Architecture in Romania: Palace of Culture
La?i is a city in north-east Romania close to the border with the Republic of Moldavia. In popular culture it is considered the cultural capital of this European state. Although it has important universities, theaters, libraries and so on, this title is more likely given because Iasi used to be the capital of the Principality of Moldavia before the union with Wallachia and so, this decision was made in order to appease the local citizens.
This Gothic Revival building was inaugurated in 1926 by King Ferdinand of Romania after two decades of construction. The chief architect was Ion D. Berindey and "the team" also comprised Xenopol and Cherchez. Berindey designed many important Romanian buildings but about them some other time.
Between 1806 and 1812 construction on the Royal Court of Moldavia was started by Prince Alexandru Moruzi. It featured a Neoclassical architecture. The Royal Court eventually burned down in 1904 and so, in 1906, work on the present day palace was started. A Curtea Domneasc? (Royal Court) built in 1434 existed in the area although recent studies tend to put this fact under a big question mark.
During the Second World War it housed German troops and then Soviet troops, and after the conflict ended till 1955 the building was home for the County Law Court.
The materials used for the construction were all new in spite of the antiquated look but the thing that is really special is a new type of cement created by Henri Coand? (Coand? Effect and the jet engine) that perfectly imitates oak named "beton-bois". For its time and place this building was an engineering marvel, with electric lighting, air ventilation, pneumatic heating and for making it fireproof, Berindey treated the floor with "orniton" and the roof with "eternita".
Currently the palace is home for four museums and a library. The History Museum has four sections, prehistory, old history, medieval history and modern and contemporary history. The Science and Technology Museum "Stefan Procopiu", the Museum of Art and the Museum of Ethnography of Moldavia are the other three.
The main thing people notice while looking at the facade it the tower. This massive element also functions as the main entrance. There are a total of 298 rooms with a surface area of about 36 000 square meters.
Among the halls there are the Gothic Hall with mosaics representing a medieval bestiarium and the Voievod Hall (Sala Voievozilor) with paintings of Moldavian rulers made by Stefan Dumitrescu and his students.