Architect Vlad Rusu has revitalised a former “cultural palace” in the central Romanian city of Blaj, built in the 1930s but severely damaged by a fire in 1995.
While the building was originally designed by Bucharest-based architect Victor Smigelschi to be used by a Transylvanian cultural association, it was renovated in the 1960s to serve as a multi-purpose space for the city. It once housed a cinema, library and the local history and ethnography museum, in addition to a broadcasting centre.
The aim for the building's overhaul was to once again provide the city with a multifunctional space to be used for an array of events, from conferences to exhibitions and performances.
In stripping back the building to its structure, the architect hoped to establish new spaces while maintaining traces of its former life.
“With the benefit of historical research and technical expertise, it was decided that the spatial and functional design concept of the building, which was now a ruin, would follow the initial project,” he stated.
Rusu was unable to find images of the original interior, giving the architect more freedom in this part of the project.
The main hall now features a stage and can seat up to 250 people. The room's walls are stripped back to show the original brickwork. Although the building now has an entirely new roof, a number of skylights soften the contrast between new and old elements of the design.
“The new design follows two directions. Firstly, to evoke the recent tragic history of the building, and secondly, to create a flexible interior and exterior space that can easily be adapted to the needs of the community that it serves,” said the architect.
As part of its new lease of life, the restored building is now home to offices for the Romanian Academy – a cultural body that promotes the nation's art, science and literature.