Ascanio Damian, Trade Fair Designer Extraordinaire

by

Miruna Stroe

Keywords

  • Ascanio Damian
  • exhibition design
  • international trade fairs
  • Expo ‘58
  • modernism

The article is dedicated to Ascanio Damian, architect and professor, seen as an “indigenous alien” figure both in Romanian architecture and political realm. A true modernist, he expressed himself in a paradoxical milieu: international exhibition design. In this narrow niche he could keep being a modernist even during the socialist realist episode, though his designs were means of disseminating socialist propaganda. The greatest occasion for face-to-face comparison of pavilion design must have been the universal exhibition in Brussels, 1958, which is still regarded as a modernist architectural event. Though initially Romania intended to participate, it pulled back and one question shall remain unanswered, whether Damian would have been the chosen architect to design the Romanian pavilion.

Apart from his architectural career, he was a prominent educator, Rector of “Ion Mincu” Institute of Architecture for a decade (1959-1969). He is remembered as the protector of a rather bohemian atmosphere in the institute, sheltered from the pervasive political intrusions. His strong political convictions transformed Ascanio Damian into a dissident, who decided to publicly renounce his communist party membership in 1987, in a unique gesture among Romanian architects.

The article contextualizes his personality and oeuvre with the purpose of reclaiming Ascanio Damian’s visibility as an important Romanian modernist.