LocationAleea Tiberiu Brediceanu, Brașov, Romania
Architects in ChargeRadu Enescu, Constantin Goagea, Justin Baroncea
Restoration towerMarina Iliescu, Radu Enescu, Justin Baroncea
CollaboratorsAda Demetriu, Vitalie Cataraga
Project ManagerVirgil Rezus
Text description provided by the architects. Brasov is one of the Transylvanian cities built in the Middle Ages by German (Saxon) colonists. Most of its fortifications were demolished to make way for massive development in the 19th and the 20th centuries.
In the last ten years the city council has commenced a programme of gradual restoration and conversion of the remaining walls, towers and bastions.
The Drapers Bastion, converted by Point 4 architects, is part of this fortification system. Having been abandoned for such a long time, fragile elements – copings, sentinel walks and staircases – had vanished completely, leaving just the heavy circular wall.
During excavations of the ground floor, remains of older walls were found. The brief called for the restoration of the tower and the creation of an information centre for the Brasov fortifications, containing interactive information and education equipment.
It turned out that covering the bastion would involve a metal roof structure and therefore a reinforcement of the tower’s upper section with a circular concrete belt, inevitably damaging the substance of the monument. Moreover, the foundations of the older walls had to be preserved and partially exposed, which severely limited the use of ground floor space.
The architects consequently proposed to house the information centre in a free-standing interior tower that does not infringe in any way on the structure or the exterior image of the bastion.
The old structure was repaired. As marks in the walls allowed the old timber sentinel walks to be retraced, it was decided to reconstruct them in a contemporary way. The new walkways adopt both the position and basic geometry of the original ones, but consist of a steel structure with beechwood floorings and a metal mesh parapet.
The new tower starts in the basement with a minimal footprint (because of the excavations), widening as it rises to achieve the required surface area. It allows an internal view of the bastion along its full height and gives access to the rebuilt sentinel walks.
The architects made every effort not to fill up the internal space, which would have relegated the walls to a kind of historical skin for a completely new interior. Instead, they created an ambiguous new layer, which can be perceived both as the interior of the bastion and the exterior of the new construction.
In certain areas, the tension between the two enclosures is dramatic. In others, on the contrary, large windows celebrate the transparency and visual connections. The shape of the new object and the disposition and size of its openings are directly conditioned by the position of the gun embrasures of the historical building. The interior tower is independent, but not autonomous; it only makes sense through the presence of the bastion that surrounds it, allowing visitors to explore the bastion and catch mediated glimpses of the city.
The aim was to create a structure as light and reversible as possible. Except for the concrete foundation, the whole structure can be dismantled and reused, allowing future interventions in the bastion. The 75 × 300 cm Cor-Ten steel panels not only enclose the building, but also brace the metal frame. Apart from reversibility and sustainability, the robust expression clearly signals a contemporary intervention.
Yet, at a more subtle level, the project also recovers and reinterprets the identity of the place. We still tend to project an idealized image onto historical heritage. Medieval towns turn into congenial locations, spaces for culture and, increasingly, for consumption. The dramas, the shifts and the contradictions of the societies that created and changed them are somehow pushed into the background. As a reaction to this, this project acknowledges the fact that the bastion was planned, built and used for fighting, and the new information centre focuses on defensive architecture. The visual, audio and physical experience of the corroded surface somehow reveals, without becoming oppressive, the initial tension of the place.