Landmarks / Squares

The Civic Centre

“It was the time of specialization and delivering of eulogies to the comrade workforce, and the building site became a type of symbol because great constructions took place and “building” and was the key-word which came up in all speeches regarding the “new society” and its “construction”. To work on a construction site meant working for the future. A masquerade, of course. It was presented as if there haven’t been any construction sites before or as if without the communists nothing would have been built”. Gabriel Liiceanu in a dialogue with Mircea Ivănescu, ”The Masques of M.I.” (Bucharest: Humanitas, 2012), 37

From an urban point of view, the Anastasie Panu Boulevard area, known as the Civic Centre, was fundamentally redesigned during 1968-1989. Here we can find buildings with contrasting functions, unusually linked to collective dwellings: the Square House (the local governmental headquarters), the Luceafărul Theatre, the Moldova hotel, the Moldova Shopping center, the Palace of Justice, the Central Market. All of these entered by force in an organically developed urban texture, of Romantic type. Thus, the city of pedestrians and trams became tributary to cars , with wide boulevards flanked by tall constructions that create the illusion of a great urban density. The concrete architecture doesn’t discriminate; it handles any challenge and becomes the favorite material, the main expression of the communist architecture in Romania. The merchants’ place and the one of the little bourgeoisie is taken by collective dwellings with sober, but imposing architecture, which flanks the linear boulevard.

The “Moldova” Universal shop, the work of the architect Victor Mihailovici, was built in 1972 and had varied products, just like a “Shopping Mall” of the capitalist world. The shop also attracted the residents of Iași with the escalator, back then, the only one in the city. The “Moldova” Hotel, built in 1984 after the plans of the architect Gheorghe Cheptea, was placed in the back of the “Saint Nicolae Domnesc” Church. Although the declared purpose was to value the monument, in reality, the hotel dominates it through its size. The blocks of flats from the sides of the Palace of Justice were built symmetrically and have, on the mezzanine, above the commercial spaces, a frieze decorated with massive concrete elements which stylizes a “Hora Unirii” dance (people holding hands) around the dwelling complex.

Nowadays, the Civic Centre revolves round the Central Market Square, area dominated until 1879 by the Saint Friday Monastery from the 16th century. Situated between two commercial streets, the area becomes a commercial center since the 17th century. The old Wall and Iron Market, designed by Gustave Eiffel in 1871 on a metal structure and with a generous basement, with wide arches, storage spaces and refrigerating plants, was devastated by a massive snow fall in 1960. A fragment of the metal structure can be found in front of the Faculty of Constructions. In order to make space for the building of Public Finances, in 1988 the Fish Market is also demolished, having a smaller size. The new Central Market, designed by the architect C. Constantinescu is inaugurated in 1977, with a generous esplanade towards the boulevard. Spread around the entire surface of the historical core, a series of cellars were revealed during the construction of an underground passage in the area between 2006 and 2012. This project is the first one in Iași which values the discovered ruins by reconverting them into galleries and commercial spaces.

The blocks of flats seem to suddenly end towards the boulevard’s east end, where there is now a green space and a modern hotel. Due to the December ‘89 Revolution, the collective dwellings ensemble of the Civic Centre remained unfinished, but dominates even today the urban landscape.

Strada Anastasie Panu, Iași
Photo by Vladimir Negru