“Cities that can harmoniously integrate new and old elements have the potential to become vibrant centers”. IPN Interview with Florin Mindirigiu, founder of SHARE Architects

On February 13, the Moldovan capital will host the second edition of the SHARE Chisinau International Architecture Forum, an event dedicated to architects, constructors and investors, both public and private. The previous edition brought together over 300 professionals, and the current edition will have speakers from the UK, Israel, the Netherlands, Turkey, Romania and Moldova. What topics will be discussed at SHARE Chisinau 2024, what are the general trends in architecture and urban development in Eastern European cities and what Chisinau stands to gain by being included in the SHARE Architects network? We’ll ask Florin Mindirigiu, founder of SHARE Architects, to answer these questions.

- Mr. Mindirigiu, let’s start with some numbers. We learn from the SHARE Architects website that since 2010 your network has organized more than 100 events in 16 countries, mainly in Central and Eastern Europe, events that had a total audience of over 20,000. An impressive community, we might say. However, we cannot help but notice that the forum in Chisinau is only at its second edition. Why didn’t this happen sooner?

- Thank you for your question and your interest in the SHARE Architects network. It is true that annual SHARE International Architecture Forum events are organized in 16 European countries, giving rise to a remarkable community of professionals in the field of architecture and construction, a community that we greatly appreciate and whose needs we constantly try to respond to.

As to your remark about the Chisinau forum being only at its second edition, I would like to point out that originally SHARE Architects started out by concentrating on Romania and then gradually expanded to the Central and South-East European region. In the last two years, we have also directed our efforts to Western countries as well, with the aim of building a solid infrastructure for professional events to serve our mission of promoting Eastern European architecture at the European and international level.

Our development strategy is based on predictions of investment in architecture in the region, the openness of architects to professional meetings and the development of solid institutional and professional partnerships in the countries where we decide to work in. For this reason, the organization of the forum in Chisinau did not happen earlier, but we are pleased that we could expand our network in Moldova at a time when SHARE is recognized as truly European and at our most dynamic and sustainable period of development.

- Could you state the SHARE Architects mission in a sentence or two for the general public? With a focus on benefits, perhaps. What does Chisinau and Moldova in general stand to gain from this partnership?

Our mission is to facilitate dialogue and exchange of knowledge among architects, with the goal of forging a strong and innovative professional community. Through conferences, forums and other specialized events, we are committed to encouraging an exchange of ideas and best practices that transcend conventional boundaries and promote architectural excellence.

Working with a growing community of over 50,000 professionals and with an expanding presence in Central and South Eastern Europe, SHARE Architects aims to foster innovation and architectural excellence globally. By facilitating international collaborations and partnerships, we have the ability to significantly contribute to shaping the future of architecture in our region.

Chisinau and Moldova can benefit from this collaboration through access to an extensive network of professionals and through the opportunity to get involved in discussions and projects of international scope in the field of architecture. By promoting communication and networking, SHARE Architects aims to discover and capitalize on the untapped potential of architects from Central and South-Eastern Europe, thus contributing to strengthening their presence and influence at European and global level.

Moldovan architects have been invited to speak at our international events, gaining acclaim. We were also happy to meet Moldovan architects among the audience of events held in cities such as Venice, Bucharest, Tirana, Skopje, Budapest and Iasi, to mention just a few. This clearly demonstrates that our mission is understood and that we are happy to act as facilitators of cultural and professional exchanges in the field of architecture. Through our presence in Chisinau, we facilitate access to the SHARE Architects network and to the latest architecture information. National, regional and international leaders will always take the stage at our forums to present the latest trends in architecture.

- We just have to ask. How do you find Chisinau from an architectural point of view? What do you like and what do you like less? Many buildings in the historic center were lost, first to the bombs of war, and then to the bulldozers of neglect and corruption. The Soviet legacy is massive, gray and, some say, ugly. How important is it to preserve our architectural heritage and how do we develop the city further?

- Chisinau is a city with a rich architectural history, but which, as you mentioned, has undergone various transformations and challenges. The importance of preserving architectural heritage is crucial to a community’s identity and to maintaining its connection to its history. Cities that are able to harmoniously integrate new and old elements have the potential to become vibrant and authentic centers. Regarding the future development of the city, I believe it is essential that we adopt a sustainable approach that respects both the existing architectural heritage and the current and future needs of the community.

Public attitudes towards the built environment play a crucial role in shaping our cities. Through the SHARE forums, we promote the culture of architecture and the architectural profession in general, bringing examples of good practice from the region and relevant international case studies.

Thanks to SHARE’s geographical presence, we have the privilege to understand more deeply the challenges specific to the Eastern European region and to identify solutions that have proven their effectiveness. This helps us a lot in developing the content of our conferences, in the selection of speakers, subjects and case studies, thus contributing pragmatically to the exchange of ideas and effective practices in the field of architecture.

During the second edition of the Chisinau forum, we will focus on the concept of sustainability in housing architecture and urban planning, bringing to the fore projects that ensure aesthetic, sustainable and inclusive lifestyles.

In this context, the Forum will be opened with a relevant and engaging discussion for all participants, contributing to a better understanding of the involvement of sustainability in public and private contexts in architecture. This discussion will feature Emil Ivanescu, president of the Romanian Order of Architects, the Bucharest subsidiary; Șerban Țigănaș, Dean of the Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism at the Cluj-Napoca Technical University; Iurie Povar, president of the Moldovan Union of Architects; and Mihail Andries, architect at the National Museum of Ethnography and Natural History.

Also, the case studies chosen for the second edition of the SHARE forum in Chisinau will be presented by Filippo Innocenti, Director at ZAHA HADID Architects, UK, with outstanding experience in transport, infrastructure and culture projects; Etan Kimmel, Founder of Kimmel-Eshkolot, Israel, and Laureate of the RIBA International Award for Excellence; Alexandra Virlan, Senior Architect, Associate UNstudio, the Netherlands; Anda Manu, Founder of AMA Design from Romania; Șerban Țigănaș, Co-Founder of Dico&Tiganas, Romania; Burak Ünder, Founder Under Architects, Turkey; Tatiana Lupascu, Founder of ArhForm from Moldova; Serghei Marza, Co-Founder of LH47, Moldova; Constantin Gorcea, Co-Founder of AGD Suceava, Romania; Vladimir Prodan, General Manager of Gorgona Architecture & Design, Moldova; Sebastian Savescu, Founder of SAM ideas, Romania; Marina Baltag, Vitalie Baltag, founders of Balmarin, Moldova; and Claudiu Ionescu, Romania.

Through such collaborations and discussions, we hope to support the efforts of sustainable development and preservation of Chisinau’s architectural heritage and contribute to shaping an authentic and prosperous future city.

- We suspect that other Eastern European cities face similar challenges as Chisinau. What are the general trends in urban development in this region of the continent?

- In Eastern Europe, the general processes of urban development are characterized by certain common trends, which reflect a delicate balance between modernization, preservation of cultural heritage and adaptation to socio-economic changes. A major aspect is the revitalization of the historic center of the cities, where considerable efforts are focused on the restoration and preservation of historic buildings. Extensive urban regeneration projects are also being implemented, including the creation of pedestrian areas and the promotion of cultural activities, with the aim of attracting both tourists and investors. Cities such as Budapest, Bucharest, Tirana or Belgrade stand out through extensive private or public urban regeneration projects, which return neglected spaces to the local community.

On the other hand, suburban expansion is another significant trend due to continued population and economic growth. In this context, new residential neighborhoods are being built and pressure is being put on developing adequate infrastructure to meet the needs of a growing population. However, this requires special attention to planning and sustainable development, and I think that in this department the countries of Eastern Europe have a lot of work to do.

The transformations are obvious and, in some places, remarkable. In this regard, we are currently working on two projects that aim to highlight and promote these changes and the architectural evolution of the countries in the region.

The first project we will launch soon is the SHARE Architecture Awards. This award is intended for architects from countries where SHARE Architects has an active presence and will focus on architecture that adds value to social life and succeeds in improving the quality of life of the inhabitants. The jury of this award is truly remarkable and I would highlight our collaboration for this competition with Martha Thorne, Senior Advisor The OBEL Award, former Director of the Pritzker Prize, often referred to as the Nobel Prize for architecture; Kamran Afshar Naderi, Iranian artist, designer and architect, founder of Memar magazine & awards; Peter Murray, Chairman of New London Architecture and London Society; Luca Molinari, architectural critic and historian, consultant and curator at "Platform of Architecture"; and Șerban Țigănaș, President of SHARE Society, former secretary of the International Union of Architects.

In addition, we are honored to be part of the curatorial team of an architecture exhibition that will be hosted this fall at the MAXXI Museum in Rome. This exhibition will be a window into architecture from the Balkan region to the Baltic countries, illustrating the evolution and significant transformations of the past 15 years.

- Chisinau, just like Bucharest, or many other cities in the region, are getting a little too busy, because of all the traffic and the gigantic residential projects, and against the background of an underdeveloped public infrastructure. Will the Forum participants discuss this topic? If so, will representatives of public authorities also be invited? What solutions, in general, are there?

- Housing architecture and urban regeneration are two important themes of the forum. I would like to highlight the presence of important international offices and some case studies that will be presented, precisely to offer possible approaches and solutions used by internationally renowned architects in addressing these challenges.

UNstudio from the Netherlands, through the presentation by senior architect and associate Alexandra Virlan, will showcase three mixed-use urban projects that demonstrate an innovative design approach. These projects include Southbank by Beulah in Melbourne, Van B in Munich and EZ Parque da Cidade in Sao Paulo. Also, Etan Kimmel, founder of the Israel-based Kimmel-Eshkolot Architects, will present The Winery, Rishon LeZion, a 120,000 square meter multi-purpose project in Rishon LeZion that includes a museum, offices, shops and apartments. The central element of the project is a high-quality public urban space for the city, which surrounds a beautiful complex of 19th-century brick industrial buildings, preserved as a monument and transformed into a commercial center.

Șerban Țigănaș, Co-Founder of Dico&Țigănaș, Romania, will present at the conference several cases of already implemented or ongoing projects, pointing out the need for collaboration and coordination, given the complexity of their impact and their regenerative role. I’m talking about Cluj Arena - BT Arena Complex in Cluj-Napoca; the Binarium – Vivacity – Bosch Engineering Complex in Cluj-Napoca, and the Brasov Multifunctional Arena.

Those interested can check the forum’s full agenda on our website at www.share-architects.com.

The conference format is interactive, encouraging the audience to engage in both debates and Q&A sessions. The SHARE forums are certainly a source of up-to-date information that can stimulate creative ideas, architectural solutions and professional partnerships. We believe that any professional in the field of architecture, construction, urban planning or investment, whether in the public or private sector, should not miss this meeting. The SHARE Forum is a continuous learning and networking platform. Our invitation is open to all professionals and lovers of architecture who want to develop their perspective on what matters in architecture right now.

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