CRITICAL REVIEW


Romanian architect of a functionalist orientation, professor, researcher, plastic artist, and photographer.  Romanian architecture would have been, no doubt, much poorer without Mircea Alifanti’s contribution. He is part of the generation of architects, whose debut in their profession unfortunately coincided with the bleak years that followed World War II, when the totalitarian communist regime was established and consolidated in Romania. However, these architects did not lack models, and some of them, Mircea Alifanti himself, were lucky enough to get in touch with great names of inter-war architecture.
As Duiliu Marcu’s disciple, Alifanti had plenty to learn, including in his pedagogical work, which he always performed with great professionalism, just like his master.
It is true that, after the instauration of communism in Romania, Mr. Alifanti’s design work was limited. In the first years of his career, between 1946 and 1948, he built Băneasa Airport and APACA garment factory, which was erected with the help of volunteers. The latter has no connection with the Stalinist architecture of the 1950s and socialist realism of the 1960s, exhibiting an industrial modernism typical of the inter-war buildings in the field, designed by Horia Creangă (Malaxa Factory) or G. M. Cantacuzino and Octav Doicescu (I.A.R. Brașov), while also displaying the classicizing influences encountered in Duiliu Marcu’s work: plane symmetry, axiality and simplicity.
However, his few works are singled out for their quality and depth, their courage to remove the ubiquitous Stalinism of the 1950s, replacing it by modernism. In that unfortunate period of full-fledged repression of the totalitarian regime, manifested at all levels of society, Mircea Alifanti tried through his projects to rekindle modernist hope.
In the 1970s, the architect returned and managed to selectively develop a synthesis of previous experiences, manifested in an original, organic and simultaneously functional architecture. We are talking about the so-called ’’lyrical modernism”. The most telling example in this respect is the city hall in Baia Mare, a work for which he filled ’’several notebooks with detailed drawings.” This was accompanied by the hotel in the new centre of Bistrița and the new headquarters of the town’s city hall, both built in 1972. From this point of view, the three modernist works, professor Alifanti’s last design projects, resemble the endeavour of Ion Mincu who at the peak of eclectic academicism created Lahovary House, the first work displaying ’’Romanian style’’ in our country. The difference is that, this time, the role of eclecticism was taken over by socialist realism that was to transform Romanian architecture between 1960 and 1990 into a standardized, oversimplified and poor architecture, to which Mircea Alifanti never adapted.
While I never actually met Duiliu Marcu, whom I dubbed ’’the architect of detail’’, except through other architects’ impressions, or by poring over archives, as well as over his works, I am pleased to say that I had the chance to personally meet Mircea Alifanti, whom I would call ’’the professor of detail.”
Moreover, while Duiliu Marcu designed over a hundred buildings and many other projects that were awarded prizes in architecture competitions, which were executed by other architects, Mircea Alifanti’s work is characterized by scarcity, and he did not say much about it, as he was quite humble about his achievements.
Indeed, at first glance one would say that Mircea Alifanti did not build much, but in fact, he had quite an impact on building the vision of the generations of architects that followed him and whose mentor he was.
From a different perspective, Mircea Alifanti can be regarded as the architect who marks the end of the modernist phase in Romania, after designing the city hall in Baia Mare. The century of modernity (1850-1950) in Romanian architecture has to pay its due to Architect and Professor MIRCEA ALIFANTI, to whom I am deeply grateful. ,,Thank you, Professor!’’
(Mariana Croitoru, 2017)
 


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    BIOGRAPHY


    (Călimăneşti, 4 October 1914 - 1999)
     
    Academic/specialized studies
    ? - 1939 – The Faculty of Architecture, Bucharest.
    In parallel, he performed the military service and was then included in the 61st Pioneer Battalion.
     
    Public/professional activity (affiliations, administrative positions, committees)
    1938-1940 – Alifanti worked in Arch. Duiliu Marcu’s studio (until he was sent on the front in 1941): he executed the parcelling plan of Floreasca Racetrack, interior decorations to renovate the Athénée Palace Hotel and some residences, took part in surveys for institute design in Cluj and Bucharest, and worked on the headquarters of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
    1942-1949 - Architect within the Directorate-General of Public Works and Rehabilitation within the Ministry of Communications and Works (subsequently, the Institute of Construction Design is founded).
    1948 – The Ministry named Alifanti head of the design works on the Compound of ’’Gh. Gheorghiu-Dej” Garment and Knitwear Factory, then known as APACA (1947-1948).
    1951-1954 – He was transferred to the State Technical Committee where he would coordinate the General Directorate of Public Buildings.
    1954-1959 – Scientific secretary of the Union of Architects of the People’ Republic of Romania.
    In 1959 – he became chief architect at I.S.C.A.S./I.P.C.T.
    1945-1984 – Tenured professor at ’’Ion Mincu” Architecture Institute, in Bucharest.
     
    Scientific activity
    1954-1962 – Floor plans of wooden architecture in Transylvania, Maramureş, Crişana and Banat, done after studying the main wooden architectural monuments in these regions.
     


    PROJECTS


    COMPLETED/INCOMPLETE PROJECTS

    Architectural projects
    Aprox. 1942-1949 – He was involved in the project at Colibași Aircraft Plant, done for the workers in Colibași;
    1944 – The former Ministry of National Defence, Brezoianu Street, Bucharest (under the supervision of Arch. Octav Doicescu);
    1944 – Elementary and middle school in Domenii Parcelling and the Housing Project for M.C.L.P clerks;
    1945-1948 - Băneasa Airport (project designed in collaboration with Arch. Ascanio Damian, Nicolae Bădescu, C. Alifanti, Pompiliu Macovei and others) (see also Aurel Vlaicu International Airport, Bucharest, Băneasa);
    1947-1948 - Garment Factory, formerly APACA, Bucharest (project designed in collaboration with Arch. Ion Ghika-Budeşti, Harry Stern, Ascanio Damian);
    1949 - Pavilion H (project designed in collaboration Harry Stern, Gustav Gusti);
    1950-1955 – ’’Casa Scânteii” Polygraphic Factory, currently the House of Free Press (project designed in collaboration with Arch. Horia Maicu – head of project, Nicolae Bădescu, Marcel Locar, L. Stadecker);
    1969 - Baia Mare City Hall (project designed in collaboration with Arch. Adrian Panaitescu, A. Florian, and others);
    1970-1974 – The city hall and Corona Hotel in Bistriţa (project designed in collaboration with Arch. Adrian Panaitescu, Tiberiu Benedek, Alexandra Florian);
    1978 - Modulation and dimensioning of housing elements (project designed in collaboration with Arch. M. Caffé, A Florian, D. Hardt, and others).
     
    Awards and distinctions
    1970 – Prize awarded by the Union of Romanian Architects for designing the city hall in Baia Mare.
    1973 - Received the title of Professor Emeritus.
    1978 - Modulation and dimensioning of housing elements (study).
     


    BIBLIOGRAPHY


    Primary sources:
    BÂRSAN, Andrei, NICULAE, Raluca, TEODORESCU, Sidonia, ȚELEA, Vasile, Dicționar al arhitecturii românești moderne (sec. XIX, XX, XXI) (literele A-C), Bucharest, 2012, https://issuu.com/dictionaruar/docs/dictionar_arhitecti_si_cladiri_ac_u 
    Project financed by the Union of Romanian Architects through the Architects Stamp Fund, 2014.
    PANAITESCU, Alexandru, De la Casa Scânteii la Casa Poporului. Patru decenii de arhitectură în București, 1945-1989, Editura Simetria, Bucharest, p. 256.
    ZAHARIADE, Ana Maria, PONTA, Radu, Professor Alifanti’s Notebooks, SITA, volume 2/2014, Indigenous Aliens, Mediators of Architectural Modernity, pp. 163-187.
     
    The memo written by Alifanti in 1963, available in ’’Tenured appointment file”, 6 April 1963,  the archives of ’’Ion Mincu’’ University of Architecture and Urbanism, page 40.