Urban Spaces 2 / Mumuleanu 14 Apartment Building

Nowadays, Bucharest's central areas face fast and somewhat chaotic densification. While we believe that density can, and many times must be seen as a form of sustainability, we also admit that the relationship between habitation within an old urban fabric and the increase of its density is often a fragile one, as places might lose their character.

Our project seeks an appropriate answer to this problem by mediating between different sizes and densities in a central neighbourhood with small streets, long, narrow plots, and a puzzle of old and new buildings of all types and scales, not far from the socialist intervention of a large boulevard and its “curtain” of tall apartment blocks.

The project is built on Barbu Mumuleanu street on a long, narrow, and irregular plot. The proposal consists of a succession of 7 house-like volumes, a community of 20 unique apartments placed along a garden. The elongated volume stretches along the deep plot and stays connected to the street through an access courtyard that runs along the site’s western boundary. On the plot’s eastern side, the long and irregular strip of land is split into a sequence of private gardens. The dwellings are located between these two narrow gardens, opening their doors and windows towards them, thus receiving both the morning and the afternoon sun.

The access points’ customization and the units’ double orientation are characteristics borrowed from the “wagon” dwelling, a housing model typical of Bucharest’s old central neighbourhoods. Thus, on the ground floor, duplex apartments are accessed directly from the common garden, like a series of maisonettes. On the second floor, an external corridor runs along the entire building, becoming a genuine “alley”, through which all the apartments from the 2nd and 3rd floor are accessed. The communal western garden and the small private gardens in the east are replicated above by means of winter gardens – loggias with movable glass enclosures – which allow all the apartments, at ground level or above, to enjoy the same spatial sequence.

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The project thus seeks to work with a local typology and the neighbourhood’s character by attaching and overlapping dwellings with individual access and introducing a diverse array of relationships with the exterior through porches, gardens, terraces, and the elevated walkway. In order to articulate the project to the neighbourhood’s scale, the building’s mass is fragmented in volumes with different heights, in an attempt to connect the new building to the old ones and protect the urban fabric, while also allowing the light to pass towards the neighbours.

At the same time, the project has sought to present plaster as a simple, yet beautiful façade material. A widespread and rich technique in Bucharest’s historic architecture, it has almost disappeared recently, as the city is being arbitrarily clad in colourful polystyrene. The plastering was applied and finished manually – all the minor errors were left visible precisely because they enhance the beauty of the material. We believe that such syncope examples complete the design’s expressiveness and may recover some of the lost qualities of craftsmanship.

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