THE NATIONAL HOTEL (CHISINAU)
The National Hotel is situated in the center of Chisinau, on one of the main thoroughfares, next to the United Nations Square (Piata Natiunilor Unite), at the upper end of Stefan cel Mare Blvd and in the proximity of some buildings of functional variety, such as the Chisinau Hotel, National Academy of Science and Ciuflea Church. A small square with a number of fountains is located in front of the building. According to local urban planning regulations of Chisinau, the building is placed in the Central Administrative District (Sectorul Administrativ Centru).
The National Hotel is the former Intourist Hotel, which was designed by the architects A. Gorbuntsov and V. Shalaginov and was completed in 1974. The National Hotel was part of the “Intourist” Soviet hotel network until 1992 and it was state property between 1992 and 2006, being privatized afterwards. As a functional characteristic, the ground floor and the mezzanine contain the reception areas, the main traffic areas and the areas for public catering. These spaces are treated differently from the floors destined for lodging: the void space is predominant, the mezzanine is raised on pillars and there is emphasis on horizontality through multiple sash windows and through the use of oversized concrete parapets. All these features are specific to modernism. This hotel, consisting of ground floor and 15 other floors above it, was one of the most iconic hotels in Chisinau.
Former Intourist Hotel hosted Berezka shop at the ground floor. Berezka was the first network of trading stores, created in 1961 by order of the USSR Council of Ministers. In such shops one could find traditional souvenirs: vodka, caviar, folk art objects, etc. Trades were made in foreign currency and the clients were foreigners only. “Berezka” chain stores were opened until the late 1980s, when Mikhail Gorbachev declared the war against privileges, during the Perestroika period.
Besides that, during its best times, the Intourist Hotel hosted a number of popular bars (Lido Bar on the ground floor and the other one on top of the building). The other landmark was Intourist Restoran (restaurant), designed as part of the hotel compound. During the USSR period, the Intourist Restaurant was the most frequented place in town. It hosted lavish parties and weddings where popular artists from MSST used to enrich the atmosphere with their songs. The restaurant is located on the right side of the Stefan cel Mare Boulevard, as a continuation of the National Hotel. The former restaurant space was used in the aftermath of privatization as a casino and as space for private parties.
Currently, the building is in an advanced state of decay. The walls inside the building are soiled, the plaster has been destroyed, the interior joinery has disappeared and a great part of the exterior windows are broken. The interior stair railings and the furniture in the accommodation units have either been destroyed or stolen.
The National Hotel is owned by the Alfa – Engineering Company, which holds 83.25% of shares. Alfa – Engineering was bound by a signed contract to carry out reconstruction and modernization works, so that the building would be converted into a five star hotel. The project also includes the restoration of the square located in front of the building. Although the company has not honored its contractual obligations, the privatization contract has been extended over the years and the restoration works have been constantly delayed. Today, the building sits intact, overlooking the passers-by like an empty concrete shell.
The new owner has been delaying the rehabilitation of the monument for seven years, without fulfilling its contractual obligations and now he launched preparatory works towards demolition. Because today the security of the building is no longer ensured, the hotel was seized by homeless people and the sanitary situation is in very poor conditions. The National Hotel is an example of socialist modernist architecture and represents an edifice that should be rehabilitated and reintroduced in the Moldavian tourist circuits.
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