ArgumentNo. 13/2021

The Versatility of the Public Space. The Historical Center of Bucharest

  • / assoc. prof. PhD. arch., “Ion Mincu” University of Architecture and Urbanism, Bucharest, RO
  • / teaching assist. PhD. arch., “Ion Mincu” University of Architecture and Urbanism, Bucharest, RO
  • / PhD. arch., “Ion Mincu” University of Architecture and Urbanism, Bucharest, RO


The topic of this article is a reflection on the versatility of architecture and the role of the public space in the making of the city. The public space gives the structure of the city and can be understood as a series of layers, of distinct registers superimposed over time, which must not be interpreted by homogenization or reduction. The public space is a concept with a wide range of meanings and its reduction to only one of its characteristics erodes its essence and leads to a loss of its richness of nuances. It takes place not only concretely but also symbolically. It signifies the memory and continuity of urban life and its specificity is closely linked to the meanings assigned to it by its users.

The contemporary understanding of public space, as an interdependent relationship of architecture with the realities in the midst of which it stands, emphasizes its ability to respond to change and context. Thus, the article proposes a theoretical path focused on the various functions of public space – as a space carrying the meanings of social and political life in Antiquity, space for trade in the Middle Ages, space for entertainment in the Classical period, space for circulation in the Industrial Age and space for connection in our times, with an emphasis on the latter.

The elements that give continuity in the structure of the city, being at the same time witnesses of the evolution of the urban structure over time, are the urban stabilizers (Rowe and Koetter, 1984) such as parishes, halls, markets, autonomous isolated buildings, etc. The research is based on the pedagogical approach of the authors in guiding the first project of the 3rd year of study “Places of the city I Precedence” in the 32 design studio of the Basics of Architectural Design department.

The article proposes the historical center of Bucharest as a case study. The role of urban stabilizer of the Old Princely Court is highlighted, starting from its value of representativeness and continuity in the making of the city. At the same time, the article questions the extent to which the attributes we associate with a versatile architecture – multi-functionality, mixed use, hybrid, diversity – can diminish the spatial character obtained over time.

Keywords: public space, versatility, the historical center of Bucharest, the Old Princely Court, teaching methods

Published in Argument 13/

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