“On the issue of the so-called romantic character, which comes mostly from the disorder and degrading of buildings, we wanted to remove such an unwholesome and sick character, incompatible with the idea of a modern city” Gheorghe Filipeanu “Studies for the systematizing of Iași” Architecture R.P.R., 8(1955): 1-9.
At the intersection of three historical streets, “Ștefan cel Mare și Sfânt” Boulevard, Alexandru Lăpușneanu Street and Cuza Vodă Street, the Union Square marks the spot where “Hora Unirii” was danced for the first time on the 24th of January 1859. The bronze statue of Alexandru Ioan Cuza, unveiled in 1912, witnessed the celebrations of the Great Union of 1918, the protests against the break of Northern Bukovina and Bessarabia from the country in 1940, the bombings in 1944 and the fall of communism in 1989.
Dominated until the ‘50s by the Braunstein Palace and the Traian Hotel, the Union Square suffered an identity break, which meant erasing the works of the capitalist society and its replacement with a new perspective, built for the needs of the working-class.
The modernist boom from the ‘60s and the prejudices of the architects towards the non-urban character of Romanian cities have significantly contributed to the destruction of historical centres. Thus, the working-class dwellings became the most important element in forming the new monumental image, abruptly cancelling the difference betwen the center and the periphery. The systematization of the Iași Union Square in 1959 was one of the few major projects that benefited from an idea contest, expert jury and several solutions. The project was made in 1961 by the I.S.C.A.S., being signed by the architects Gheorghe Hussar, Rodica Grozea and Horia Hudiță. The blocks of flats towards Independenței Boulevard, along with the volumetric composition dominated by the Unirea Hotel (made later, in 1969) with three blocks of flats of 8 stories as counter-weight on the south-west front forms the image of today’s square. The Traian and Unirea Hotels had the only shops in the city using foreign currency. As no Romanian had foreign currency, the foreign students were doing business, by buying them products, especially coffee and Kent cigarettes.
The square has mosaïcs immortalising themes of communist propaganda such as: agriculture – emphasized through mosaïcs of tractors, various agricultural cultures, ears of wheat; forest – represented by fir trees, a wild boar, a stag; industry – factories, cranes, toothed wheels, bearings, chemistry; peace – the Olympics, the doves and the atom, representing the peaceful usage of atomic energy; art – the film, music, theatre; history – through the aurochs head, symbol of Moldavia and the eagle, symbol of Wallachia, along with many other Romanian traditional motifs. After the last restoration of the Union Square, a mosaïc representing the flag of the European Union was introduced. The central scene, made of polychrome marble, represents the legend of the founding of Moldavia by Dragoș Vodă, through the scene of the hunting of the aurochs (ancestor of the bison). According to the chronicles, during the hunt, the voivode’s dog (Molda) drowned in the waters of the river which received the name “Moldova” in its memory.
The Union Square became the main meeting place and especially of public manifestation of the communist regime. The balcony of the Traian Hotel was used several times during Nicolae Ceaușescu’s speeches. In the Union Square, the Revolution of 14th of December 1989 was supposed to begin, for which manifests were spread throughout the city, but cancelled due to the intervention of the State Security, which suppressed the tram station and broke up any group larger than three persons crossing the square. In memory of this event, the nearby square between the Select and Continental hotels was named “14th December 1989 Square”.
For more information regarding the history of the square, click here.