CRITICAL REVIEW

Horia Creangă’s career started in the early 1930s and he is considered the ’’true founder’’ of Romanian modernism in architecture. However, Creangă is the advocate of a personal architecture, filtered through his own sensibility. His work is not strictly confined to any European modernist movement. As a matter of fact, unlike European modernists who deny everything that preceded the new movement, Creangă is defined by a balanced view, as the architect believes that modernism is just a new adaptation of traditions, of the past. In his opinion, the simple forms he used in his buildings are also found in old Romanian folk art. Creangă’s view can provide an explanation about the absence of avant-garde in Romanian modernist architecture. It expresses architects’ balanced thinking, as they draw attention to new concepts, without denying the advances resulting from capitalizing forms inspired by folk architecture, but enhancing and improving them.
The work that turned Horia Creangă into a prominent figure at the time is the design of ARO building in Bucharest (now Cinema Patria building), selected during a competition that took place in 1929.

His work is unusual for that period in terms of form design and function; moreover, it was built on a main road in the capital, currently Magheru Blvd. The building was finished in 1931, undergoing changes from the initial design. These changes aimed at further simplifying the formal language. It should be regarded as a turning point in the evolution of Romanian architecture and a model for other architects of the Modern Movement in our country.

 ’’Blockhouse”, collective residences are an absolute novelty in the architectural landscape of our large cities. ARO is the first building of this kind, and its model will be reproduced in many other works, particularly due to its functional qualities. In this sense, functional elements in this type of construction consist in: developing the floor plan around the living room, connected to other rooms, which gives flexibility to home; subdividing the house into day and night uses; using loggias, balconies and top recessed floors to make the interior communicate with the exterior; building the resistance structure out of reinforced concrete frames, which again has the advantage of flexible subdivision of interior spaces; as a result, they were distinctly divided on each floor; high-quality materials were used; increased attention to architectural detail and its place in the whole; using, in the interior finish, in the second plan of the construction, the general idea of the project. Despite these recurrent elements, architects’ varied personalities as reflected into their work led to the creation of very different forms. Undoubtedly, Horia Creangă is one of the most prominent figures of modernist architecture in Romania. Although his career was short, lasting no more than 17 years, and most of his works were created in the fourth decade of the 20th century (that is in just ten years), many of them have become ’’fundamental landmarks’’ of Romanian modernist architecture.

Creangă’s approximately 70 works approach a large variety of architectural programmes, from individual houses to rental properties, stores, stadiums, food markets, hotels, exhibition pavilions, movie theatres, schools and office spaces. Although these types of construction already existed in the architectural landscape of large cities, the expressive and functional solutions proposed by the architect highlights numerous innovations that unquestionably include Creangă among modernist artists. As a matter of fact, Horia Creangă understood from the very beginning that we needed new solutions for the functional problems generated by the increasingly sophisticated needs of the period. Moreover, the dynamics of these needs put an even greater strain on the modernist architect, but Creangă always managed to choose the most suitable and reasonable spatial organization, which makes him essentially different from his contemporaries.

Most of his works were built in urban environments. Given the development in construction industry, the city was the appropriate environment for the manifestation of modernist architecture, which is, par excellence, a dynamic and adaptable architecture.

Creanga's objectives in urban areas were established according to the following aspects: firstly, the architect focused on replacing the Haussmanian model of rental property, which was used in the systematization process conducted in Bucharest at the end of the 19th century; secondly, Creangă intended to turn the rental property into a modern collective residence, subjecting the flat to functional and spatial changes.  

Although he is faithful to modernist principles, this attachment is not similar to an imitation of Western architecture of this kind, as the architect expresses his own vision, his own personality. Horia Creangă’s work is identified by two major elements, and these are simplicity and horizontality. They define the expressivity of Creangă’s architecture and highlight its radical character. Thus, horizontality is likened to car speed, while simplicity embodies geometric purity, and is capable to certify the quality of architectural works. Like Romanian modern architecture, Creangă’s architecture is dynamic, undergoing a process of constant evolution in an attempt to provide answers to the changing needs of modern society. For this reason, we can identify several stages in the architect’s work.
The first stage - 1927-1930 - is characterized by stylistic exploration and leveraging the first attempts to modernize rental property and finding new spatial and functional solutions for the flat.

The second stage - 1930-1936 - is the most representative for Creangă’s career as an architect; it is the period of rental properties and individual houses. Basically, the architect’s conception on elements, forms, compositional themes and the stylistic approaches he will use throughout his career, is defined in this period. All these aspects will be included into a balanced system of creative thinking through which the architect expressed a modernity based on fully coherent ideas, a fact that differentiates Creangă from other Romanian modernist architects, making him the most outstanding figure of modernism in our country.

In 1935, Horia Creangă starts designing large industrial facilities, such as Malaxa factory. Industrial architecture finds, for the first time, an aesthetic-functional expression. It is an ’’architecture of simplicity’’, as Creangă himself called it.

After the “Malaxa period”, Horia Creangă’s projects are distinguished by the purism used in industrial facilities. Creangă’s virtues are visible in his exhibition pavilions – ’’Work and cheer’’ and ’’Bucharest month” – as well. We are talking about the harmonious spatial delimitation, the composition quality, the neat correlation that exists between detail and ensemble, and so on. They are relevant when it comes to the state’s involvement in architecture, for propaganda purposes, and are part of the category of academic modernism, approached by other architects of the period, such as Duiliu Marcu or Octav Doicescu.
The four stages of Horia Creangă’s career highlight the complexity of his work, which, for this reason, is impossible to integrate into a broader trend.
(Mariana Croitoru, 2016)
 


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    BIOGRAPHY

    (Bucharest, 1 August 1893 – Vienna, 1 August 1943)

    Academic/Specialized Studies
    1913-1915 - He studied at the Superior School of Architecture in Bucharest until he left for the front;
    1919 - He failed twice the École des beaux-arts entrance examination;
    1920-1924 - He studied at the École des beaux-arts in Paris, where his teacher was Gustave Umbdenstock, and between 1923 and 1927, the two worked together;
    1927 - He returned to Romania.
     
    Teaching (disciples and influences)
    In 1933, his architectural firm on the fifth floor of the Dimitrescu Building, designed by Creangă himself, becomes very famous and, therefore, a veritable school for many architects from the younger generations. In fact, architect Haralamb Georgescu becomes his permanent partner that same year.
     
    Professional Activity: affiliations, administrative positions, committees
    1936-1943 - Head of the “New Works” Department, Bucharest City Hall.
     
    Other Relevant Information
    1916-1918 - He left for the front as a second lieutenant, and was taken prisoner at Şercaia and sent to the POW camp in Stralsund (a German port on the Baltic Sea). 
     


    PROJECTS

    COMPLETED PROJECTS

    Architectural Projects
    Public Buildings
    1937-1939 - Palace of Culture, Cernăuți;
    1937-1938 - ARO-Palace and ARO-Sport Hotels, Brașov;
    1927-1929 - “Giulești” Theatre, Bucharest;
    1933-1939 - ONEF Stadium, Bucharest (demolished);
    1934 - Aro Building, movie theatre, Bucharest;
    1936 - Aro Building, Melody Bar, Bucharest;
    1937 - School Complex, Maior Coravu Street, Bucharest;
    1937-1943 - Obor Central Commercial Galleries, Bucharest (After Creangă’s death in 1943, his collaborator, Haralamb Georgescu, will supervise the construction works until his departure from Romania in 1947. Architects Ilie Teodorescu and Gheorghe Trifu supervised the final work stages and added the finishing touches.);
    1938-1940 - “Bucharest month” exhibition, Herăstrău Park, Bucharest (demolished);
    1939 -  “Work and cheer” exhibition pavilions, Herăstrău Park, Bucharest (demolished);
    1939 - Pescăruș restaurant, Herăstrău Park, Bucharest;
    1943 - The amphitheatre of the Central School for Girls, Bucharest (now the Bulandra Theatre).
     
    Private Residence Buildings
    1927-1929 - Dr. Petru Groza villa, Deva;
    1930 - Ioan Lupaș villa, 21 Cardinal Ioan Hossu Street, Cluj;
    1933 - Marele Voievod Mihai villa, Eforie Nord;
    1936-1939 - Victor Groza villa, Târgu-Mureș;
    1937 - Savu villa, 21 Liviu Rebreanu Street, Predeal;
    1938 - The Hunters Cabin, Jucica, Northern Bukovina (demolished);
    1938 - Nadia Gory Villa, Mamaia (demolished);
    1938 - Conitz villa, Mamaia (demolished);
    1938-1939 - Alexianu villa, Costinești (demolished);
    1929 - Cezar Pop and Mihai Gheorghiu Building, 19 Schitu Măgureanu Street, Bucharest;
    1929 - Corneliu Medrea villa, 2 Andrei Mureșan Street, Bucharest;
    1930 - Engineer Miclescu villa, 56 Paris Street, Bucharest;
    1930 - Engineer T. Mareș villa, 6 Geneva Alley, Bucharest;
    1930 - Engineer Ioan Tomescu villa, 8 Geneva Alley, Bucharest (demolished);
    1930-1931 - ARO Building, Magheru Blvd. (co-designed with his brother, Ion, who died in 1931, and his wife, Lucia, nee Dumbrăveanu);
    1932 - Dr. Constantinescu villa, 3 Corneliu Botez Street, Bucharest;
    1932 - Engineer Bunescu villa, 12 Aleea Alexandru Street, Bucharest;
    1932 - Thomas villa, 15 Dr. Panait Iatropol Street, Bucharest;
    1932 - Anton Davidoglu building, Dacia Blvd., Bucharest;
    1933 - Dulfu villa, Bateriilor Street, Bucharest (demolished);
    1933 - Barbu Dimitrescu building, 5A Lahovary Street, Bucharest;
    1933 - Piperscu villa, 161 Ștefan Furtună Street, Bucharest;
    1934 - Elisabeta Cantacuzino villa, 15 Aleea Alexandru Street, Bucharest;
    1934-1935 - Elena Ottulescu building, 12 General Gheorghe Manu Street, Bucharest;
    1935-1936 - Nedioglu building, 63 Roma Street, Bucharest;
    1935-1937 - Cristea Mateescu house, 6 Av. Th. Iliescu Street, Bucharest;
    1935-1937 - Adrian Dumitrescu villa, 9 Finlanda Street, Bucharest;
    1935-1937 - Malaxa-Burileanu Building, 35 Magheru Blvd., Bucharest;
    1936-1938 - ARO Building, 91-93 Calea Victoriei, Bucharest;
    1937 - Cheap housing complex, 52-58 Șoseaua Iancului, 4-24 Victor Manu Street, Bucharest.
     
    Industrial Architecture
    1941 - Ploiești-Văleni-Măneciu repair workshop for railway equipment;
    1942 - Dairy factories in Alba Iulia, Burdujeni and Simeria;
    1930-1931 - “Malaxa” Factories, Main Entrance, Bucharest (demolished);
    1935-1936 - “Malaxa” Factories, Pipes Factory, Bucharest;
    1936-1939 - “Malaxa” Factories, Front Unification, Bucharest;
    1936 - “Malaxa” Factories, the Administrative Pavilion and Laboratories, Bucharest.
     
    WORKS NOT COMPLETED
    1932 - School of Commerce;
    1935 - Professor Marcu villa, Bucharest;
    1936 - Primary School in Floreasca, Bucharest;
    1937 - Systematization of Marketplace no. 8 (Unirea Square), Bucharest;
    1938 - Păunescu villa, Otopeni;
    1939 - Cattle Market, slaughterhouse, dairy Shop, Bucharest;
    1939 - Arghir Hotel, Predeal;
    1939 - Popa and Marinescu Hotel, Mamaia;
    1942 - Irina Lotru villa, Bușteni.
     
    Interior Design Projects
    1942-1943 - Interior design works, H. Goldenberg house, 10 Gh. Lazăr Street, Bucharest.
     
    Competitions. Awards and Distinctions
    1928 - 1st prize in the competition for the Palace of Culture in Constanţa (the team included Ion and Lucia Creangă, Horia Teodoru and Constantin Moșinschi);
    1929 - 1st prize in the competition for ARO Building in Bucharest;
    1936 - The competition for Bucharest City Hall.
     
    Editorial Activity
    1935 - He contributed articles to Spre o arhitectură a Bucureștilor and Arta și Omul magazines.
     


    BIBLIOGRAPHY

    Books
    CONSTANTIN, Paul, Dicţionar universal al arhitecţilor, Editura Ştiinţifică şi Enciclopedică, Bucureşti, 1986.
    PATRULIUS, Radu, Horia Creangă – omul şi opera, Editura Tehnică, Bucureşti, 1980.
    SION, Militza, Horia Creangă: crezul simplității, Editura Simetria, București, 2012.
    TABACU, Gabriela, Revista „Arhitectura” – studiu monografic şi indici 1905-1944, Editura Humanitas, Bucureşti, 2008.
     
    Articles
    MACHEDON, Luminița, MACHEDON, Florin, „Arhitectura modernă din România în perioada 1920-1940”, articol publicat în colecția de articole București, anii 1920-1940: între avangardă și modernism, Editura Simetria, Uniunea Arhitecților din România, București, 1994.