Mazzocchioo#5 Thesis. The Retroactive Ideal City - Govora Baths
Ș t e f a n S i m i o n
The ideal city has always been a fantasy that valued reason next to religion, utopias and, later, comfort. As a theoretical category, the ideal city was a deep look forward. As time passed and religion and utopias faded away and comfort remained the attribute of the single built object, the ideal city became retroactive. Not a (what seems to be a modernist idea) a theoretical category anymore; rather a fiction to be sometimes revisited to measure up reality. And the aspirations and failures of the past (especially of the 19th and 20th century), present themselves as built lessons today. These urban fragments (as the ideal city has fortunately mainly produced only fragments) vary widely from troubled city parts, to beautiful inhabited places.
Govora Baths is a 130 years old depopulated ideal city. It illustrates the theme of the garden-city: a Park hosting stand-alone architectural objects. Its territorial situation: a man-made Park surrounded by a vast mountain forest. Putting into place this Park in the 1890s had opened up the construction of the thermal resort. Later, a small city has evolved out of this situation.
Visiting today the aged, visible form of this ideal city, I have discovered a beautiful series of urban fragments that are being coagulated by the Park. First, you experience a short strip: the street leading towards the entry into the Park. The street has hotels (abandoned and still functional) on one side; a post office, a pastry shop and private houses on the other. Next, you enter the sloped Park which contains a series of urban islands, each one with its own axis, character and representativeness: the Central Baths Pavilion, the Sanatorium, the Amphitheater, the Movie Theater, the Palace Hotel, Villa Sylva, a Football field and two compact distinct residential groupings of 10-12 houses (Grivita and Vasile Alecsandri streets). Moreover, the Park is being crossed by a network of alleys, and one of these is a road for cars.
What, at the very beginning, was the construction of a collection of singular architectural objects destined for thermal spa, leisure and emerging out of reality, slowly made way for the banality of inhabitation; from the spectacular of the new fiction of those times – to the silence of a small residential town. As Govora Baths had suddenly been built (in a short span of 30 years), the fall of tourism has led to a shrinking process. At this time, it tries to reinvent itself by a process of rehabilitation of these stand-alone structures in the Park. In a certain way, it could be a process to reinstate an old ideal city, not for nostalgic ends, but for pragmatic economic reasons. A kind of retroactive utopia.
Mazzocchioo#5 puts forward the richness of the Govora Baths as an aged ideal city: it is a beautiful site, yet sad, due to its abandonment that led to the state of ruin. MZCH#5 is being constructed around the in-depth research led by Ștefania Hârleață and Radu Tîrcă at the University of Architecture and Urbanism Ion Mincu in Bucharest in 2019.
In the eight weeks to come, MZCH#5 will alternate the architectural and urban analysis of the built heritage of Govora Baths (Monday and Tuesday) with the generous contributions (Thursday) of our guests who will answer our polemic invitations to debate the implied untold layers of the vast concept of the Ideal City in relation to: ideal architecture – Renato Rizzi; fashion – Filipe Magalhães (FALA); anachronism – Akos Moravansky; ideal architecture –Jeannette Kuo; demographics – Ilinca Păun Constantinescu; systematization – Irina Tulbure; ideal society – Cătălin Ștefănescu; monastery – Mother Ambrosia; artistic thought – Radu George Serafim.
 Under the academic guidance of Irina Tulbure, Ilinca Paun-Constantinescu Ștefania Hîrleață’s thesis is ‘Redefining the Thermal Park Govora Baths: between identity and transformation’ and Radu Tîrcă’s thesis is ‘The Thermal Architecture – identity instrument to reactivate the thermal built heritage of Govora Baths’. Led by Ștefan Simion and Irina Meliță, the diplomas of Ștefania Hîrleață and Radu Tîrcă focus on the rehabilitation and expansion of the Bath Pavilion, respectively Villa Sylva.
Stefan Simion obtained a degree in architecture at "Ion Mincu" University of Architecture and Urbanism, Bucharest in 2004 and he's the author of the thesis "Vacchini" in 2009, that led to "The Ambiguity of the Masterpiece. LIVIO VACCHINI, in 11 dialoguesi" published in 2018 by Arhitext Design publishing house. As a laureat of the SCIEX award attributed by The Rector's Conference of the Swiss Universities, he has conducted a post-doctoral research on the work of Livio Vacchini during the academic year 2013-2014 in EPFL. He taught architectural design at UAUIM (Bucharest), Pratt (New York), EPFL (Lausanne), International University of Rabat (Morocco). Currently he teaches architectural design in UAUIM Bucharest and he's a partner architect of the office with Irina Melita.