ARCHITECT's NAME TABLETS on Bucharest period houses

A period house that has the name of its architect inscribed on a wall tablet, usually placed next to the main doorway, conveys a more complete image of its history and style, about the particular cultural context of the times when that architect designed the building. That tablet is also an identity marker, distinguishing the house from among the crowd of impersonal mass produced residences. The name tablet also constitutes an important added value element, having the potential to notably increase the market worth of a building as customarily patron-proprietors sought famous or highly promissing architects to design their homes and the name tablet acts as a certificate of that buiding’s architectural and cultural value.

The stock of Bucharest period properties is of relatively recent date on the historical scale and has humble beginnings in mid 19th century after a devastating great fire that destroyed swathes of the city and its more remarkable houses built by local craftsmen and masons in a provincial style characteristic to the Ottoman Balkans, in most cases without the benefit of an architect’s supervision. 

Properly qualified architects started to be hired by the local elite only toward the end of the 19th century once what I call the Little Paris style, inspired by the French architecture of the Second Empire, became widely adopted in Romania. However most of the local elite’s houses in that epoch were still erected by craftsmen. From among the small number of architects employed by the local proprietors, even fewer had their name inscribed on tablets on the wall. I have found in central Bucharest three such buildings displaying name tablets from that period, shown in the photographs bellow: 

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Architect O. Mugsch, Little Paris style building, Lipscani (©Valentin Mandache)

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Architect P. Petricu, Little Paris style building, Mantuleasa (©Valentin Mandache)

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Architect Camil Sarvasy, Little Paris style building, Lipscani (©Valentin Mandache)

Architect Camil Sarvasy’s name shown in the above photograph is obscured by an air conditioner hose, aspect symptomatic of the indignities suffered in contemporary Bucharest and the rest of Romania by many of these plaques inscribed with famous names. The local public, which is by and large poorly informed and educated about its own heritage, usually neglects these tablets and considers them a distractive pernickety. They often, during maintenance and renovation work, deface the name tablets with utilitarian works, as in the example bellow of a modernist block of flats from Coltea area involving an unsightly gas pipe. 

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Architect Harry Stern, Builder C. Brumarescu, modernist appartment block, Coltei (©Valentin Mandache)

Frequently the name of the constructor is also mentioned together with that of the architect as in the example above. I found another two such examples in Bucharest adorning an Art Nouveau house in the Cismigiu Park area and a modernist inter-war apartment block in the Popa Soare area. 

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Architect A.G. Davidescu, Builder G. Lorentz, Art Nouveau building, Cismigiu (©Valentin Mandache)

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Architect Alfred Tanenzapf, builder H. Kaufman, modernist appartment block, Popa Soare (©Valentin Mandache)

The architect Alfred Tanenzapf mentioned in the tablet above is a famous name in Romania’s inter-war modernist architecture. Among his creations is the iconic modernist 1930s casino building in the Black Sea resort of Mamaia, today in a very sorry state, treated with indifference by the local authorities and defaced by crowds of coarse domestic tourists. 

In one of my field days in Bucharest in Mosilor area, I discovered a remarkably beautiful and well preserved early Art Deco house with the name tablet of architect Emanuel Arnet. The clarity and balance of the design of the house is an incentive for me to try finding out and research more about this particular architect and his creations in Romania. 

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Architect Emanuel Arnet, Art Deco building, Mosilor (©Valentin Mandache)

Romania experienced in the interwar period its most flourishing cultural and economic age and the architectural profession became a much respected trade with wealthy patrons among the local aristocracy and commercial and industrial elite. The Neo-Romanian style (see my article on the origins and features of this architectural style peculiar to Romania) was much in vogue and remarkable architects such as Leon Silion or Emil Gunes were among the stars of their profession. I found two name tablets for Leon Silion: one in Cotroceni area, and another in Popa Soare area, shown in the photographs bellow. 

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Architect Leon Silion, Neo-Romanian building, Cotroceni (©Valentin Mandache)

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Architect Leon Silion, Neo-Romanian building, Popa Soare (©Valentin Mandache)

Bucharest hosts a number of Neo-Romanian houses designed by Emil Gunes, a prolific and intensely creative architect of Turkish ethnicity. The name tablet bellow is on a terraced house in Piata Romana area. Gunes is the architect who also deigned the beautiful Ottoman theme villa of Queen Marie of Romania in Bacic (now in Bulgaria) on the Black Sea shore. 

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Architect Emil Gunes, Neo-Romanian building, Piata Romana (©Valentin Mandache)

Other remarkable architects that designed Neo-Romanian style buildings are Joan Grecu (tablet name bellow on a building from Batistei area) and Constantin Ciogolea (tablet name on building in Piata Romana area).

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Architect Joan Grecu, builder A. Zamoco, Neo-Romanian building, Batistei (©Valentin Mandache)

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Architect Constantin Ciogolea, Neo-Romanian building, Piata Romana (©Valentin Mandache)

In the inter-war period, particularly beginning with late 1920s, the modernist architecture also became popular in Romania’s capital and was promoted by outstanding architects, such as Horia and Ion Creanga, whose name tablet I found on a stunning Art Deco apartment block in the Cismigiu Park area and Jean Monda whose modernist designs are distinguished by cheerful lines typical of the age of ocean cruise liners in the peaceful years before the rise of fascism in Europe. 

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Architects Horia & Ion Creanga, Art Deco appartment block, Cismigiu (©Valentin Mandache)

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Architect Jean Monda, modernist appartment block, Grivitei (©Valentin Mandache)

In conclusion, an architect’s name tablet on a period house constitutes a veritable window into its past, character and efforts of the creative person that designed it and is also an important value added element to the market worth of that building. Bucharest contains many period houses that feature name tablets now obscured under thick layers of paint or plaster put there during the insensitive utilitarian repair and maintenance works of the last six decades. It would be a good idea, if you intend to acquire a period property in this town or elsewhere in Romania, to check for traces of the name tablet on the wall around the main doorway because that way is entirely possible to discover the name of a well known architect and realise that the building in front of you might be a long forgotten architectural gem. (All rights reserved ©Valentin Mandache, www.viapontica.wordpress.com, v_mandache@yahoo.co.uk)

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If you are interested in acquiring a period property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in locating the property, specialist research, planning permissions, restoration project management, etc. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contact page of this weblog.

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