Landmarks / Squares

“The Cube” Square

“I find the opinion according to which the systematization process has to be very “elastic”, quite unjust, because this usually leads to urban anarchy and losing the general view. No doubt that under these conditions it is imposed to maintain a strict urban discipline without which any effort could be easily cancelled”. Boris Grunberg, “Systematisation of Iași”, Architecture R.P.R. 4 (1959).

Between 1975 and 1985, the second biggest irreparable systematization campaign takes place in Iași, during the mandate of mayor Ioan Manciuc. Intensive demolitions are made on “Ștefan cel Mare și Sfânt” Boulevard in order to transform the historical “Big Street” into a great linear, uniform boulevard, destined to visually link the Palace Square to the Union Square.

In December 1981, the excavations for the foundations of some collective working-class dwellings began, to cover the imposing edifices of the Metropolitan Cathedral and the Mihail Sturdza Palace (the current Theological Seminar). Due to sustained opposing efforts against the communist era systematization, the archaeologist Nicolae Pușcașu managed to save an entrance to the old city’s cellars from the raging excavators. The archaeological research in 1982 revealed traces of some stone cellars on 2-3 levels, divided in five parallel arched tracks, through which a feed pipe system passed, for the water in Copou, through ceramic tubes of the 17th century. Remains of 16th century wooden dwellings, of ecclesiastic stone buildings, 14th century ceramic vases fragments, but also a metal melting oven for making jewels in the 13th century, along with coins from the ruling of Petru Mușat (1375-1391) and Alexander the Good (1400-1432) were also discovered on this spot.

The archaeological discoveries certify the ecclesiastic edifices as the oldest medieval Gothic constructions with Byzantine influences known so far on the territory of Moldavia. The importance of these vestiges led to a unique project where the street front of collective dwellings was pushed back in a second plane to leave space, towards the boulevard, to the ruins.

Although the biggest part of the ruins studied in 1982 were covered with concrete, the underground space should have been transformed into a museum according to the plans of the architect Cristian Constantinescu. The skylight shaped as a cube for the big oval room in the underground was never finished, only the metal structure remaining, still dominating the square nowadays. This became a landmark – “The Cube”, vexing most of the visitors, but even some of the inhabitants. The movement on a second plane of the building front allowed the creation of a commercial gallery unusual to communist ideology. Developed on three levels connected through a spiral, with an arched glass roof and three access routes, the “Stephen the Great” Galleries didn’t manage to become an important trade beam due to the fall of the communist regime in 1989 and the dissolution of trade cooperatives which had residences there. For many years, the galleries have sheltered only a few shops, the rest of the spaces becoming sinister and unsafe in the ‘90s, especially during the night. Gradually, after 2000, a rock club appeared at first, then a pub, and in a few years, it became an attractive space for young people and artists. During the day, the galleries remained almost the same, a major change being the moving of the “Gheorghe Asachi” County library on the first floor. But at night the galleries become the most dynamic area of bars and trendy clubs in the city, initially opened as niche locals in a hidden space.

Bulevardul Ștefan cel Mare și Sfânt 10-12, Iași 700063

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