Addenda to an Exhibition: About Urbanism and Heritage in the City of the Union

15 October 2020


Authors
DANIEL DUMITRAN
Pages
241-288
Abstract

The restoration of an image of a city and its evolution through time is not an easy endeavour, especially when the object of restoration consists of unprotected urban ensembles which oftentimes become unrecognizable even during their existence. The case of the city of Alba Iulia – which underwent repeated major transformations, from the late Middle Ages, when architect Giovanni Morando Visconti sketched a map of the capital of the Transylvanian Principality (1711), until around the 1900s, when the new city outside the walls of the old fortification already comprised six districts – offers a relevant example. Its new identity as “city of the Union”, received in 1918, which became characteristic of its entire subsequent evolution, led to establishment of new symbol monuments capable of vying with, and even obliterating, those erected in the previous eras. Today, the latter are found and made the most out of, whereas the old city (as it ended up being called, so as to differentiate it from the citadel) remains alike a silent witness, with the profound wounds of time lingering as scars. The ambivalence represented by the architectural heritage which had a particular value, but which did not make up an area of the community, and by the symbolic contribution of the “city of the Union”, which was essentially just a discursive construction, awards it an uncertain identity which ranges between the “the largest citadel in Romania” brand and the “the other capital” slogan. On the other side, its current image is the result of urbanistic policies favoured during the last two decades of the Communist regime (1968-1989), similarly to many other cities in the Central and East European socialist area.[1]

Beginning from these arguments, the “Cities of the Union – Cities of Memory” exhibition, which opened on October 3, 2019, proposed to recompose the image of the city of Alba Iulia, focusing on the two areas of development targeted by the post-1918 urbanistic projects: the old city, or the Centre, which surrounds today’s citadel from southeast to northeast, and the Platoul Romanilor on the Western side of the citadel, where the new Cetate district was gradually erected. These were supplemented with the connecting area between the Habsburg fortification, today a touristic destination par excellence, and Cetate district, which after 1918 became the object of various redevelopment projects. The materials used to guide the restoration included photographs from the collections of the Great Union Museum, the City Hall of Alba Iulia and the National Institute of Heritage, as well as plans drafted as part of the systematization projects, found in the fund of Alba County Service of National Archives and the National Institute of Heritage. Photographs and plans from the archive of Victor Ștefănescu, the architect of the Coronation Church, were also made available by the remarkable graciousness of Mrs Ilinca Ștefănescu-Neagu.

The decision to use a less typical display area – the recently restored old Synagogue, possible thanks to the support of the management of the Jewish Community of Alba Iulia – was not random, as the synagogue is located in the centre of the areas whose restoration we proposed, and is, at the same time, the representative monument of Alba Iulia’s Jewish community, formerly the most important in Transylvania. Thus, we aimed to approach those for whom the exhibition was conceived – yesterday’s and today’s inhabitants of the city of Alba Iulia – but also to involve all those interested in the history of the city of the Union. The joining with the other two cities of the Union, Chișinău and Cernăuți, offered the occasion for a retrospective look at the destiny of some cities with an extraordinary cultural heritage, characteristic of the entirety of the historical provinces they represented in 1918: Transylvania, Bessarabia and Bucovina.[2]

The first section of the exhibition, Alba Iulia – The Portrait of a City, featured sequences of the central arteries and squares of the pre-war and interwar city which once invested the city with a distinctive allure that is hard to infer today, based on the few preserved disparate constructions. Hunyadi Square, Ferencz Novák Square (known after 1918 as Mihai Viteazul, and today as Iuliu Maniu) and Sétatér (Promenade) Square constituted between them the central area of the city, an area of the community. The central Ferencz Novák Square was flanked on its southern side by the City Hall (fig. 1) and to the east by Nagyboldogasszonyutcza (today Regina Maria Street), shown here with the Reformed church in the background (fig. 2), and on the northern side by Gisella Palace (fig. 5). The premises of trade companies, such as those of Albert Jakabfy, Elias Kohn and J. B. Misselbacher Sen., illustrate the ethnic diversity of the local entrepreneurs. On the western side of Hunyadi Square, which subsequently lost the appearance of a square after being sectioned by a pedestrian artery with the role of a mini-park, stood the Hungária Hotel (known after 1918 as the Dacia and during the Communist regime as the Apulum) (fig. 3), and on the northern side, the square opened towards Lépes Street (today Tudor Vladimirescu) (fig. 4) where, in the proximity of the Alba Iulia People’s Bank building, the Jewish school and the new synagogue (fig. 6) stood. Together with the old synagogue and the Rabbi’s house on the opposite fronton of the street, these formed a true institutional centre of the Jewish community in Alba Iulia. Promenade Square also lost its initial appearance, marked by the positioning on the western side of the city’s redoubt (casino), which was repurposed during the interwar period as the headquarters of Caragiale Theatre, and on the eastern side by the Neo-Gothic façade of Europa Hotel (fig. 7). In the first decade of the twentieth century, standing further south from the symmetric area of those three squares, the Palace of Justice, an imposing building with a Neoclassical aspect, highlighted Szechenyi Square (after 1918 known as General Berthelot, and today as Ion I. C. Brătianu) (fig. 8).[3]

Immediately after 1918, two symbolic monuments erected in the citadel attested to the new political and national context in which the city was evolving, together with the entire Transylvanian province. These were the Coronation Church, erected in the vicinity of the Roman-Catholic cathedral (figs 9, 14-15), based on the design of architect Victor Ștefănescu (figs 10-13), and the Hall of the Union, a result of the rearrangement of the military casino, based on drawings by the same architect (figs 16-17, 20-21).[4] The latter fully earned its status of symbolic monument only much later, in the postwar period, when it formed an ensemble with the Great Union Museum, accommodated since 1968 in the former building of the officers’ pavilion (figs 18-19).[5] This was the theme of the second section of the exhibition, Symbol-Monuments of Alba Iulia, the City of the Union.

In the third section, Alba Iulia – Systematization of the Platoul Romanilor: From the First pProjects to Victoria Boulevard, we aimed to restore the main stages of the shaping of the new district in the area of the Platoul Romanilor. A result of the tendency to apply Soviet-inspiration urbanistic models (kvartal and micro-districts) (figs 22-24), the appearance of this district has generated the issue of its inclusion in the urbanistic ensemble of the city (figs 25-26) through various solutions for the capitalization of the intermediary area between the citadel and the new district. Although the object of some projects conceived as early as the interwar period which were not put into effect (figs 27-29), the development of the area was decided in 1972 in the manner least recommended by designers (figs 30-32). The images of the city from the Communist period circulating via postal cards or the local press betray the deficient character of the urbanistic solutions applied (fig. 33).

The last section of the exhibition, Alba Iulia – Systematization of the Centre, presented the systematization plans created in 1984 (fig. 34), 1985 (fig. 35), 1986 (fig. 36) and 1987 (figs 37-39) and shots from the image of the old city streets, based on documents from the expropriation files, with public buildings and particular houses proposed for demolition under the grinding machine of the area’s systematization during the “Golden Age” (figs 40-56). Most of the selected examples referred to the area to the north, northwest and west of the city’s central square, which was the one most affected by demolition. Although inadequate for an integral restoration, these offer sufficient evidence for the area of the city outside the walls of the citadel whose individuality was mostly irremediably lost.[6]

Keywords

Alba Iulia, exhibition, Cities of the Union – Cities of Memory

References

[1] In the more recent Romanian historiography, an argument regarding the Socialist urbanization phenomenon can be found in Mara Mărginean’s Ferestre spre furnalul roșu. Urbanism și cotidian în Hunedoara și Călan (1945–1968) [Windows to the Red Furnace. Urbanism and Everyday Life in Hunedoara and Călan (1945–1968)] (Iași: Polirom Publishing House, 2015), 18–30.

[2] For reflections on the city of Cernăuți in the exhibition, see Valentyna Bohatyrets, Liubov Melnychuk, “Chernivtsi’s Squares and Monuments in the Context of Distinctive Bukovinian Identity, Cultural Heritages and Urban Historical Memory”, in this volume.

[3] The contributions by Valer Moga in the seventh part (Secvențe ale modernității [Sequences of Modernity]) of the volume Alba Iulia: memoria urbis, ed. Laura Stanciu (Cluj-Napoca: Mega Publishing House, 2018) offer a more recent and detailed depiction of some of these buildings.

[4] For details on the two projects, see Radu Cornescu, Arh. Victor Ștefănescu între Stilul Național și Modernism [Arch. Victor Ștefănescu between the National Style and Modernism] (Constanța: Andrei Șaguna Foundation Publishing House, 2018), 106–111. See also, Valer Moga, “Catedrala Încoronării” [The Coronation Cathedral], in Alba Iulia: memoria urbis, 317–321.

[5] For details, see Valer Moga, “Drumul prin istorie al unui monument. Sala Unirii din Alba

Iulia” [The Road through History of a Monument. The Union Hall in Alba Iulia], in The City and the Great War. Architecture, Urbanism and Society after 1918 (AUA hist. 22, II), ed. Daniel Dumitran, Valeriu-Eugen Drăgan (Cluj-Napoca: Mega Publishing House, 2018): 287–309.

[6] For a detailed approach to the context and content of the systematization projects focused on the two areas, see Daniel Dumitran, “Identitate pierdută? Proiecte de sistematizare urbană a orașului Alba Iulia după anul 1918 (I)” [Lost Identity? Urban Systematization Projects of the City of Alba Iulia after 1918 (I)], in The City and the Great War: 197–257. Some of the figures included in the present text (no. 22, 25, 27, 30, 32 and 33) can also be found in the appendices of this study.

List of illustrations

1. Novák Ferencz Square (today Iuliu Maniu), southern side, with the old City Hall and Sétány Street (today Frederic Mistral). None of the buildings in the picture are preserved. Arthur Bach collection, today in the possession of Alba Iulia City Hall.

2. Novák Ferencz Square (today Iuliu Maniu), eastern side. Only the two buildings in the distance next to the reformed church are preserved in a transformed state. Arthur Bach collection, today in the possession of Alba Iulia City Hall.

3. The Hungária Hotel, located on the Western side of Hunyadi Square (today Ardealului Street), which hosted, on November 30, 1918, the meeting of the Romanian National Central Council. Renamed the Dacia after 1918, and the Apulum during the Communist period, the hotel was demolished in the 1980s. Arthur Bach collection, today in the possession of Alba Iulia City Hall.

4. Hunyadi Square (the western side is today framed by Ardealului Street, and the eastern one by Iuliu Maniu Square). Apart from the old synagogue, visible in the distance, and the Italian church (“of the nuns”), none of the buildings in the picture still exist. Arthur Bach collection, today in the possession of Alba Iulia City Hall.

5. The northern side of Novák Ferencz Square (Mihai Viteazul after 1918, today Iuliu Maniu), with Gisella Palace, named after the wife of Adolf Glück, an important representative of the most prosperous Jewish family in Alba Iulia (born Baumgarten, deceased in 1941). Remus Baciu collection, today in the possession of the Great Union Museum of Alba Iulia.

6. Alba Iulia People’s Bank (National, after 1918) and the new synagogue, from the former Hunyadi Square (known as Dorobanţi 24th Regiment Street after 1918, and today as Tudor Vladimirescu). The buildings no longer exist, the Unirea universal store having been erected in their place in the 1980s. Remus Baciu collection, today in the possession of the Great Union Museum of Alba Iulia.

7. Sétány Street (known as General C-tin Coandă after 1918, and today as Frederic Mistral), the eastern fronton, with the Europa Hotel in the foreground. None of the buildings in the picture are preserved except for Gisella Palace, visible in the distance. Remus Baciu collection, today in the possession of the Great Union Museum of Alba Iulia.

8. Palace of Justice, located in Szechenyi Square (General Berthelot after 1918, today Ion I. C. Brătianu). The headquarters of the administrative management of the county since its re-establishment, in 1968, it today hosts the County Council, the Institution of the Prefect and the Court of Appeal. Remus Baciu collection, today in the possession of the Great Union Museum of Alba Iulia.

9. Photograph illustrating the Coronation Church. Remus Baciu collection, today in the possession of the Great Union Museum of Alba Iulia.

10-12. The Coronation Church of Alba Iulia: Sketches from the architect Victor Ștefănescu’s designs (western façade, southern side and plan). Drawings from the archive of Victor Ștefănescu.

13 a–b. The architect Victor Ștefănescu in the porch of the Coronation Church during the works and after their completion. Photographs from the archive of architect Victor Ștefănescu.

14. The Western side of Alba Iulia citadel, with the Coronation Church and the Roman Catholic Cathedral of St Michael. Arthur Bach collection, today in the possession of Alba Iulia City Hall.

15. Alba Iulia Citadel, eastern side, depicting the Third Gate and, in the background, the Roman Catholic Cathedral of St Joseph and the Coronation Church. Arthur Bach collection, today in the possession of Alba Iulia City Hall.

16. The building of the military casino, western façade, at the beginning of the twentieth century. Archive of the Great Union Museum of Alba Iulia, clichés-photos fund.

17. Hall of the Union (formerly the military casino), western façade modified by adding a portal in the form of a triumphal arch. Arthur Bach collection, today in the possession of Alba Iulia City Hall.

18. Babylon Building (officers’ pavilion), later the headquarters of the Union Museum, in 1955. The Directorate of Historical Monuments fund (henceforth cited as DHM fund), Photo Library, folder 009, no. FI-009-1955-02. Archive of the National Institute of Heritage (henceforth cited as ANIH).

19. Babylon Building (officers’ pavilion), detail of the main portal on the eastern side, in 1955. The DHM fund, Photo Library, folder 009, no. FI-009-1955-05. ANIH.

20. Union Hall, the pictorial gallery in the southern arch, depicting the portraits of the rulers from Basarab I to Radu Șerban. Remus Baciu collection, today in the possession of the Great Union Museum of Alba Iulia.

21. Hall of the Union, pictorial gallery from the Northern arch depicting portraits of the rulers from Matei Basarab to King Carol I. Remus Baciu collection, today in the possession of the Great Union Museum of Alba Iulia.

22. Layout plan for the “Platoul Romanilor” Housing Complex, variant 1, 1:8000 scale, drawn up by the Deva Department for Systematization, Architecture and Construction Design (henceforth cited as Deva DSACD) within the Hunedoara County People’s Council (henceforth cited as HCPC). Alba Iulia People’s Council – Architecture and Systematization fund (henceforth cited as AIPC-AS), no. 5/1969, f. 71r. Alba County National Archives Service (henceforth cited as ACNAS).

23. Layout plan for the project Housing Complex “Platoul Romanilor” Alba Iulia, with the houses mapped according to the state of conservation, 1:500 scale, drawn up by Deva DSACD, within HCPC, southern area. AIPC-AS fund, file no. 5/1969, f. 70. ACNAS.

24. Layout plan for the project Housing Complex “Platoul Romanilor” Alba Iulia, with the houses mapped out according to the state of conservation, 1:500 scale, drawn up by Deva DSACD, within HCPC, northern area. AIPC-AS fund, file no. 5/1969, f. 70. ACNAS.

25. Layout plan of the city of Alba Iulia, 1:5000 scale, created by Bucharest Institute of Studies and Design for Systematization, Architecture and Typification (henceforth cited as Bucharest ISDSAT). AIPC-AS fund, no. 332/1972, f. 115r. ACNAS.

26. Mapping of the existing built stock, prepared for the project Detail of Systematization Cetate – Platoul Romanilor, 1:1000 scale, by Bucharest ISDSAT. AIPC-AS fund, file no. 332/1972, f. 129r. ACNAS.

27. City plan of Alba Iulia, 1929, made by Architect Octavian Mihălţan. Published as an annex in Virgil Cucuiu, Alba Iulia. Din trecutul și prezentul orașului [Alba Iulia. From the Past and Present of the City] (Alba Iulia: Sabin Solomon Publishing House, 1929), 101. Private collection.

28. The situation of the constructions on the plotting from the protection area of ​​the citadel and on the Platoul Romanilor in 1939, with the built lots marked, 1:5000 scale. Ministry of Agriculture and Domains. Directorship for the Application of the Agrarian Reform 1921 fund (henceforth cited as MAD-DAAR 1921), structural part Alba County, file no. 101/1932, f. 50. National Central Historical Archives Service (henceforth cited as NCHAS).

29. General plan of the layout of the incorporated area of ​​Alba Iulia, drawn up in 1941, 1:5000 scale. The perimeter of the area for which the Royal Residence of Mureș District requested the dispossession of lots is marked in red, and the perimeter of the land inside the citadel protection area ceded by the Ministry of Agriculture for ownership by the demobilized is marked in blue. MAD-DAAR 1921 fund, structural part Alba County, file no. 101/1932, f. 132. NCHAS.

30. Proposal for the final stage of the project Detail of Systematization of Cetate – Platoul Romanilor, variant 1, 1:1000 scale, created by Bucharest ISDSAT. AIPC-AS fund, no. 332/1972, f. 103r. ACNAS.

31. Proposal for the final stage of the project Detail of Systematization Cetate – Platoul Romanilor, variant 2, 1:1000 scale, prepared by Bucharest ISDSAT. AIPC-AS fund, file no. 332/1972, f. 104r. ACNAS.

32. Proposal for the final stage of the project Detail of Systematization of Cetate – Platoul Romanilor, variant 3, 1:1000 scale, created by Bucharest ISDSAT. AIPC-AS fund, no. 332/1972, f. 105r. ACNAS.

33. Alba Iulia in the 1980s. (a). The image of Transylvanian Avenue, seen from the park in front of the fortress on the day of the segmentation and moving of block A2. Source: “Mutarea blocului A2 din Alba Iulia, cu 80 de apartamente, în greutate de 7.600 de tone” [Moving Block A2 from Alba Iulia, with 80 Apartments, Weighing 7,600 Tons], accessed 18.122018, https://ziarulunirea.ro/mutarea-blocului-a2-din-alba-iulia-cu-80-de-aparta-mente-in-greutate-de-7-600-de-tone-90321/. (b). The image of the same avenue, closed off from the A2 block, which blocked the perspective to the fortress. Source: “Foto: Vă place? Alba Iulia în anii 80…” [Photo: Do You Like It? Alba Iulia in the 80s ...], accessed 18.12.2018, http://proalba.ro/foto-va-place-alba-iulia-in-anii-80.

34. Systematization plan of the central area, variant 4, detail of the area between Eroilor Square (today Ion I. C. Brătianu) and Tudor Vladimirescu Street, drawn up by the Alba County Design Centre. Alba County People’s Council fund (henceforth cited as ACPC), file no. 12/1984, f. 57. ACNAS.

35. Layout plan with the proposed expropriations for the project Housing Complex Tudor Vladimirescu Street – Calea Moţilor – Vasile Alecsandri, 1:500 scale, prepared by the Alba County Design Centre. ACPC fund, file no. 15/1986, f. 4. ACNAS.

36. Layout plan with the proposed expropriations for the project Housing Complex Central Area Stage I, the sector between 1 Mai Square (today Iuliu Maniu) – Trandafirilor Street – Primăverii Street – Parcului Street (today Frederic Mistral), 1:500 scale, drawn up by the Alba County Design Centre. ACPC fund, file no. 7/1987, f. 106. ACNAS.

37. Layout plan with the proposed expropriations in the central area, the sector between Decebal Street – N. Bălcescu Street – Calea Moţilor – Ardealului Street – Mihai Viteazul Street, prepared by the Alba County Design Centre. ACPC fund, file no. 6/1987, f. 127. ACNAS.

38. Detail of the systematization of the central area of ​​Alba Iulia, with the marking of the civic centre boundary, 1:1000 scale, prepared by the Alba County Design Centre. ACPC fund, file no. 7/1987, f. 15. ACNAS.

39. The plan of the city of Alba Iulia, with the framing within the buildable perimeter of the central area (see fig. 37). ACPC fund, file no. 7/1987, f. 107. ACNAS.

40. Building on Șipotului Street (today Bucovina) no. 1 (house), built in 1901, satisfactory condition of preservation, owners Emil Ciontea and Ionel and Viorica Coşniță. ACPC fund, file no. 6/1987, f. 75, 78. ACNAS.

41. Building on Șipotului Street (today Bucovina) no. 5 (house and workshop), built in 1920, satisfactory condition of preservation, owner Irina Bach. ACPC fund, file no. 6/1987, f. 80. ACNAS.

42, Building on Decebal Street no. 9 (two houses), built in 1938, good and satisfactory condition of preservation, owner IJGCL Alba. ACPC fund, file no. 7/1987, f. 41. ACNAS.

43. Building on Decebal Street no. 11 (house), built in 1925, good condition of preservation, owners Rodica Bâlcea, Ancuța Socolescu and Mircea Sava. ACPC fund, file no. 6/1987, f. 71. ACNAS.

44. Building on Decebal Street no. 11a (two houses), built between 1925 and 1940 (renovated in 1985), good condition of preservation, owners Petru and Ana Nistor. ACPC fund, file no. 6/1987, f. 73. ACNAS.

45. Building on 1 Mai Square no. 1 (restaurant and offices), built in 1901, good condition of preservation, owner ICSMAAP Alba. ACPC fund, file no. 7/1987, f. 73. ACNAS.

46. Building on 1 Mai Square no. 30 (two houses, bakery and warehouse), built in 1886, satisfactory condition of preservation, owners Ștefan and Iosif Labud, Andrei Labud and the Romanian State. ACPC fund, file no. 1/1986, f. 11v. ACNAS.

47. Building on Tudor Vladimirescu Street no. 1 (bank), built in 1911, good condition of preservation, owner the National Bank. ACPC fund, file no. 12/1984, f. 32v. ACNAS.

48. Building on Tudor Vladimirescu Street no. 3 (house and kindergarten), built in 1874, satisfactory state of preservation, owners the Jewish Community and the Romanian State. ACPC fund, file no. 12/1984, f. 8v, 30v. ACNAS.

49. Building on Tudor Vladimirescu Street no. 5 (synagogue), built in 1874, satisfactory condition of preservation, owner the Jewish Community. ACPC fund, file no. 12/1984, f. 6v. ACNAS.

50. Building on Tudor Vladimirescu Street no. 9 (kindergarten), built in 1935, good condition of preservation, owner the Romanian State. ACPC fund, file no. 12/1984, f. 23v. ACNAS.

51. Building on Tudor Vladimirescu Street no. 13 (offices), built in 1928, satisfactory condition of preservation, owner the Romanian State. ACPC fund, file no. 15/1986, f. 92. ACNAS.

52. Building on Ardealului Street no. 4 (library), built in 1902, satisfactory state of preservation, owner the Romanian State. ACPC fund, file no. 7/1987, f. 19. ACNAS.

53. Building on Ardealului Street no. 8 (store) built in 1908, satisfactory condition of preservation, owners Adalbert, Iosif and Carol Vincze. ACPC fund, file no. 6/1987, f. 26. ACNAS.

54. Building on Parcului Street no. 3 (offices) built in 1910, satisfactory condition of preservation, owner the Alba Iulia Municipal Miliția. ACPC fund, file no. 7/1987, f. 76. ACNAS.

55. Building on Parcului Street no. 4 (house) built in 1935, satisfactory condition of preservation, owners Aurora Elena Novac and Dominic Popescu. ACPC fund, file no. 6/1987, f. 119. ACNAS.

56. Building on Parcului Street no. 5 (offices) built in 1923, satisfactory condition of preservation, owner IJPSP Alba. ACPC fund, file no. 7/1987, f. 80. ACNAS.