The ARO Palace Building
As with the first ARO building on Magheru Avenue, the project of the ARO Palace on Victoriei Avenue knows different variants, with whose help we can retrace a plausible route in the conception of this new type of tenement house designed by the Creangă team.
It’s obvious that the project had to serve several requirements, not necessarily easy to accommodate simultaneously. On the one hand, there was the representativity of ARO Society, for which a formal continuity with the previous building had to be found, on the other hand, one had to consider making profitable a lot whose shape and building policy had less to offer to the representativity of the edifice than the land on Magheru Avenue. This is why Creangă had to look for a different expression and for a different building typology than those he had to work in the previous projects. He wanted representativity in the expression of the earlier building, whose tall, vertically articulated tower is used as the “trademark” of the society. But in the impossibility of building a tower this trademark would turn into a curtain made of seventeen solid concrete slats (non-structural, nor assimilable to some brise-soleil) facing Victoriei Avenue – an austere, but unmistakable image.
Behind it, and accessible via a deep admission courtyard elegantly set up with lateral porticos, are the society’s public spaces, as well as the eighty-three apartments of very different sizes (from studios to 5-room dwellings) and, with the exception of those facing Victoriei Avenue, somewhat modest surface area-wise. Their repartition in the plan’s limiting outline, especially in the narrowness of the lateral line, is a true exercise in virtuosity, because these are after all very simple, in great part detached apartments, perfectly functional, accessible either via the landing or a corridor lit on one side, a kind of an enclosed external passageway. In such circumstances as imposed by the difficulty to solve [some issues with] the apartments, the presence of a set of backstairs may seem paradoxical; but precisely because of the need of maximum surface rationalization, the larger apartments only are fitted with backstairs and accesses, thus reducing interior circulation within the apartments. For the ground floor and the first floor, the two identical lines, perpendicular on the street, are composed of small apartments, accessible via the vertical nodes of the main circulations, located at the lines’ ends; for the second floor, nodes begin to serve those apartments making up the asymmetrical line facing the street (two large apartments opening onto street and one smaller onto the courtyard); for the fifth floor, the composition closes with the appearance of the two symmetrical apartments on the back side, accessible via the vertical nodes at the end of the lateral lines. With the exception of the apartments on the line leading to the street, all rooms are lit by means of the two inner courtyards, the one, of admission, the other, across the counter hall. The two very narrow courtyards between the lines and the lateral margins of the lot provide light and air only to the corridor leading to the apartments on each floor.
The spatial organisation is singular from many points of view – from the volumetric symmetry unfolding behind the body facing the Victoriei Avenue to the types of apartments, more modest and without any particular spatial pretences but perfectly hygienic and modern, which bring to mind the neutrality of the standard apartment. It’s needless to look for Horia Creangă’s model in projecting this building; rather, it’s about the result of a difficult, novel exercise in design which solves the problem of the representativity of a society, exploiting to the fullest, and with pragmatic rationality, the hard-to-build-on depth of a profound urban lot.
(From Lascu, Nicolae, Zahariade, Ana Maria, Iliescu, Anca, Radu, Florinel. Horia Creangă. O monografie [Horia Creangă. A Monograph]. Bucharest: Editura Universitară Ion Mincu, 2019, pp. 54-56)