RÂMNICU VÂLCEA’S CENTRAL SQUARE

A focus on place making through a system of integrated public spaces.

client:  Municipality of Ramnicu Valcea city

date:  June 2012

program:  masterplan & urban design

type:  national competition

outcome:  SECOND PRIZE

size:  L / 15 ha

location:  Ramnicu Valcea, Romania

team:  Wolfhouse Productions

link: http://oar.squarespace.com/castigatori-valcea/

URBAN CONTEXT.

Ramnicu Valcea is the regional center of Valcea county and the second economic & cultural centre of the South-West Development Region (Oltenia). With a population of 110 000, Ramnicu Valcea is one of the typical medium-sized Romanian cities South of the Carpathians. During the communist era, Ramnicu Valcea was the most important petro-chemical centre in Romania and suffered massive urban transformations on the outskirts and, most important, on its central area. Recently the city is shifting towards a healthier urban lifestyle, cleaner streets and better designed public space. 


The city needs to create an identity relevant for its status as regional center of Oltenia region. Pedestrian connections need to be improved and clearly separated by car traffic. Also, building of new parking is a priority because Valcea has to become free of traffic jams.


In the 1990s’ and 2000s’ city development is characterized by chaotic real estate speculation, a car oriented urban structure and steady decrease in young population. At the moment central Ramnicu Valcea lacks a coherent functional character specific of a regional centre. There is an urgent need to strengthen representativity through high quality public spaces part of a larger system that will eventually encourage a sense of belonging for the locals. The city has to create and promote an attractive urban brand oriented both towards its citizens but also towards investors and tourists.

VISION.It’s the late spring of 2025, Easter Holydays are coming and the city is getting ready to unveil the new Civic Center, the final project in an urban renewal program that began 12 years before. Locals are proud of their city’s newly found identity.


Since most public activities are happening along the main pedestrian roadway, central Valcea is already viewed as defined by its pedestrian system. Car traffic issues, so acute at the beginning of the urban renewal program, have been completely resolved. The pedestrian axis is central Valcea’s preferred circulation. The only car traffic in the center is now separated from pedestrians and restricted to tenants or maintenance. The imminent opening of a third dedicated car-park structure beneath the Civic Square is expected to completely solve the parking situation.


In order to celebrate the successful completion of the major urban renewal project in Valcea’s central area, the City Hall has invited Florentijn Hofman, an internationally renown artist, to create a representative piece of art in the Civic Center. In the mean time, one of the artist‘s Giant Yellow Bunnies will be installed here to celebrate Easter.

The project focuses on the system of public spaces that follows the major directions of pedestrian flow. 

Thus it ensures a succession of thematic public squares that meet various functions specific for a capital county central like: representativity, agora, urban garden and commercial forum

Morphologically, the pedestrian axis can be compared to a traditional oltenian carpet used in general for covering transit areas around the house.

A main car-free axis is connecting the entire central area of the city on a North-South direction. This is the backbone ot the masterplan, bringing people to the city’s main landmarks: Olănesti river (1), the commerce (3) and mall cluster (2), Mircea cel Bătrân square and park (4), followed by a new Civic Centre (5), with a dense functional mix. The axis is continued to the north with a new culture cluster complemented by already established education functions.

CITY CENTER MASTERPLAN. 

2. city mall; 3. city market; 4. Mircea cel Batran square & park; 5. Civic Center;  6. New Townhall; 7. City Museum (former Townhall); 8. sports square; 9. youth cultural centre; 10. public square  11. Revolution Square

GENERAL VIEW OF MIRCEA CEL BATRAN SQUARE.

The masterplan exploits site topography hiding public equipment such as parking and large commercial spaces under a green levelled public space. Following existing traffic studies in the area, car traffic is regularized by oneway streets and timed traffic lights. Calea lui Traian and Regina Maria intersection, the bussiest in the city, will be fitted with an “X-Crossing” allowing pedestrians to freely transit from Mircea cel Batran Square to the mall and Olanesti River, in the South.


CONCEPT.
The diagonal and the level contours are two elements hard to reconcilein an harmonious urban composition. Also, the general concept assumes a compositional continuity of the space and the surface pattern. This is the reason why the “urban carpet” metaphor hints the gesture for the intervention.
The solution for spatial and functional layout of the square, inspired by the local traditional crafts of weaving rugs from Oltenia region, reconcile the two main elements existing on site - the diagonal and the level contours, through transposing organic forms in an orthogonal geometric system. The model of the weaving craft that solves organic formes in bidimensional system is extrapolated and offers the design solution for a three dimensional organic surface of the square. This method is found in the composition of spaces, surface patterns, form and furniture positioning. Redrawing the level contours of the square is done by using an orthogonal network with 3m X 3m squares. The level difference between the new terraces is 50 cm giving the possibility to use the space as an amphitheatre and an urban public space. The solution’s functional benefits are represented by the flexibility of the modular system created and its elements may be moved in time to respond efficiently to the city’s needs.

1. Weaving rug traditionaly crafted in Oltenia

2. Textile pattern process is used traditionally in Valcea for reinterpreting organic shapes into simple geometric forms.

3. 3d rasterizing of irregular terrain is used in automation processes to generate volumetric interpretations of irregular surfaces.


Mircea cel Batran Square.

Mircea cel Batran Square (leisure area).

 Mircea cel Batran Square (Clock area).

ILLUMINATION CONCEPT.

A sustainable city is as safe and comfortable by night as it is by day. LED technology with a temperature variation of 2000k - 5000k ensures the required luminosity for active and passive activities by night. The public lighting system supports the functional zoning of paces connected through a sequence of continuous experiences sustaining the perception of the square’s identity and urban structure. The concept ensures the square’s perception on three levels of experiences. At the macro scale, the square’s identity is sustained by increasing the landmarks also visible by day. For maximum visibility, the square’s accesses are treated with right blue-white light. The light temperature along the pedestrian axis reproduces natural colors for orientation facilities, especially for blind impaired people. The most intimate areas are equipped with warmer colors so that by the terraces the lighting systems use motion sensors and lights gradually.

CITY BRANDING & PLACE MAKING.

The system of public spaces in the city center will foster an auspicious context for defining the identity and the sense of belonging to Ramnicu Valcea. At the same time, people visiting the city will have direct contact with a unique urban space, defined by the archetypal values of this region characterized by a rich ethnographic legacy but perfectly adapted to the modern 21st century living.

Being more than just a nice geometric drawing of local inspiration, the public space morphology enables the presence of specific points for touristic orientation that will offer information about the city and the region. Also, promotional articles for the city, the design of cycle routes or digital apps for tourists will add up to the way Vâlcea comunicates its identity to its citizens. Through an inclusive urban renewal program corellated with clever city branding strategies, Râmnicu Vâlcea has the opportunity to show off its true colors not only to its dwellers, but also to visitors. Local administration can use this urban renewal program to define the city as a complex urban center oriented to the future [reference on the pixel] but deeply rooted in local traditions [reference on local crafts].

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