Sibiu, the 2007 European Cultural Capital, has a vibrant cultural scene. Annual Theatre and Jazz Festivals are very popular events between both locals and visitors. Amongst many festivals throughout the year, the city’s cultural scene includes the Carl Filtsch Festival for young classical piano players, the Astra Film documentary film festival, the Transylvania Open Air Music festival, and a medieval arts festival. For these events, among others, the city is looking to develop a complex that will include a new 500 seat theater to replace the existing one, a Convention Centre on the former site of the old defense bastion demolished in 1987 and an information center for visitors. In conjunction with these developments by the city of Sibiu, private development on site will include a five star hotel, a contemporary department store, a cinema-multiplex and restaurants. An interactive public plaza will become a new focal point for the city to integrate this development into the daily life of the city.

The site, located at the South West corner of the historic town of Sibiu, formerly known as Hermannstadt, has been actively looking for architectural solutions. The vicinity to the old fortification wall and to the old city poses a big challenge. At the same time, these adjacencies allow an exciting investigation into how new, contemporary architecture can successfully be inserted in this setting and withstand the challenges of time.

Mihai Radu Architects recently had the honor to be invited to present a few options for this exciting new project.

Option 1 is designed around the idea of creating continual movement that connects the various districts while providing opportunities for exploration. The surface of the plaza slowly transforms into the exterior sloped surface of the theatre. At one end the raised plaza bridges over the boulevard and transforms into a second ramp that winds around the Convention Center creating several opportunities to explore the architecture and the views of the city as you wind your way from ground to roof. The green roof on top of the Convention Center acts as an extension of the existing park, connecting the existing urban fabric. It can also be used as an alternative outdoor stage where the interplay between people and architecture creates its own public performance. The boundaries between cultural, civic and public events are blurred.

Option 2 is a reimagining of traditional city typologies for contemporary society. The design of the Convention Center attempts to reinterpret a traditional city block with a fresh approach. The exploration involved the use of different textures and details with a single unifying idea: keeping the memory of the place alive. The traditional old city roofs with their iconic dormers known as “city eyes” were the inspiration for the new theatre and are re-interpreted in new ways throughout the building.

Option 3 has two major sources of inspiration. The dynamic idea of flight is combined with the strong, grounded roots of local folklore. Our design creates an iconic image while merging these ideas into several winged layers intersecting in the middle creating a light and airy structure that hints at the cultural past. As an inspiration we looked at birds’ flight patterns and translated them into the design. The Convention Center soars, as birds in flight, creating an iconic image. This is balanced by the interweaving and folding of shapes, reminiscent of the gracious curves in the heavy fabrics of the local traditional costumes. A series of perforations on the roof and to the sides of the convention center are designed to bring filtered light inside the space and create dynamic interior spaces. These openings based on local vernacular patterns with complex rectilinear shapes, are a perfect complement to the simplicity of the organic shells which create the envelope of the building. The final design successfully combines local traditions with a sculptural organic massing.


Copyright 2004 Mihai Radu Architects / Lauster & Radu Arhitecti