Ludmila Popișteanu House

12-14 Gheorghe Magheru Ave., Aro Pallace, Bucharest

Credits: Mihai Oroveanu collection (photo 1)

The ARO Palace

Erecting the ARO building in a highly visible point on the new front of Brătianu Avenue is a symbolic moment for both Bucharest and Horia Creangă. This is the first big modernist construction to be raised downtown after the new height regime imposed in that area of the city by the Regulation of 1928 and whose limits it pushes. It inaugurates the transformation of the urban character of that new artery, clothing it in a modernist monumentality, shockingly novel at the time, and establishing its architect on the path of modernism.

The living spaces, that is, the seventy-three apartments, are structured on two simple lines of inequal size and height which intersect at an acute angle. The apartments vary very much in size, from 4-room-flats to studios, and display a modern distributive design, with the fully rationalized main rooms facing the street and wholly unlike the usual disposition of rooms across or around a central hall. If they do traditionally keep the back stairs and entrances, only the large apartments are provided therewith – another proof of space rationalisation, something quite rare in those days.

On the street side, the two lines are quite simple, alternating parapets and windows which join to form structural façades. This is why window alignments is punctuated by the pillars of the façade and continuity of the horizontals, by the parapets and their profiles in particular. The unfolding of the wings, mainly built on horizontal strips, is broken by the commercial, public ground floor, which accommodates the entrance hall and the theatre lobby, by means of a narrow item, a thin awning laid into a glass strip, which Horia Creangă would turn into his trademark. With their withdrawing levels, the façades exhibit a tripartite disposition, one if not classical, at least in accordance to Sullivan’s description of skyscrapers, where the apartments complete the “field of identical floors”. The broad horizontal unfolding of the façades sheltering the apartments, deliberate on the part of its architect as manifest in the various façade versions, is also due to the changes in the wings’ planes, no less interesting: access stairs now disappear from the façade on the avenue and retreat in the inner court which they punctuate while continuing to fragment the horizontality of the line facing the secondary street, probably also with the aim to reduce monumentality.

As a paradox to the plane, the intersection of the two lines gives birth to the tower that carries the representativity of the ARO Society, the building’s most unexpected (at the time) urban aspect. This audacity is accomplished through a compositional artifice whose presence one could hardly suspect: the tower is essentially born out of the low wing on the secondary street (five storeys + two withdrawn storeys) and rises five levels above the high wing’s corniche on the avenue (six storeys and three withdrawn levels). This is a bizarre technique – over the five levels, the tower’s volume is but an appearance, but this type of “mystification” is part of an expressive game that Horia Creangă would again turn to in order to create a deeper feel to the façade plane.


*From Lascu, Nicolae. Zahariade, Ana Maria. Iliescu, Anca. Radu, Florinel. Horia Creangă. O monografie [Horia Creangă, a Monograph]. Bucharest: Ion Mincu University Press, 2019, pp. 28-30.