The Politechnica's Campus is one of the largest and also one of the least known urban
operations in Bucharest. It has the huge advantage of not being at the periphery, but in the city, and
is bordered by important boulevards and large neighbourhoods. At the same time, however, it is a
place one goes only for business, as a student, professor, a member of the administrative staff. As
such, it remains an enclave, a kind of city-within-a-city. And it's a shame, since we're talking of one
of the few coherent, and at the same time, pleasant, urban areas in the city. The team led by
Professor Octav Doicescu designed the development following a combination of classical and
functionalist principles. A mostly rectangular grid of driving, walking, and mixed alleys organize a
generous ensemble of green spaces, where constructions float. Yet these free-standing buildings
remain aligned to the streets or, as is the case of the dominant piece—the Rectorate, they close the
main axes. One can regard the Politehnica district both as a collection of autonomous objects in a
large garden, or as an urban fabric of streets, plazas, and (it’s true, quite porous) fronts.
The architecture of the buildings from the first period expresses the same spirit of
modernized Classicism or classicized Modernism: simple volumes, rhythms dictated by structure or
by vertical and horizontal brise-soleils, brick for the large full surfaces. The obsessive order is interrupted
and softened by lyrical accents: light wells, staircases, and, as a piece of resistance, the
Rectorate dome, a UFO landed right on top of the main building's cube. Interior spaces are beautiful
and sometimes even magnificent— it's where proportions and light best do their job. Not all the
details have—physically and aesthetically—aged just as well, and the excess of elements and
articulations sometimes leads to a rather too baroque feeling for today's perception; despite all this,
the urban and architectural quality of the Polytechnic building in the ‘60s and ‘70s (not the one after
1990) generates a context where it is no easy feat to intervene.
The new centre is not a large amphitheatre with some additional functions, or a ceremony
hall, although classes and ceremonies can very well be held there. The Polytechnic has wished for
an addition to technical education, through a place dedicated to humanistic culture—a centre for
music, theatre, the visual arts; the high-capacity hall (1.200 places) was not supposed, however, to
address the campus, but the city as well, which is currently in a chronic people of Bucharest, but
also to contribute to the welfare of the city.
The chosen place for this centre is a strategic one: along the main axis, between the central
library and the Faculty of Entrepreneurship, close to the large plaza in front of the Rectorate. The
library is one of the post-Socialist insertions, a heavy, rebarbative building.
The building of the cultural centre is not aligned to the library. By the general withdrawal
and the canting of the main facade, it opens the view to the Rectorate and to the Faculty of
Entrepreneurship and leaves room for a public space towards the main alley. Behind the
construction, another empty space will serve as a parking.
The building is only aligned to the campus’ grating on one of the sides, the one towards the
library. The stronger connection to the latter was, indeed, one of the project’s important elements.
Up to a certain point, there was also the idea of a gangway between the two buildings, but it was
removed out of budget-related reasons. The proximity and the orientation of several windows
towards the library remained—a rather symbolic connection between two cultural buildings.
Further on, however, we reinterpreted the positioning and the ambiguity between the object
and the fabric that shapes the other buildings in the campus. Here, the building really is an
autonomous object, a polyhedron placed on a free and public ground. On the one hand, I found that
such a particular volume would have needed a bit more space around it. On the other, the departure
from alignments and the reduction of the perimeter suggests one's possibility of strolling around it,
as well as a more dynamic and more powerful connection between the esplanade and the west side
of the campus. Another advantage lies in the integration of the various spaces and surfaces, and in
creating a public landscape. The new square (whose centrepiece is a fountain overlooking the
cultural centre) climbs, through a package of monumental steps, to the main entrance, but is also
moving slightly towards the underground floor, thus opening the cafeteria on this level to the light
and to the public space of the campus. The flower boxes in the square, the fountain, the mineral
surfaces, the main stairs, the green spaces, or the tiers to the cafeteria, define particular places
within this newly-created public space.
The landscape continues inside, where the hallway, the reception, the resting areas and the
stairs leading to the upstairs foyer, to the downstairs basement, or to another intermediary
downstairs level, to the wardrobe and to the toilets, compose a single flowing space, articulated by
structural elements or by openings allowing a new series of visual connections.
The apertures are few (full spaces prevail, as it also happens in most older buildings in the
campus), and rather large. Their placement and build support the interior space, alternating areas of
bright light and those almost covered in shade. At the same time, windows are either devices turned
towards certain key-views—the Rectorate, for instance, but also towards other neighbouring
buildings, or continuous surfaces attenuating the difference between the outside and the inside (as is
the case of the main access hallway).
The building's spatial, structural, and symbolic nucleus is the concrete cylinder which hosts
the hall. The structure of the walls and ceilings around the ring are hanging from it. The inside of
the hall is mostly determined by the aesthetic and functional integration of the requirements
concerning acoustics, visibility, evacuations, flexibility.
The theme was very ambitious: the hall will have to host both conferences, trainings, movies
and projections of all kinds, and theatre shows and classical concerts. The walls consist therefore of
a series of sound-dispersing surfaces. Part of the panels are mobile, one side being treated for
reflection, the other, for absorption. The same dispersing role is also borne by the complex structure
of the ceiling, with autonomous elements suspended beneath a metal structure which remains partly
visible and, when the skylights are not closed, which allows daylight into the hall. The simple cylindrical
space is articulated and fragmented by an accumulation of rhythmic surfaces, product of the
negotiation between the acoustic study and the architectural design.
We think that the unity of materials and colours was more important than variety (which is a
very good thing). At the inside, the cylinder's concrete remains apparent, expressed just as sincerely
as the hall’s wood flooring. The metal structure is partly visible but is painted in the same white as
the walls. Part of the installations also appear in some parts. We appreciate the rougher parts of the
interior image, which might be considered as a reference to the University's technologic spirit. With
the major exception of the already-mentioned wood flooring, floors are treated as a large unitary
surface, connecting the various spaces and also some of the built-in furniture. On the outside, the
volume's white coating is interrupted by several small-sized incisions. They leave a glimpse of what
lies beneath the continuous coating – metal panels and structure. The colour of these fragments is a
bright red, the same as the interior surfaces in the walking areas.
We are quite anxious to see how the cultural centre will be accepted and used by the
academic community and by the city. The square at the front, which animates the public space in the
campus, will almost certainly be a success. The architecture has a remarkable potential in itself.
Let’s hope that, contrary to what is going on with most public cultural institutions, a wise
management and an openness to multi-type culture will lead to an adequate usage of a rather good