigma, cartography of learning, 1969-1983” was one of the most important. (www.artencounters.ro/exhibit/?q=cartography&lang=en)