AR_EA Moldova: Maxim Calujac
Maxim Calujac came to architecture through religion, manual labour and sculpture. He started off as a Philosophy and History of Religion student in Moscow and discovered architecture as a form of knowledge, ‘just like philosophy’, in the city’s basements, where he was working to support himself. He then went back to his native Moldova to study architecture. Ever since, spirituality and architecture fuse in his work. In his undergraduate studies, Calujac was particularly inspired by the Romanian historian of religion Mircea Eliade and his theory of the axis mundi, the place where the sacred meets the earthly, and how this place is present in every culture. In his mind, buildings should inspire a religious feeling.
‘Architecture should actualise us as whole human beings and not put us into dry boxes like the Soviet [apartment] blocks did …’ Calujac thinks of buildings as sculptures. He uses concrete not only because it is a common local material, but also because it reduces pressure on the viewer and allows them to ‘contemplate the architectural object wholly, as a sculpture’. This holistic approach means that for him, ‘the ability of an architect to make every detail necessary, be it aesthetic or from an engineering point of view’, is crucial.
Calujac tried to apply his ideas to one of his recent houses – a low-budget concrete minimalist home in the centre of Chișinău, Moldova’s capital city. He undertook the architecture, the interior design and the artwork for this project. Inside, he used exposed brick laid by local artisans. The rough texture of the walls is intended to echo Brutalist sculpture.
‘Architecture should actualise us as whole human beings and not put us into dry boxes like the Soviet [apartment] blocks did …’
‘The ability of an architect to make every detail necessary, be it aesthetic or from an engineering point of view is crucial’
Calujac’s ideal project is Calotopos, a utopian vision of a more sustainable city, in which nature and the individual are central. In Calotopos, the population would be dispersed proportionately through parks, infrastructure and industrial activity. Both the population and the building density would be low, and the importance of the natural environment would always dominate over commercial interest. At school, the personality of the child would be at the fore. Calujac would like to develop this project in Moldova – despite having lived in Riga, Abruzzo and Moscow, this is where he feels most comfortable.
Of the state of architecture in Moldova, he comments that, ‘we are going through this kitsch phase through which Western countries passed in previous centuries – when people want to show off their wealth through marble and gold. The public space doesn’t get looked after and it hurts me how neglected things are here – the urban landscape, the roads and the kerbs.’ But there’s a bright side to that: ‘Moldova is a tabula rasa with more freedom for the architect.’