A50 Manifesto. Why are architects so important?

When I first got a phone call from Raluca Antonescu, more than one year ago, proposing to work together with her and BICAU on this project, I couldn’t hide my excitement. I have grown with the idea that architects are contemporary artists and stars, shaping the cities we live in and tickling our imagination, suggesting ways to experience space, light and time.

In Italy, where I studied architecture, architects did not just build, they were also industrial designers, fashion designers, furniture designers, filmmakers, photographers, writers, painters, philosophers, and more. They made out of architecture and design in general a political manifesto, a clear choice regarding how people would live, use and experience space, always taking into account the environmental impact and its social and political implication.

Then when I moved to Paris, I saw how architects and designers were elevated to the status of super stars, national heroes, that served as brand builders giving life to modern spaces that took into account a pretty charged history. People like Jean Nouvel or Christian De Portzampac or Philip Stark were featured in magazines like Vogue, and were invited to TV shows. Why that? Because they were not just architect of a building or another. They were architects of our living experience, of our collective memories, of the living city that should evolve. They were the new cultural landmarks.

That’s why I felt that this book is so important, a kind of a milestone in the history of Romania’s contemporary architecture, history in the making. Now, more than ever, Romanian architecture is evolving at an amazing speed. After a long dark period, Romanian architecture is back, entering in dialog with business, politics, ecology and contemporary culture. More important, today’s architecture is at the very heart of the urban environment, and of our life.

The book is also an up-to-date reference guide, with extensive photography, biographical and contact information, and a careful selection of today’s and tomorrow’s most influential Romanian architects. It is the first time we have in the same book the most representative architects, and their work. I insisted personally to make sure we meet, photograph and talk to each architect or architectural firm, so we could transmit the experience of introducing those architects, who they are, what they think about their profession, how they look, and what is their body of work. It is time we get to know them, open a dialogue with them, ask their opinion about anything that affects our life, not just about architecture. It’s time we acknowledge, also in Romania, the role and influence of those professionals that dream up the space and the cities we live in.

I must say that this book was a team effort, involving a lot of people and months of work. You will find the complete list at the beginning of the book, but I would like to mention photographer Vali Camara for the great job he did working on the portraits of the architects, and Raluca Antonescu for the huge effort it took for meeting all the architects, talking to them and writing their profiles.

Rachad El Jisr, publisher