A house in the historical center has been restored and expanded serving as a complex blend of an architecture studio, a residence and some urban services.
Text: Stefan Ghenciulescu
Photo: Planwerk, Radu Salcudean
So far, most of the works of Planwerk studio published in our magazine have pertained to city or public space planning. Their head office (designed, financed and shared with BAU office) does not only involve a work of architecture and restoration. It is also a programmatic continuation of some principles of intervention in historical centers such as: revitalizing rather than museification, respect for old substance, a careful densification and functional complexity.
Georges Clemenceau Street lies in the oldest part of Cluj medieval center. Due to a number of rehabilitation works and car traffic limitations coming out of a study made by Planwerk in 2005, the quality of the public space in the area substantially increased. The oldest parts of the existing building date back to the 15th century while the house had been enlarged and transformed between the 16th and the 18th centuries. Today, it has become the main core of the final construction.
The new first floor hosts the main working area. Two cores, one for circulation and the other for services are the only opaque elements in a completely open space; structure and partitioning make a perfect match. The space in the attic includes a split level and is packed with five housing units of various sizes (the partners of the two offices use four of them, while the flat is reserved for guests). Except one of them, the dwellings have access to the terrace opening to the backyard and the city view.
At lower levels, the functional partional and the one bewteen old and new onlz partially coincide. The ground floor houses the access to the offices, a two-level lobby directly leading to the work space above, the Secretariat and an assembly room, the top of a garage with elevator and also a space designed for a café with its own service spaces and straight access onto the street. The basement is specifically a public place since most of it is going to accommodate a restaurant which will take advantage of the old house magnificent vaults. The restaurant and the café will help recovering the original investment and contribute to maintenace costs while also activating the area.
When as an architect you have the opportunity to become your own client, it is quite fair that the design aims at expressing your planning philosophy. In this case, the design does not turn into a spectacular showcase for the two offices. It would rather become an assumed case study, a model of rigorous practice and building up an urban program. The old building is restored with delicacy while the new part assumes a rather restrained image which refuses any kind of pastiche, though. This general expression, low-key and sometimes even dry is softened by the spatial connections between the various parts of the house, often surprising and going beyond the simple functional needs. I have been there this spring, when many things were still unfinished. Perhaps I felt my best on the ground floor, where Renaissance arcades are now opening to new and austere spaces and also on the first level - opened to the ground floor, the city and the courtyard - where the space and the furniture designed along with the house did make one feel in the mood to work.