JUST – THE CUBE
Ibadula Aifer, Ișfan Cristina, Popescu Iulia, Ristea Daria, Samiș Andra , Țuțu Oana
30 years have passed since the beginning of the communist Civic Centre project for Bucharest. By the 1990 revolution, the natural setting of the city changed dramatically. The site was planned to host The Romanian National Philharmonic, and since then, the 11ha remain a scar, both in the physical Bucharest and in the collective memory of its citizens. The current administration has begun a project of intervention: an office complex, a philharmonic and the City of Justice. The project proposed is meant to offer an identity for the City of Justice as an equal partner in the dialogue with the Palace of Parliament whilst responsive to the complex historical background of the site.
The set is dominated by largeness: from the House of Parliament, through the monumental 26m wide Unirii Boulevard as axis defined by rows of 10 stories blocks of flats and the object-buildings adjacent to the site (The High Court and National Library). We chose to respond in the same scale but denying the very essence of the Civic Centre composition – the City of Justice is contained by a 95m high cube, breaking the rule of parallelism and weakening the monumental axis. By rotating the cube, none of its sides are deprived of sunlight, as one of the site’s major problems is its orientation.
The cube, although monumental and compact from aloof, contains vivid, diversified spaces – a metabolist city on the vertical axis remembrance of the modernist motto. As a Neolithic structure it rises from the ground with three supports, balanced by the unifying upper volume. Each support show its personality to the inner courtyard: one for schools and prosecutors’ offices, one for the The Superior Council of Magistracy, the largest for the Palace of Justice, all reunited at the top by the Court of Appeal.
The cube is penetrated by three accesses that relate to the main focus points outside the site, bringing people inside the interior courtyard, where all the entrances are placed. The building brings together The Court of Appeal, The Palace of Justice, The Superior Council of Magistracy, The Prosecutors’ offices and The Schools for Magistrates and Registrars. This institutions are organized and layered according to their relations and hierarchy. Even though they have separate accesses and are designed to be able to function independently, the intention was that of a constant contact, mainly visual, between all of them, due to the transparency of the interior façade.
Seen from the exterior, The City of Justice is a massive, monumental volume that expresses its rule, but inside, the multitude of different spaces brings it to a human scale. The public organism is contained in the inner courtyard and expands through the open triangular structure as access towards the Court of Appeal. It changes its impact on each level, altering the relation with the more private, rigid shell. The moments of highest amplitude is reached in the hall of lost steps of both the Palace of Justice and the Court of Appeal.
Who influences you graphically?
During the design process we had in mind the works of Archigram and Superstudio as a graphical way of translating our own utopian dimension of the project.
How does the treatment of the façade relate or deny the urban context where it lies?
The City of Justice is meant to be an autonomous insertion of spatial authority in the rhythm of the boulevard. Its scale and proportions overwhelm the context defined mainly by apartment buildings. Seen from aloof, it resembles a lacelike cube that contains a rustling world, while from a close up the massive voids diminish the individual in the presence of the institution.
In the external perspective, what is the intent of highlighting through the use of colours the people that inhabit the surroundings of your proposal?
The boulevard, as part of the aggressive Communist intervention, is socially stigmatised and rejected as a valuable public space. The site for the City of Justice has been for more than 30 years a scar in the urban fabric of Bucharest. Through our project, giving back to the city a large part of this site means welcoming its users – therefore our choice for emphasizing a utopian human context, colourful, vivid and connected to a time of free and expansive social behaviour.
You mainly represent your building using grey shades, is this representative of the materiality of the structure or is there another intent?
The City of Justice is the third power of authority in the Romanian state, next to the Government – a 1944 modern masterpiece and the Palace of the Parliament – the immense Communist Palace of the People built from 1984, both using marble cladding. Our project fits in that line, the grey shades being given by a ceramic plate finish.
What is the reason behind the hot air balloons?
We often use hot air balloons mainly as a nostalgic attitude, easily transferable past a drawing. Given the communist dominated city landscape, this type of entourage brings up a contrasting sense of optimism, hope and joy of innovation that we would like to be associated with the public quality of the space.
Aifer, Cristina, Iulia, Daria, Andra and Oana are a group of six enthusiastic architects held together by a common joy for design and eagerness to discover themselves through it. They all met during classes at “Ion Mincu” University of Architecture and Urbanism and gained experience practicing in Romanian studios, at Herzog&de Meuron and EMBT.