Oradea and its Evolution From Art Nouveau to a Vibrant City
In this article, we focus on respondents’ perceptions towards the city of Oradea and its new logo. The research consisted of an online survey conducted on our platform, questia.ro, which was active between May 8th and May 9th 2018. The survey covered 500 respondents, with a +/- 4% margin of error when reported to the Romanian online population. Furthermore, in this article are also presented results from a previous online study that was conducted in 2017, between May 16th and May 18th, and covered 657 respondents.
While Barcelona, Vienna and Munich benefit from stunning art nouveau buildings, there are other cities that have managed to preserve their style as part of their dominant architectural heritage.
Art Nouveau is an international style of art, architecture and applied art, especially decorative, that was most popular between 1890 and 1905 and was inspired by natural forms and structures, particularly the curved lines of plants and flowers (Sterner, 1982). According to The Art Story, “Art Nouveau was aimed at modernizing design, seeking to escape the eclectic historical styles that had previously been popular. Artists drew inspiration from both organic and geometric forms, evolving elegant designs that united flowing, natural forms resembling the stems and blossoms of plants. The emphasis on linear contours took precedence over color, which was usually represented with hues such as muted greens, browns, yellows, and blues”.
By 1915, the craze for art nouveau had been crushed by the advent of the first world war and the arrival of a new style, art deco. In the last century, many Art Nouveau structures were demolished, including the famous Humbert de Romans Concert Hall and School (1897-1901). “The lavish building was a tour-de-force of Guimard's creative powers, with sinuous arabesques covering the surfaces and structures, creating a continuous sense of movement and animation for the visitor. The heart of the structure was the octagonal concert hall, with a vaulted roof structure of iron and abundant mahogany paneling, accented by a colored glass of yellow and orange whose effect in modulating the interior natural light must have been spectacular.” The building was demolished in 1905 and was transformed, ironically, into a tennis court.
Another loss, architecturally speaking, was Brussels’s Maison du Peuple. “Every big city in Belgium had its "Maison du Peuple", but the one in Brussels was the reference. For its architecture, of course, that would once and for all place Victor Horta as a pioneer architect, but also for its atmosphere”, brusselslife.be reports. The reason for destruction was the unfashioned architecture and style that posed a threat to the real estate industry. Maison du Peuple was demolished in 1965 and was replaced with a 26-floor office building.
According to The Guardian, 2016’s top European Art Nouveau cities include Prague, Budapest, Turin, Brussels, Riga and Helsinki.
Prague Art Nouveau’s adept was Alphonse Mucha, that was combining floral motifs and looping metalwork with a more traditional neo-baroque look. One of the city’s first art nouveau structures that is still open for business today is The Hotel Central.
Hungary’s greatest architect of the period was Ödön Lechner, who adopted oriental forms including delicate floral imagery and lacquered finishes to his minarets as a nod to the Asiatic origins of the Magyar people. One of his famous works is the Post Office Savings Bank whose roof resembles a Persian textile. Other impressive buildings are Lechner’s Institute of Geology and the Török bank and school on Dob Utca which present details from the early art nouveau blended with Hungarian national romantic traditions.
After Turin’s international exhibition of decorative arts in 1902, there was no doubt that city was an undisputed Art Nouveau capital. The first Fiat factory, architect Pietro Fenoglio’s Casa Fenoglio-Lafleur and Villa Scott, the Palazzina Rossi and Casa Maffei, all resemble the period’s designs.
Belgian architects Victor Horta, Henry van de Velde and Paul Hankar created buildings where new techniques in manufacturing meant an end to conventional room space, where the underlying structure was often exposed and light could enter through glass roofs onto gold mosaics and wavy door handles. Horta’s Hôtel Tassel, completed in 1894, is considered Europe’s first true art nouveau building.
Riga has over 700 art nouveau buildings, more than any other European city. One of the main streets, Alberta iela, has rows of Jugendstil houses. The greatest architects of the period were Mikhail Eisenstein and Konstantins Pēkšēns. The Amphora building on Elizabetes iela, designed by Mikhail Eisenstein, is a showcase of art nouveau with floral motifs, stained glass, sky-blue tiles, sculpted knockers, peacocks and stern female faces peering out of the top floor. Riga’s Art Nouveau Museum was initially the former home of the architect Konstantins Pēkšēns. Some popular design motifs consist of floral-design crockery, screens, chandeliers and large sugary desserts.
Helsinki is the home of over 600 Art Nouveau buildings, many built from solid granite. The designs include authentic Finnish traditions and rural mythology in a national romantic style. The Wilkman House, Pohjola Insurance Building and the Stock Exchange all display the characteristic rough-hewn facades combined with Finnish flora and fauna.
Since January 2017, Oradea has also joined the group of artsy cities. The city became an international center of the Art Nouveau current and will be an Art Nouveau capital until June 2019. Until then, the project will provide Oradea with a set of tools that will allow a more effective protection of the historical heritage represented by the Art Nouveau stream. Thus, Oradea will elaborate an urban plan in order to protect the city center area, including management plans for the Art Nouveau buildings that have an outstanding value. Oradea also benefits from tourism PR tools such as a mobile application for presenting Art Nouveau’s values, a film presenting the current of Art Nouveau in the Danube region (including Oradea) and a series of events dedicated to the Art Nouveau World Day that is celebrated simultaneously in eight European cities in the Danube region.
Oradea is on top 6 on TripAdvisor’s Romania popular destinations, followed by cities like Sibiu, Suceava, Constanța and Timișoara and preceded by Bucharest, Brașov, Iași, Cluj-Napoca and Sinaia.
Oradea’s top attractions list mainly includes visiting architectural buildings:
- The Black Hawk Palace Arcade (Vulturul Negru)
- The Moon Church (Biserica cu Luna)
- Oradea Fortress/ Citadel
- Oradea State Theater
- The City Hall
- The Neolog Synagogue Zinon
- Oradea Zoo
- The Roman-Catholic Cathedral
All these attractions denote the powerful historic aspect of the city. To complete this image, I will add the fact that the city is also known for the famous thermal spa resorts that are located closely to Oradea. Băile Felix and 1 Mai resorts host many mineral springs with thermal (20-48°C), sulphuric, calcic, sodic, rich in bicarbonate waters. The soothing effect of the waters accounts for the fame of the treatment of inflammatory rheumatic diseases, degenerative and articular rheumatic diseases, central and peripheral neurological disorders, gynecological diseases, post-traumatic conditions, endocrine disorders. The modern medical base has at its disposal various facilities for procedures involving electrotherapy, hydrotherapy, aerosols, massage, paraffin packing and other water treatments.
First, we will discuss the responders’ interest towards visiting Oradea and what would make them want to visit Oradea in the first place from the research study conducted in 2017 between May 16th and May 18th, which covered 657 respondents. Next, we will talk about the feelings towards the new logo of Oradea and its purpose from the research conducted between May 8th and May 9th, 2018 (500 respondents covered).
Asked if they have ever visited Oradea until now, more than half of the respondents (59%) replied with a negative answer.
The main reason for not visiting Oradea seems to be the distance (72.5%), while 20.3% of responders are confused as they do not know what they can do/visit in the city.
We then asked them what they would like to explore in the city if they had the chance to visit it. Almost three quarters (73.2%) said they would like to discover the tourist attractions within Oradea (the Citadel, museums, zoo, etc.) while almost a half (49.4%) want to explore the Bihor county. Băile Felix and 1 Mai spa resorts are popular travel destinations, with almost a half (49.4%) saying they would like to go to the treatment center and a slightly lower percentage (45.5%) would want to visit the beach facilities of these resorts.
Out of those who have been to Oradea before, most of them (33.3%) have visited the city in the last 6 months or the last year and 29.9% of responders have visited the city more than 4 years ago.
The most enjoyed city attractions are historical and related to design: the city center (60.4%), the architecture (58.6%) and The Citadel (38.4%).
We then asked our responders what aspects they enjoy to a lesser extent. The majority (46.6%) was pleased with their visit, saying they were not bothered by anything. However, out of those who had a few dissatisfactions, it appears that the infrastructure (namely the poor condition of the roads) bothered most of the responders (32.8%).
When they last visited Oradea, responders had lunch at a restaurant (42.2%), went to Băile Felix and 1 Mai thermal spa resorts (39.9%), visited the Citadel, museums, zoo and other tourist attractions (38.8%) and went to the Băile Felix treatment center (33.6%).
More than a quarter of respondents believe that the main aspects that differentiate Oradea from Cluj-Napoca, Timișoara, Arad or Sibiu are the location of the city (28.0%) and its architecture (27.2%).
Oradea is perceived as a clean city (73.8%) that has many green spaces (69,8%), full of historical sites and monuments (79.9%) where you can find good food (80.6%). Respondents have mixed opinions whether it is a youthful city (with 47% agreeing to a great and very great extent and 53% agreeing to a small and very small extent that Oradea is a youthful city), a college city (with 40.3% agreeing to a great and very great extent and 59.7% agreeing to a small, a very small extent and not at all that Oradea is a college city) or a city well promoted in terms of tourism (with 42.9% agreeing to a great and very great extent and 57.1% agreeing to a small, a very small extent and not at all).
Next, we are going to talk about the new logo of Oradea.
Between February and March 2018, the Oradea City Hall conducted a competition for the selection of Oradea's new logo through the APTOR, the association for promoting tourism within Oradea and the region. Over 170 proposals were submitted for the hope of winning the great prize worth of 47.000 RON. On Oradea’s official website, it is mentioned that Oradea is in the full process of modernization and development and it becomes an increasingly attractive city, more pleasant to live in for its inhabitants and as well as for tourists and investors. The city is making sustained and visible efforts to improve infrastructure, renovate historical objectives, build tourist facilities, improve the relationship between administration and citizens and attract investors. The purpose of launching the logo contest was to create a city logo that would materialize these efforts and future plans in a graphic that conveys perceptions or sensations about Oradea.
Almost three-quarters of responders (73.6%) have not heard about the contest for the new logo of Oradea.
However, out of those who heard about the logo, the majority (62.8%) believes that Oradea needed a new logo mainly because the city is currently in a process of developing and modernization (53.4%). The fact that the city has become more pleasant and attractive in the past few years seems to be another good reason for a change, and thus a new logo (49.7%). The new logo’s aim is also thought to highlight its potential and identity (47.5%) and its architectural sites (40.8%).
The participants of the logo contest were given the following description about the city of Oradea: male, volunteer, open, hardworking, pragmatic, positive, team spirit, solution-oriented, happy, civilized, modern but with deep roots, a strong binder between the younger generation characterized by innovation and nonconformism and the mature one, conservative and traditionalist.
We then asked our responders to which extent they agree with the description stated above. It appears that more than three quarters (81.8%) agreed to a great and very great extent.
However, most of the responders do not believe that Péter Árpád’s proposal for the new logo of Oradea is representative for the city (with 58.9% saying they agree to a small and very small extent and 10.3% saying that the proposal is not at all representative for Oradea).
After reviewing the proposals, the jury decided that there would be no winner as they did not like any of the proposals for the new logo of Oradea, stating that none of them respected the requirements of the contest. Thus, no one received the prize and Oradea still hasn't found its new logo.
However, it seems that the city is making efforts towards developing its infrastructure, modernization and in the same time preservation of its architecture and historical sites and famous heritage.
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