Ones to Watch: 3 Creatives at the Forefront of Romania’s Burgeoning Design Scene
Now in its fourth year, Romanian Design Week is not one of the world’s biggest or better-known design fairs, but what it lacks in size, it more than makes up for in spirit. Just 25 years out of communist rule and Romania is nurturing a new generation of creative talents who are eager to explore the opportunities that a career in design can offer. On the occasion of Design Week, over 150 local designers showcased their work within Bucharest’s Piata Amzei, a disused former market building in the center of the city, while others hosted smaller satellite events scattered across the capital. We spoke to three enterprising individuals at the forefront of Romania’s burgeoning creative community.
Dragos Motica, creative director, Ubikubi
Dragos Motica, founder of Romanian design brand Ubikubi, wants to change peoples’ perceptions of “Made in Romania”. “We have to be patient,” he says, “it’s a lot of work and it will take time.” As Ubikubi’s creative director and chief designer, Motica has firsthand experience of the challenges that designing and producing products in Romania brings. Alongside his business partner and investor Robert Savu, Motica founded Ubikubi in 2014 with the goal of creating accessible, simple, and sustainable products. Today the company produces a wide range of furniture, lighting, and decorative objects made from readily available materials such as timber, ceramic, and cork. “We have to be realistic about what we make and work within our capabilities,” says Motica, who oversees every stage of the production process, from design development to marketing. “Production facilities are limited here so we strive to create simple designs with ingenuity.”
Corvin Cristian, architect and furniture designer
Bucharest-based architect and designer Corvin Cristian is the creative mind behind a host of Bucharest’s most cutting edge restaurant and bar interiors, but this year saw the former art director and production designer make his first foray into furniture design. “We were struggling to source furniture pieces for our projects—the bars, restaurants and clubs in particular,” explains Cristian. “The existing options were either cheap and very standardized or too expensive. So we saw a gap in the market for affordable, good quality furniture and decided to fill it.” Already in place in a number of his restaurant projects, Cristian’s new Takîm chairs are made in Transylvania from solid wood. “Since the Roman times Transylvania had a tradition of wood production, but this tradition disappeared after the revolution when nearly all of the factories were closed,” recounts Cristian. “There are now just a handful left and we’re trying now to revive this industry.” Comprised of six designs, each chair is distinguished by its angled backrest with a form based upon a piece of cutlery—a feature that Cristian says is sure to ‘put a smile on the customer’s faces at the start of an evening.”
Eliza Yokina, co-founder and associate architect, SYAA
Set up in 2006, SYAA is a medium-sized Bucharest-based architecture practice headed up by Adrian Soare, Eliza Yokina, and Elena Dragu. “There is plenty of work here, we’re very busy,” says Yokina of Bucharest’s booming construction industry. While the majority of the practice’s work is located in the city and takes the form of residential interiors, a recent hospitality project took the studio six hours northeast of Bucharest to a remote village called Chilia Veche in the Danube Delta. “It’s a very remote, very wild and very beautiful part of the Romania,” says Yokina of the UNESCO protected region. ‘Access to the village is difficult because of the Delta so it has a very powerful identity.’ Here, SYAA were tasked with creating a 5* retreat with a design that would reflect its unique surroundings. ‘It was important to us to create something that was sensitive to its context,’ says Yokina. ‘Working with local builders, we made the lodge in local materials and using local construction techniques. We tried to capture this atmosphere that is very specific to this part of Romania.’