Gheorgheni housing estate, Cluj, microraion 1 (1964-1965). © N. Kulin, March 1969, DSAPC Cluj.
The Ideal Model of Socialist Modernism

Gheorgheni Housing Estate in Cluj


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modernism, functionalist city, socialist housing, 1960s, Romania


The paper addresses the Gheorgheni housing estate in Cluj (1964-1969) as a remarkably well-preserved example, representative of a particular phase in the evolution of socialist housing in Romania. It argues, in the context of the present debates on the notion of postwar modernism, that Gheorgheni is a proper modernist example and that this specific period in the history of Romanian socialist housing can be defined as the modernist period. This was a time when the state set up a housing production system adapted to mass scale at the national level, and when the first large housing estates emerged. A young generation of architects working in the newly created regional design institutes eagerly embraced modern architecture, in both its aesthetic and social dimension. Through an analysis based on interviews with architects, photographic archival material, publications of the time, and references to contemporary debates on postwar modernism, the paper identifies the sources that informed the Gheorgheni project and shows how it embodied the model of modernist housing in its "ideal" form – i.e., close to the classical functionalist model of modern architecture and urbanism. It demonstrates the consistency of its modernist project and claims that the coherent urban and architectural design, together with the social mixing of its residents, account for its success over time. Unlike other estates from the same period, it has suffered only minimal later interventions and it is still a desirable residential area today. Eventually, the objective is to make the case for the listing of the estate as a modern architectural and urban heritage monument that deserves preservation, despite the negative undifferentiating perception of postwar housing that persists in Romania today.

How to Cite

Vais, D. (2023). The Ideal Model of Socialist Modernism: Gheorgheni Housing Estate in Cluj. Docomomo Journal, (68), 36–44.




Author Biography

Dana Vais, Technical University of Cluj-Napoca

Is professor of architecture at the Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism, the Technical University of Cluj-Napoca, Romania, where she coordinates the doctoral program in architecture and teaches courses on History of 20th Century Architecture and History and Theory of Habitation. Her present research interest focuses on postwar architecture, socialist housing architecture and 1960s Futurism. She is affiliated to the newly created DOCOMOMO Romania since 2019.


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