In this week’s iteration of Concrete Ideas, we spotlight Hotel Național, a late-Soviet era landmark of Chișinău, now at risk of being demolished.
Built in 1978 under the direction of architects A. Gorbunțov and V. Șalaghinov, and formerly known as Intourist, the hotel takes the form of an imposing modernist structure located on the main boulevard of the capital city. Hotel Național rises above Chișinău’s United Nations Square, neighbouring the Academy of Science, the Ciuflea Church, and the Chișinău Hotel. The building was under state ownership until 1999. After going through the hands of two a couple of private companies, the building was left to decay instead of being restored, as agreed in the acquisition contracts.
Last month, Alfa Engineering, an offshore real estate company, received permission from the city hall to knock down the emblematic monolith. The move sparked a political scandal, with the vice-mayor, Victor Chironda, publicly claiming that the procedure was illegal. According to Chironda, the project presented by Alfa Engineering to replace the historical building with glass high-rises “broke red lines, such as going above the height limit of the area, the right to raise constructions in municipal areas, and the short distance between the new build and the neighbouring blocks of flats.” The mayor denies the wrongdoings, and had Chironda fired shortly after.
Architects and urbanists from Chișinău and Bucharest have asked the local authorities to include the landmark on the list of protected heritage buildings.
“The balanced, proportional building projected by architect Gorbunțov has brought a significant contribution to the urban architecture of Moldova, in a clear and moderate historical language, marking a turning point in the post-war architectural models of the country,” Dumitru Rusu, from the Bureau for Art and Urban Research, said in an open letter. “The architects managed to build one of the most significant hotel structures in Soviet Moldova: functional, transparent, with a great tectonic lightness. It’s an indispensable testimony, and not just for the residents of Chișinău.”
Sadly, its demolition is imminent.