Teodor FroluFrom: Bucharest Born on: 16 May 1965 Occupation: Architect, Entrepreneur, DC Communication Partner
Teodor Frolu hasn’t remained stuck in any predefined life “boxes”. He would have been suitable for many, but he chose to regroup concepts, managing to make early entrepreneurship in creative industries.
He studied architecture, started the first communication agency in Romania in 1995, contributed to many urban development projects, he is a co-founder of Ivan Patzaichin – Mila 23 Association and implicitly partner in the actions initiated by the Patzaichin movement from the international festival of boates with rods, Rowmania FEST, the PATZAIKIN fashion, design and ecotechnology brand, until the Ivan Pescar & Scrumbia Bar restaurant opened in 2018 in the capital.
If he looks through his memories and tries to find the reason he chose to pursue architecture, Teodor founds a “cool character,” the father of a middle school girl college, an architect. He admired him and considered him very special. And if it was hesitant up to the 10th grade, the reunion with the architect’s daughter brought him back to this profession, which he initially tested in various drawing workshops and meditations. “Slowly, it happened.”
As a check of the fact that nothing in the life of Mr. Frolu is accidental, the bachelor degree was done under the guidance of the one who unconsciously paved the first road to architecture.
He created by himself the context, because his curious and practical nature urged him to do all sorts of things, even a skateboard inspired by some photos from “Pif” magazine. He had found the new toy in the gadgets section, and by destroying his roller skates he made a skateboard. “The first signs of innovation were there”, he jokes, while his chair moves gently on the wheels.
We are talking in an April colder evening in his crowded, more long then wide office in the DC Communication premises of The Ark. Through the open window the street sounds and the voices of people are getting in. “The successful story started on a walk along the sidewalk of Uranus street and with the desire to turn this building into something beautiful”, explains Teodor about the beginning of The Ark, a historical monument – Bursa Mărfurilor destroyed by a fire in 1990, reconditioned and transformed in a creative hub. After 4 years of work, the space has offices, Ivan Pescar restaurant and 1000 m2 available for cultural or business events.
He felt in love with the building façade and dedicated to its interior, because it’s his inspirational space “like this storage closet”, he added amused regarding his office.
“I have seen places suffocated by things, and I have never disputed their order.”, I would have wanted to tell him as soon as he finished his sentence.
Teodor Frolu grew up at home, but he often visited some relatives from Balta Albă, at the block. “Not the block was interesting to me, but the fact that there were many children to play with. Where I lived it was needed kids from 3 streets to make a football match.” Although he was a child of the city, his vacations were shared between the country’s grandmother in the village Dor Mărunt of Lehliu and the grandmother from Constanţa. This is where special relationships with “nature” and “water” was created.
He felt he discovered the fire when he understood the connection between the architecture of a traditional house and nature, between the material and the environment. He became passionate about nature, but the true return to it came later, in 2009, in Deltă, when he was invited by a German friend, an operator student, to take pictures of traditional houses. “He came with a canoe. We got into it accompanied by a German guide who had been doing this for some years and we walked on the Danubian waters. Only then did I fully understand the organicity between the traditional architecture and the environment in which it originates. I became dependent. From then on, in every year I needed the oasis that the Delta offers.”
Things got tighter in 2010 when he met Ivan Patzaichin. Thanks to him, he understood why he had reconnected to nature just after a canoe walk. He understood the role of the wooden boat. “A canoe puts you in another matrix, in another layer and you see differently around you”, Teodor says, chosing carefully his words.
If for him the experience turned out to be so revealing, “maybe for others will be the same“, he thought then. And from this thought he started with Ivan a whole movement, “an ecosystem, which now has concrete results in products, services, ideas and which will soon be self-financing.”
Photo: Fashion collection – Patzaikin ( “de Canepa ” / “of Hemp”)
Photo: “Romania powerd by nature” Exposition, 2016
Photo: “Romania powerd by nature” Exposition, 2016
Photo: Teodor Frolu & Ivan Patzaichin at “Ivan Pescar &Scumbia bar “ restaurant
“When you are small you see the big city.”
I can say that I had a special relationship with the town since little boy. It seemed to me an open space to be descovered, but at the same time I was very tied to the area where I lived and to the neighbourhoods. The fact that the school was far from home allowed me to explore the city from first grade, when I took the tram 26 almost every morning. I could follow 2 routes: the simple race – with 26 tram, departing Mihai Bravu and another one, in the opposite direction, which allowed me to see another part of the city. I grew up with the construction sites, the subway and Dambovița, around my neighbourhood, Timpuri Noi.
In my opinion, Bucharest could be a city 10 times more interesting and friendly than it is, if some things were done (unfortunately, the same in the last 30 years). I think part of them will be done inevitable because we have no choice.
For example, Uranus – Piața de Flori, where we rebuilt the burnt building of the first commodity exchange in Bucharest now called The Ark, is one of the most valuable of Bucharest, because it has heritage buildings with large land, free, what can support new constructions. It needs only to be avoided a re-parcelling, it would be a big mistake because it will lead to small real estate investment and no major urban impact. This area is a future hotspot of the city, which Bucharest doesn’t perceive so yet.
Photo: The Ark
“There is no development without communication.”
Because Teodor Frolu plays different roles on the stage of his life, being an architect, entrepreneur and communicator, and because he plays them all well, dedicated and with admirable results, I asked him what the common thread is and how all these activities are linked between.
They bind because they relate to each other.
The architecture is a liberal profession, so connected with entrepreneurship, and the entrepreneur usually works with various specialties, has clients and, by default, communicates well.
The architecture has helped me in many areas unrelated to “building” because working on a project implies a need for negotiation between several specialties and more interests. In fact, a good project takes into account numerous things: customer demand, technical or structural conditioning, the neighbor area. And a valuable project is a round one, an integrated one. If it’s really good, you cannot change it without changing everything. It’s a whole.
The same is valid in communication. A strategy is a mix of tools and negotiation of interests that function as a mechanism leading to “dialogue”. This is the difference between a good strategy and the mimetic implementation of a list of activities that produce only noise.
The truth is that after 10 years of working in communication I have begun to understand more of the public role in this job. Although DC Communication focused more on building good reputation, brand repositioning and not advertising, we have discovered that many people in this sphere of communication don’t understand its impact on the development of Romanian society.
Many people are fascinated by the beginning stage, the awareness, where the purpose is to draw attention to “yourself” or to the product. Some brand values are promoted, or a positive attitude is created. Visual presence in public space helps in sales, it is bought if you bombarded the consumer with advertising. Although you are visible and present, it doesn’t mean you count.
Somehow there is confusion between communication and awareness, and when I hear slogans like: “We make a campaign for mentality changing”, it seems to me a bad joke. Change of mentality is done through generations and not through a campaign. There are stages to go, from capturing attention to engagement, where time takes its time. People needs time to receive information and to consume it. Only when the public asks a question starts the communication process. Outdoor by itself doesn’t communicate. Facebook like is not communication. Many companies fall into this mirage.
I am interested in communication for development. That’s what we tried to do in DC from the beginning, because there is no development without communication. A city cannot develop (rightly), it may have the most inspired mayor or administrator and the richest investors, if it doesn’t build communication mechanisms and ways for the city / citizens to contribute.
Photo: Personal Archive
“We do wrong from many years ago.”
(Why and where does Bucharest fail to create and organize urban life.)
Because the administration has no tools to communicate with active, “living” parts of the city, with people. You have to talk to them.
There is a sociological rule that frustration mobilizes the desire for change in a community. And then, even in the case of a public consultation on any project, no matter how positive their intentions are, the percentage of those who come to the room to oppose will be higher than those who come to support it. The one who is frustrated comes and not the one who has an idea or agrees with the proposal.
And all those who have something to say are welcome, because the architect takes the constructive fragments from dialogue and adds value. In a city, the only saving scenario is a win-win situation. And it is achieved through a negotiation, a communication between all the parties involved. In this way you find the compromise favorable for everyone, no matter how opposed their opinions and needs are. If during a project one loses and one wins, always the city loses.
The modern urbanism is made on statistical analysis, people’s flow, people’s dreams and aspirations. It doesn’t work anymore like in the old ways, when architects draw boulevards with ruler, 100 years ago. I repeat, quality urbanism is the result of a communication process that brings development.
Unfortunately, in our country the consultation raises situations where everyone loses in a loop of consequences, because any blocked investment affects the city. The administration function based on a wrong principle, taking its own decisions without relying on citizens initiatives and opinions. They have to ask and discover what people want, then go to experts (the solution is given by the competent ones) and eventually, with experts’ suggestions, to return to people to negotiate the final solution.
The communication process is actually the key element in developing a smart city.
“Any profession becomes a form of art at some point.”
– MS: Is architecture a form of art?
-TF: Any profession becomes a form of art at some point. Architecture, I think, becomes art when, besides the functional part that needs to be perfect, it has something else, something emotionally related. And the good quality architecture that does. For example, The Ark looks the way it looks because it’s an inspirational space for me, just like “ this storage closet ” in which we stand now (he smiles), I feel good in it. Not every architecture is art, just as not all music is art.
– MS: Maybe it’s all, but for different people?
– MS: You talked about emotions. People feel different for the same thing.
-TF: No. Art makes everyone feel the same. I think so. It is the one that goes beyond a certain culture, past, orientations of all kinds. If you look at a traditional house you say it’s beautiful not just because it looks good, but because it transmits something, it has a special energy.
– MS: And then how do we define quality architecture?
-TF: Good design is a theme that concerns me. I hope to became important for more people in Romania. It doesn’t mean beauty, but also functionality, physical and mental comfort, pleasant design and reasonable maintenance costs, especially if we are talking about a building or a public institution because it needs to be also financial efficient. A good design can take into account even the structure shadow on a wall, analyzes the relationship of architecture with its neighbourhoods and the city. A properly constructed building has a life cycle of tens, perhaps hundreds of years, and you have to take into account even the demolition moment. You have to take care of what remains behind it.
“Just how we need to take care for ourselves, for what we, people, leave behind us.”, I rushed to add. I rush once again because it is a belief, with which Teodor Frolu also seems to agree.
He had a coffee shop in the Old City Center some years ago with some Dutch friends who, due to city administrative decisions, were closed. As a reminder of the fact that you are always exposed to a risk, he keeps in the office window, the Titanic. It is a 1 meter, or more, long wooden boat bought from the same Dutch friends, decorative objects traders.
By mistake, I saw it as a symbol of what we all left behind.
Photo: Teodor Folu & Ivan Patzaichin in Danuble Delta