History, public space and ewcology in Alba Iulia
Alba Carolina Citadel – a story about world heritage destruction advertised as cultural valorisation and supported by EU funds
Text: Irina Rotaru
Photo: Iulian Brock
This article was published in zeppelin magazine number 96
Recently, in our 93 issue, I was pointing out a highly questionable intervention carried out on the Alba Carolina citadel from Alba Iulia, important reference for Vauban citadels. The previous text was especially impugning the concept of the project conceived by arch. Gheorghe Lancrajan-Franchini assonant to the European level principles. The two major tenets flagrantly contradicted in this case are: 1) car traffic limitation in favour of non-polluting conveyance with increased social potential (walking and cycling) in historic centres and 2) green areas conservation and multiplication with a paricular focus on trees.
Unfortunately, the citadel’s valuable vegetation continued to be eliminated abusively (unauthorized by the Agency for Environment Protection and in absence of any Zone Urban Plan). The alignment plantations of the citadel’s interior streets (Ecaterina Varga, P?cii, Mihai Vitezul, Nicolae Iorga) have been totally cancelled as well as the trees around the Catholic Cathedral, while Custozza Park has been quart chopped down and probably would have been completely eliminated until the publication of this article.
Beside, the inappropriate treatment of the archaeological sites overlapping on the intervention area is highly worsening the situation. As they declared at the beginning of the works, the project’s author and promoters had considered the possibility of vestige existence in that place, promising their optimal valorisation. However, this meant uncovering them by the ditcher dig, followed by their free exposure to bad weather and final covering with tiles. Between the elements revealed this way are comprised: the remains of the Roman camp that has hosted the effectives of Legion XIII Gemina (site of national importance under special administration), the temple dedicated to goddess Nemesis (a religious building very rarely found in legion camps, considered this decade’s most important national discovery) and the medieval graves beside the Romano-Catholic Cathedral. According to the representatives of Unirii Museum, beneath Custozza Park there are to be found the ruins of the Roman Praetorium, which will probably enjoy the same fate during the digging following the deforestation.
Summarizing, essential elements of urban history are being annulated progressively for creating a completely artificial ambience, totally alien to this site in any of its successive states until nowadays. The project has not been submitted to public consultation nor has been presented to the Urban Planning Technical Board because the documentation has been a (Documentation for Intervention Works Endorsement, not a Zone Plan as it would have been necessary for such an A Class urban site. Additionally, the approval of the Ministry of Culture is limited to the rehabilitation of the pavement, urban furniture and lighting system. The building permit does not refer as well in any way to the archaeological site, which would have required special monitoring and rescue archaeology before any kind of operation.
On the back of that, the works are majority supported by European Funds (ERDF – European Regional Development Fund, administrated by the Ministry of Regional Development and Tourism). Conforming to the February, 24th 2011 press release published by MRDT, the project’s general goal resides in “the restoration and protection of tourist potential heritage […] as basis for the economic growth of the municipality, as well as, of the region it belongs to”.
For compounding the resulted scandal, the local authorities have initiated a public procedure for the conception of “ ZUP Alba Carolina historic site correlation with the west wing urban lines – Alba Iulia”. The announcement has been very discreetly published on SEAP (National auction site) on the 1st of June to be transmitted afterwards just at the level of Alba branch of OAR (Order of Architects in Romania). The deadline for the proposal submission is 27.07.2011, 10:00. There will not be any kind of prise, but the winner is supposed to be attributed the service contract, although „obviously”, this is not counted between the organiser’s obligations. The jury is to be decided by the Alba Iulia mayor. More details can be found at: http://licitatiipublice.clubafaceri.ro/licitatie/puz----corelationarea-sitului-istoric-alba-carolina-cu--184012.html
The tragic absurdity of the new Romanian public space
Text: Stefan Ghenciulescu
It’s not just about the construction of a pseudo-historical image merged with the destruction of true history, un-democratic urbanism and other similar topics. I must confesds I’m fascinated by the so profoundly Romanian absurdity of how we manage to take over, deprive of sense or event or give a completely opposite sense to some terms and principles of the contemporary practice.
Our team proposes, along with many others, all kinds of alternative projects and strategies for the Romanian public non-space. Among the instruments of these projects, there is the so-called „mineralization” or the concept of „shared space”. But by mineralization we have always understood the transformation of some inaccessible and dead places into active public spaces, usually working on the fenced or fenceless waste grounds of our towns and never touching the trees. “Shared space” means in the international urban practice just the reduction of car traffic in an area, so that the cars could cohabitate with the pedestrians. Shortly, a kind of semi-pedestrian area, when you want to get rid of as many cars as possible, but nevertheless you cannot eliminate them all.
Well, in Alba Iulia these terms are taken over and mineralization is understood as the destruction of a park and the massive tree cutting, while „shared space” passes for an operation which consists of introducing cars and parking places in a former pedestrian space. By now the destructive operations availed themselves of „modernization”, traffic flowing”, „attraction of the investors”.... now we are starting to disguise them as European style operations and thus make them easier to swallow by a community. Quite worrying, indeed.