Cluj-Napoca, the first Romanian city to have a mixed-use project by world-renowned Dutch architecture firm UNStudio, via IULIUS Group’s urban reconversion endeavor for the Carbochim platform

Mihai-Alexandru Cristea 27/07/2023 | 12:17

Cluj-Napoca is the Romanian city that is proposed to accommodate the development of the first mixed-use urban reconversion project to bear the signature of UNStudio, a world renowned architecture firm that designed some of the most spectacular projects in major cities around the world, which have become urban and tourist landmarks that combine functionality and innovative design. IULIUS is working with the prestigious Dutch firm on the masterplan of the project for the urban reconversion of the Carbochim industrial platform into a vibrant attraction of Cluj-Napoca city, currently in the permitting phase. The proposed project will include the largest retail area in Romania (more than 115,000 sqm), the first performing arts hub integrated in a real-estate project, a residential area, offices, urban garden, and outdoor sports center. This is a major project that will contract the expertise of local and national architects, who will play an important role for implementation purposes. Meet the UNStudio architects in this video –


The Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart, the Four Frankfurt mixed-use complex, the unique and sustainable concept of the Brainport Smart District in Helmond, the Lyric Theatre Complex in Hong Kong, the Arnhem Central Station, the Doha Metro, and the Erasmus Bridge in Rotterdam are only a few of the 120 projects UNStudio designed around the world. They are joined by the first Romania-based project in the portfolio of these renowned architects, namely the Carbochim platform reconversion into a Part of Cluj, an investment by IULIUS Group.

“We have yet to actually build a project in Romania, so we are very excited that we can now finally design something for this country in Cluj-Napoca. Romania has a fascinating history and a very strong cultural identity, but it also has a huge influence on the culture in the larger Balkan region,” says Ben van Berkel, Founder and Principal Architect at UNStudio. In 1988, alongside Caroline Bos, he founded the UNStudio architecture firm, whose portfolio includes some of the most spectacular buildings in the world. Their drawing boards now feature the reconversion masterplan for the Carbochim platform, a project they have been working on for the past year and which they have analyzed in a multitude of iterations in order to develop a solution that best integrates the feedback received from authorities, institutions, specialists, and the community. This is a major investment, upwards of half-billion Euro, targeting an area of approximately 14 hectares that is currently inaccessible to the public. Local and national architects will be brought onboard for some components of the project, such as the two industrial buildings of ambient importance set to be preserved and utilized in the project for cultural and entrepreneurial uses.

With offices in Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Dubai, and Melbourne, and a team of 300-plus employees from 27 countries, UNStudio worked in more than 120 international projects, such as urban masterplans, office and residential buildings, as well as architecturally spectacular museums and infrastructure works. These are spaces where people live and work in healthy environments and that were designed in a futureproof manner, a concept they are also implementing in their project in Romania. “We are keenly aware of the potential that urban regeneration has for cities. Essential to this is looking into new ways to redevelop existing urban areas in such a way that they can give something back to the city as a whole, that they reactivate and enliven the spaces and areas that have become obsolete over the years. Designing to strengthen and support communities is all about creating places that bring people together, said the UNStudio founder.

The team working on this project is coordinated by Arjan Dingsté, Director and Senior Architect at UNStudio: We have been quite active in Eastern Europe in recent years and were particularly keen to find opportunities in Romania, largely because of its rich history. I am so proud that us, at UNStudio, can be part of the future history of Cluj, bringing an exciting project to the city, which will also be the first UNStudio project in Romania. It is really exciting to see that we can connect this old industrial area to the more recent Armătura Park. We want to bring the people also on the Carbochim site back to the water, to continue the green belt along the river.”


“Health and wellbeing – physical, mental, and social – are something we consider essential in every design we make”

UNStudio is focused on adding value by means of designs that make life healthier, have a reduced impact on the planet, and are also long-lasting for the cities and the people. “Mixed-use programs that avoid the creation of mono-functional districts will improve the quality of city living. A connection to nature is also essential, as is improving social connections in order to mitigate feelings of isolation. Technology will also play a key role in many areas of city life in the future, especially where mobility is concerned, but also in terms of sustainability. However, for us, principally, the criteria that cannot be missing is health and wellbeing – physical, mental and social health. This is something we consider essential in every design we make,” said Ben van Berkel, Founder and Principal Architect at UNStudio explaining his vision about the future of urban developments.

Referring to the public consultation campaign on the expectations of the community regarding the new project, which generated more than 9,500 opinions in the form of direct messages or as votes on the integrated uses, Arjan Dingsté believes thatthese ideas require the kind of design thinking that we have at UNStudio. We always approach our designs in a deeply contextual way, so we needed to fully understand the spirit of both the site and of Cluj before we began any design work.” “You also need to know what the public feel is missing in their city, or what they would like to see the new development bringing to the neighborhood. In general, the aim is always to attract more people to the area, to make it more lively and connected to the needs of the public and to the city as a whole,” added Ben van Berkel.


Projects that draw the contemporary international architecture

UNStudio’s iconic buildings include the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart, which draws the attention of passing through the area. Tourist websites present the spectacular structure as an unmissable contemporary architectural landmark, the interest in the museum’s architecture sometimes exceeding that in its exhibits. The Four Frankfurt mixed-use complex is also developed on a site that has been inaccessible for the past 45 years, and so the city will offer a vibrant new destination. Brainport Smart District in Helmond is an example of a unique design, a flexible concept set to be developed in line with the residents’ requirements and needs. Another impressive project in the Dutch architects’ portfolio is the Arnhem Central Station, which has become a city attraction, a magnet for tourists, and an excellent example for redeveloping infrastructure projects. The Erasmus Bridge in Rotterdam they created is one of the landmark constructions of the city, shaped like a swan and constituting a tourist attraction. UNStudio’s design for the Doha Metro Station builds a bridge between the past and future of Qatar, drawing inspiration from the regional architecture, while also offering an efficient vision of the future, with a distinctive interior and exterior architecture. The list of projects by the world-leading architecture firm, recognized for its avant-garde design and iconic buildings, continues with many famous buildings around the world

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Mihai-Alexandru Cristea | 28/06/2024 | 12:25
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