Bucharest Centennial: The Bucharest University Palace, for over 100 years in the heart of the city

Romania-Insider.com has started a series of articles about Bucharest landmarks of architecture or history, which have witnessed the last century of what is now the Romanian capital, and noteworthy people who have helped build the Romanian capital as it is today. This project is supported by the Bucharest City Hall through the Public Monuments and Touristic Heritage Administration (AMPT), within the cultural program Bucharest-Centennial.

Check the full series of articles dedicated to the Centennial on Romania-Insider.com here. 

One of the institutions that have contributed significantly to the development and modernization of the Romanian education is the University of Bucharest (UB), which continues to be among the most prestigious higher education institutions in Romania. The University of Bucharest is Romania’s second modern university after the University of Iasi.

The institution of the University of Bucharest was officially established in 1864 by Prince Alexandru Ioan Cuza. He was the first ruler of the United Principalities after the Unification of the Romanian Principalities (the Small Union) of 1859. Cuza’s reforms had an important contribution to the development of Romania and further to the Great Union of 1918.

Located in Universității Square in the center of the city, the Bucharest University Palace was designed by president of Romanian architects, Alexandru Orăscu, based on the model of the Western universities. This building, whose construction began in October 1857 on the former site of the St. Sava Monastery, continues to be one of the most imposing buildings located in the heart of Bucharest.

The construction was completed in December 1869, after 12 years of works and 5 years after the institution was officially established. The palace was built in the neoclassical style and has six floors. Karl Storck made the original exterior decoration of the building. He used Rusciuc stone for the sculpture of the palace’s pediment. This bas-relief, presenting Minerva crowning arts and sciences, was destroyed just 80 years after its construction, during the air strikes of theWorld War II in 1944. The lateral bodies of the palace were built between 1912-1926, according to the plans of the architect Nicolae Ghica-Budești.

In the beginning, the palace was the headquarters of the University of Bucharest’s faculties, and of other educational institutions, namely the Senate of the University, the Romanian Academy, the Central Library, the School of Fine Arts, the Pinacoteca, the Museum of Antiquities and Natural History. Over the years, however, the number of students increased significantly and the space could no longer accommodate all institutions. So the space returned to its original purpose – to host the University’s faculties. Nowadays, some of the faculties of the University are located in the building, such as the Faculty of Geography, the Faculty of Mathematics and Computer Science, the Faculty of Foreign Languages and Literatures, the Faculty of History, and their laboratories.

The Law on the Reform of Romanian Education was promulgated in 1948, which led to an extensive reorganization of the University of Bucharest and the separation of the Faculty of Theology, Human Medicine and Veterinary Medicine. The institutes located there were also closed, and institutes subordinated to the Academy of the Romanian People’s Republic were created instead.

In 1989, the year that marked the fall of communism in Romania, the University of Bucharest included only six faculties with 8,000 students – a direct consequence of the abusive closure of numerous departments and faculties during the communist era.

The University of Bucharest started to revive and grow again beginning with1990. The University’s international contacts and collaborations have been increasing spectacularly since then. By the year 2000, the University had 18 faculties, while the number of students increased to over 20,000. 11 years later, the Ministry of Education classified the University of Bucharest as the first university of advanced research and education in Romania.

In 2015, when the University celebrated 150 years since its founding, the Bucharest University Museum reopened its doors to visitors after a year of renovation and modernization works.

In the summer of 2018, the General Council of Bucharest approved a draft decision to modernize and revamp the University Palace. The areas to be upgraded include, among others, the inner courtyard, where architectural vestiges from the 17th century were recently discovered, namely the ruins of the former St. Sava Royal Academy. This Academy was the first higher education school in Wallachia, founded in 1694. The walls of an old building of the University, which had been destroyed during the Second World War, were also discovered.

Considering the fact that the University of Bucharest is an institution with a major contribution to the development and modernization of the Romanian education, in January this year a program dedicated to the Centennial of the 1918 Great Union was initiated. The program includes a series of events dedicated to this historic event, such as conferences, exhibitions and shows, all year round.

How to get to the University Palace:
The building is located in the center of the city, at 4-12 Regina Elisabeta Boulevard, right in Universității Square. The nearest subway station is Piața Universității. Many buses and trolleybuses also have stations in the area: 61, 66, 69, 70, 85, 90, 91, 336, 601 and N116.

Surse: Unibuc.ro; Wikipedia: Universitatea din București, Palatul Universității;
Expresmagazin.ro; Enciclopediaromaniei.ro; Ziare.com

Photo source: Adobe Stock