Decât o Revistă (Just a Magazine) – Somewhere It Feel Good to Be Living

Lavinia Gliga recorded me with a tape recorder and this erratic thing came out. I mean, this is how I talk. 🙂 I hope there are people who can understand something from all of this.

The Cluj identity and its potential for promotion through a city brand, seen by Bogdan Brânzaş, a Cluj resident who has been running the Branzas branding and design agency for 20 years.
Interview by Lavinia Gliga in the DEC T O REVISTĂ magazine, Fall 2014 edition

How the city’s identity evolved
Before 1989, Cluj was wretched and bitter. It was not run by proper people; it was poor on supplies. It was a dull city, like it was hiding under a cover. This under the cover era was also present during the Funar era [1992-2004]. It was a city known for its nationalist messages. The courage to start a business and do something new has emerged only after the Funar era ended.

However, there has always been another peculiar thing about Cluj: its contact with the West was permanent. [Therefore, in the 2000s] came a young generation of people who no longer wanted to be garrisoned by some ancient customs.

Also, Cluj has an interesting entrepreneurial spirit. The people of Cluj focus on services with high added value, IT, real estate, trade, banks, insurance. In Alba you see production, from eggs, chicken, cans of food, wood, whatever you want. In Cluj, people are more mind-oriented, they type something on a computer, make a few connections, and suddenly you see a business with national reach emerging.

Cluj shows a lot of open mindedness, creativity in ideas and knows how to put such ideas into practice. I think that’s a good characterisation: you can find practical people in Cluj. If an idea pops up in their head, they do it. But no one really takes a leap of faith, neither in relationships, nor in business. They are “geared” towards organic growth.

Making a brand
Branzas was co-opted by the former mayor, Sorin Apostu, in a branding project in Cluj, which was interrupted in November 2011, when Apostu was imprisoned for bribery. We were beginning to shape the real personality of the city and what ideas we had envisioned for the future. Should it be a university city? Should it be a city that focuses on the economy, using the brainpower we have? We arrived at a single commonly accepted idea: “A city where it feels good to be living”.

First of all, it’s all about the quality of life: the environment, the parks, the air, the peace and quiet, the civility. You can get relatively easily from one end to the other. People are calm, it’s an element of mental comfort. I get a general feeling that the people here care about their time. If you want to go to the hills, you can get there in 15 minutes, if you want to go to the mountains, you can get there in an hour. A city where it feels good to be living – this is becoming more and more important for citizens nowadays.

If you think of expanding, you either make do with what you have to offer now, brains, educated individuals and cheap labour, and then invest in service areas that can be supported in this way, or you focus on something with great added value. Radical things should happen, such as merging a city council with the universities or unifying all the universities. It would be a project of great strength and fantastic financial efficiency. It is an example that could contribute to a strategy to emphasise the local potential.

One of them would be how many people here think we’re the centre of Transylvania, and of the whole country really, which is an overstatement. Of course, we had the benefit of learning and evolving under the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the fruits of which are now visible, but that does not mean that we are the key to this kind of thinking and behaviour. There is always a danger when you are projecting a much better self-image upon yourself than it is in reality. Some of us are… this is a Hungarian word, which we picked up: “ocoş” [talkative and shrewd]. It’s a word that illustrates this problem very well.

An interesting story from my grandparents. They were able to give me an idea of what Cluj was like until the 1950s, when the real connections between the citizens and the civic duty hadn’t yet dissipated. At that time, people were queuing at bus stations and the buses always came on time, since they had a set schedule. The change of power also led to a change of mentality; good manners disappeared, everyone was rushing flooding in the bus stations, they would fight to get on the bus, because these wouldn’t even come on a fixed schedule anymore. Now Cluj is starting to become more of what it was like until ’48 -’50, at least in some respects.

On the other hand, there really is no social coagulation in Cluj, but this does not exist at a national level either. People don’t really know how to get along with each other, there are only shy attempts and usually only when something very personal is at stake. The street that I live on established an association,; the urban plan read that there is a certain height restriction for buildings in this area and stated what the degree of land occupation should be, but suddenly some huge apartment buildings began to arise. Huge efforts were made, everyone remembered the history of the place and the memories made here; after all of this, the prefect took notice and stopped the construction. It’s good that this is happening. Look how many people took to the streets when there were movements for Roşia Montană. In reality, the numbers are not that spectacular considering how large the population of the city really is and how dramatic the potential prospects of the problem are. But there are signs of change.