Arghir CULINA Architecture Tour
Arghir CULINA (sometimes written CULINĂ) is the image of a stylistic evolution of the first half of the 20th Century in a Romania that encouraged and rewarded creativity, business people and entrepreneurs. Architect CULINA is a success story with a sour ending, caused by the change of the post World War Two political climate. The political regime after March 1945 retired him from the professional life and later requisitioned all his assets and tried (quite efficiently) to erase him from the cultural memory of the citizens of Bucharest and of the Romanians in general. Due to this last reason the biographical data is sadly either poor or deduced.
Born on the 15th of July of 1883 at Grámos, in the North-Eastern part of Greece, the aromanian ethnic Arghir CULINA probably moves with his family to Bucharest early in his life. What is certain is that he graduates from The Superior School of Architecture in Bucharest, receiving his degree in architecture in 1909. The specialized literature briefly mentions Arghir CULINA's apprenticeship with Paul GOTTEREAU (1843-19??) and Albert GALLERON (1846-19??), which seems to be a hard-to-prove information though, seeing as how GALLERON left Romania when CULINA was approximately 17. It's a fact that during Arghir CULINA's studenthood architect Eracle LĂZĂRESCU (1868-1937) held the course on 'sanitation, hygiene and plumbing' starting with 1904. Just as clear is that LĂZĂRESCU and CULINA cosigned a number of projects during the first half of the 1910s. Also, considering architect LĂZĂRESCU's first name and his collaboration with architect Gheorghe SIMOTTA, he was probably also an aromanian ethnic, a feature that acted as a binder for the relationship between student and teacher.
Arghir CULINA's family background facilitated the signing of a number of commissions, one of his first being the 1912 Palace Hotel, presently Cişmigiu Hotel, with the structural design signed by the aromanian engineer Nicolae Nacu PISSIOTA, the architect's cousin and the hotel owner. Another commission source was what seemed to be a relationship with the Dacia România Insurance Company , for which he designs between 1928 and 1934 three medium and large size apartment buildings. The architect's financial state rapidly improves, making it possible for him to develop another career as a real estate developer, designing and building for himself the apartment building at 3 Hristo Botev Street and the Ambasador Hotel.
In 1942 he is awarded membership within the 'Steaua României' Order, ranking officer, by King Mihai 1st, thusly awarding him the highest distinction the Romanian State has to offer. Starting with June 1945 Arghir CULINA, aged 62, is no longer a member of the Architect's Corps and retires from the position of first class general inspector within The Ministry of Communications and Public Works. After another short initiative of starting another business – Danubia Motor from May 1946 to January 1947 – CULINA gives up any activity, being probably forced by the regime. In the year 1950, through the Decree of April 19th, his home at 3 Cristian Radu Street and the buildings at 3 Hristo Botev Street, 10 Magheru Boulevard and 2 Suvenir Street are requisitioned / nationalized. He continues to reside at the same address (3 Cristian Radu Street), probably as a tenant. In the 1958 phone register there are two more persons at the same address: Sideri CULINA and Florica CULINA. We managed to contact one of CULINA's great-grandsons, who followed in his footsteps also becoming an architect, mister Ştefan BIANCO. From him we found out that Arghir CULINA was also inprisoned on political grounds.
In 1972, according to the lists of 'Asociaţia Cremaţionistă Amurg' the architect is incinerated in Bucharest at Cenuşa Crematory. After a lifetime of creation and accomplishments, the political regime managed to erase a large part of the architect's existence. His legacy consists of most of his buildings after the loss of Splendid and Splendid Parc Hotels and the Ministry of Economy and probably other works not yet identified.
The tour we are initiating is one guided through this leaflet and through the website, on which we plan to post more information about the architect as we uncover it. The principle of organizing the stops on the tour is one strictly geographical, not chronological, seeing as how we would like the public (both tourists and citizens of Bucharest) to visit the buildings in order not to misplace the memory of the architect. This does not mean that a chronological organizing would be out of place. Actually, chronological stages of his stylistic fingerprint was the first thing to catch our eye. Stylistically we can identify three periods: eclectic and Neoromanian, Art-Deco with Neoromanian influences and pure Art-Deco. During his eclectic and Neoromanian period we can feel the influence of architect Eracle LĂZĂRESCU in works such as: Mincu Villa within Ioanid Residential Park, 4 Alexandru Alley villa, the Piteşti Courthouse, Grigore Coandă villa in Piteşti, Louvre (Capitol) and Palace (Cişmigiu) Hotels and sculpture pedestals; the architect makes a transition towards his Art-Deco with Neoromanian influences through Paris (Muntenia) Hotels, the apartment building at 3 Hristo Botev Street and Kimon LOGHI Villa, creating afterwords works such as Dacia România Insurance Company Apartment Building, The Medical Students' Dormitory and Stănescu Hotel. With the designs for the buildings on Calea Şerban Vodă and Jean Louis Calderon Street, the Liric (Opera), Union and Ambasdor Hotels and Emil PRAGER Villa, Arghir CULINA employs a version of the Art-Deco that sometimes borders modernism.
Carrying in mind this touchable stylistic evolution of CULINA's work, and its' quantity and quality we developed through the Bucharest Branch of the Romanian Architects' Chamber (OAR) this cultural project dedicated to the memory of this architect and his creation.