Daily Picture 31-Jan-10: Bucharest Adobe House

A very rare Bucharest adobe (sun-dried brick made of clay and straw) house, built in the first decades of c19th. Popa Soare area. (©Valentin Mandache)

Bucharest, for most of its history, has been a gathering of villages scattered within a propitious fording place on the Dambovita – Arges river intefluve used initially by transhumant shepherds and their flocks on their seasonal migration between the pastures of the Transylvanian Alps and the Lower Danube plains and later by traders as a staging post on the great commercial road between Central Europe and the market towns of the Ottoman Empire. The domestic architecture of those times had much in common with that of the rest of the Ottoman Balkan region and the Mediterranean world in general. The house above, which I photographed in Popa Soare area, used to be a very usual type in the city beginning with c17th until the intense urban transformation of Bucharest on West European lines during the Victorian period. It is an adobe house (sun-dried brick made of clay and straw), plastered with a mix of clay and fine sand and painted in pigmented whitewash, a type which can be encountered from Turkey to Spain and Mexico. The decorative veranda poles are again of a Mediterranean type, called “zapata” in Spanish American architectural terminology, also encountered from Turkey to the rest of the Mediterranean and the Spanish offshoots in the New World. The house is an extreme architectural rarity in today Bucharest and a witness of the long forgotten connection of this city with the Mediteranean and Oriental worlds through the conduit of the erstwhile Ottoman Empire.

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I endeavor through this daily image series to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of European architectural heritage.

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If you plan acquiring a historic 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 Contactpage of this weblog.

Daily Image 30-Jan-10: Arts and Crafts House within Royal Palace Grounds

A guest house inspired from the Romanian peasant type dwellings, built in the 1920s and located within the Scroviste royal palace grounds, on lake Snagov shore, North of Bucharest. (©ANR/ Valentin Mandache)

The image above shows one of the guest houses from within the grounds of Scroviste royal palace, on the shore of Snagov lake. It is a design combining the peasant house and Neo-Romanian architectures within a peculiar Arts and Crafts matrix (see my earlier post on Romanian Arts and Crafts architecture for details). The house has a ground floor pergola made from wooden poles carved with ethnographic motifs. Similar type carved poles adorn the extended first floor veranda. The palace gardens were landscaped by Fr. Rebhun, a talented and prolific Austrian landscape architect, very active in Romania in those decades, with many completed royal and public park commissions (Royal Pelesh Castle gardens, Cismigiu Park in central Bucharest, etc.) . What I like in this instance in terms of landscape architecture is the pergola with climbing roses, the house nestled between two imposing trees and the peasant stone stone cross at the base of the right hand tree, which together with the wonderful architecture of the house and its special location on the shore of a prairie lake constitute a metaphor of the Romanian peasant life and country’s natural landscape, an excellent product of those very creative decades of early c20th in this country.

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I endeavor through this daily image series to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of European architectural heritage.

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If you plan acquiring a historic 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.

Daily Image 29-Jan-10: Art Deco Era Architect’s Name Tablets

A part of my collection of wall tablet images containing some of the most famous names of architects that made Bucharest an Art Deco gem city in the 1930s. The letter rendering of these names bears also the mark of the beautiful Art Deco era writing styles. (©Valentin Mandache)

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I endeavor through this daily image series to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of European architectural heritage.

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If you plan acquiring a historic 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.

Daily Image 28-Jan-10: Art Nouveau Style Mascarons

An exquisite floral theme pair of Art Nouveau style mascarons adorning a grand house built in the early 1900s, in the same architectural style. Icoanei area, Bucharest. (©Valentin Mandache)

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I endeavor through this daily image series to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of European architectural heritage.

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If you plan acquiring a historic 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.

Daily Image 27-Jan-10: Elaborate Neo-Romanian Roof Finial

A superlative Neo-Romanian style roof finial on a house dating from mid 1920s. The design is inspired from the shape of tiled roof towers of Byzantine style churches from Southern Romania. Stirbei Voda area, Bucharest. (©Valentin Mandache)

I wrote some months ago an article entitled “The Finials of Neo-Romanian Style Houses” (click link for access) in which I described the particular significance of this ornamental structure for the decorative register of the Neo-Romanian architectural order. The elegant finial in the image above, which I photographed in a bright summer day last year, is one of the more elaborate such examples, with a design inspired from the ceramic tiled tower/ cupola roof of Romanian Orthodox churches from the province of Wallachia.

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I endeavor through this daily image series to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of European architectural heritage.

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If you plan acquiring a historic 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.

Daily Image 26-Jan-10: Art Deco Courtyard Gate Collage

A selection from among the abundant and beautiful multitude of Bucharest's 1930s Art Deco courtyard gates. (©Valentin Mandache)

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I endeavor through this daily image series to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of European architectural heritage.

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If you plan acquiring a historic 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.

Daily Image 25-Jan-10: Bucharest’s Old Municipal Coat of Arms

One of the few surviving examples of Bucharest's municipal coat of arms as architectural ornament dating from the period before the Great War. Patriarchy Hill area, Bucharest. (©Valentin Mandache)

The actual coat of arms of Bucharest dates from the 1860s. It contains a representation of the city’s traditional patron saint, St Demetrios, one of the main Christian military saints, an indication of Bucharest’s historic role as a frontier Christendom outpost that faced the confronting Muslim power of the Ottoman Empire and its Tatar allies. The motto is inspired from the Western royal heraldry and reads as “The Fatherland and My Right” (“Patria si Dreptul Meu” in Romanian), an allusion to the fact that the city was a princely seat (the German origin Prince Carol of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen became the chief of state in that period) of a principality, later a kingdom, which embarked on a process of modernisation on Western lines at the height of the Victorian era. The coat of arms was also provided with a mural crown, indicating the urban status of Bucharest. When the communists took over the government and the country in 1948, the coat of arms was forbidden because of its Christian and royal connections. Most of its representations on buildings, monuments and other public places throughout the city were chiselled off or concreted over, with only a handful surviving in difficult to see places. I found the above such rare surviving example placed high above the street level, on the rooftop of the old Scoala Comunala (Public Scool for poor pupils) in the Patriarchy Hill area, and was able to photograph its details only at full zoom length. The school building dates from 1898 and the style of the coat of arms, surrounded by laurel branches and  flanked by two cherubs is in the French inspired decorative styles of the period. In mid 1990s, Bucharest municipal authorities have re-adopted the pre-communist coat of arms in a somehow different format, where however the three main symbols, St Demetrios, the royal motto and the mural crown feature prominently again.

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I endeavor through this daily image series to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of European architectural heritage.

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If you plan acquiring a historic 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.

Daily Image 24-Jan-10: Glazed “Little Paris” Style Doorway

Glazed doorway structure of wrought iron frame and ornaments adorning a "Little Paris" style house (Romania provincially interpreted French late c19th architectural styles) in Romana area of Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The doorway with flamboyant decorations (click link for my article on the subject: “The Doorways of Bucharest”-Part 1) is among the most conspicuous and emblematic elements of a “Little Paris” style house (what I call the French late c19th building styles interpreted in a provincial manner in Romania between late c19th and 1910s). Many of these houses, which would constitute superb renovation projects, are now in a run down state or the target of aggressive property developers, because of their central location in  Romania’s urban areas. The doorway in the above image, which I photographed in central Bucharest, represents an example of architecture that could be easily brought back to a magnificent state by someone willing and patient enough to undertake a renovation project (such individuals and organisations are unfortunately in very short supply in post-communist Romania).

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I endeavor through this daily image series to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of European architectural heritage.

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If you plan acquiring a historic 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.

Daily Picture 23-Jan-10: The Cloister of Stavropoleos Church

The cloister of Stavropoles church, a creation of the architect Ion Mincu, the initiator of the Neo-Romanian style, exuding a soothing and serene atmosphere in the middle of a bustling Bucharest city centre. (©Valentin Mandache)

The small Stavropoleos church in the centre of Bucharest has been restored between 1904-10 by the remarkable architect Ion Mincu, the initiator of the Neo-Romanian style (he is the equivalent of Pugin in this country, if I am allowed to illustrate somehow crudely his status and fame regarding the revival of local architecture). Mincu designed the church cloister, shown in the photograph above, a wonderful architectural achievement within the very limited space available, in which he brought together many of his concepts and ideas pertaining to the Neo-Romanian order developed by him starting with the 1880s.  From Ion Mincu’s initial designs, the Neo-Romanian architectural style had a fascinating evolution in distinct phases and on several directions until its decline in the 1940s. The cloister of Stavropoles church is thus an wonderful textbook for anyone interested in studying or just admiring the initial stage of this style.

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I endeavor through this daily image series to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of European architectural heritage.

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If you plan acquiring a historic 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 Contactpage of this weblog.

Video-architecture: The Art Nouveau Style of Amzei Church

Romania was the scene of a very particular Art Nouveau style variety architecture in which traditional Byzantine, Ottoman and Romanian peasant vernacular – ethnographic motifs were brought together with wonderful results. Amzei Church in Bucharest is one such iconic example of Romanian Art Nouveau style. It was designed by the architect Alexandru Savulescu and inaugurated in 1901. The Neo-Romanian architectural style is also often expressed in an Art Nouveau matrix, especially in examples of buildings dating from 1900s – 1910s period and Amzei church design shows that evolution in its incipient stages.

Art Nouveau - Byzantine style votive painting by Marchetti Umberto (1901), Amzei church, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The Western entrance of Amzei church, building designed by architect Alexandru Savulescu in the Art Nouveau - Byzantine style, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

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If you plan acquiring a historic 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 Contactpage of this weblog.

Daily Picture 21-Jan-10: Neo-Romanian Style House in Early 1900s Photograph

Photograph taken in early 1900s of a newly built Neo-Romanian style house, Pitesti, Arges county.

The above old photograph shows a magnificent Neo-Romanian style house located in Arges county, today much altered and in bad repair, put on the market by its owners (presumably property flippers) and advertised by estate agents as “Austrian baroque” building, with a huge price tag, characteristic of the property bubble mentality that still lingers around in Romania. Old photographs of period houses, from the public archives or private sources, are among the most important resources for a restoration/ renovation project. With the passing of time many of those houses were altered and in some cases modified beyond recognition. The problem is even more acute in the particular cases of countries that have suffered wars and social upheavals as in Eastern Europe.  Ironically, in Romania, the most destructive period for historic houses is in the last twenty years since the fall of communism, when imperfect property and heritage legislation, coupled with the ignorance of many among the locals about their own history and heritage resulted in a veritable massacre of the country’s valuable old architecture. There are however some individuals and organisations that have gone in the right direction and put great effort an money in restoring and renovating historic houses. Unfortunately in many instances those projects are done by ear, without proper expert documentation and advice. Consulting archives, photographs from the family of the former owners, old newspapers or interviewing local historians is seen in many instances as a distracting and time consuming pernickety. I am afraid that what remains today from the beautiful house in the photograph above will share the unfortunate fate of countless many other period properties in Romania.

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I endeavor through this daily image series to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of European architectural heritage.

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If you plan acquiring a historic 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.

Daily Picture 20-Jan-10: Inter-War Modernist Style Country Villa

A well balanced and remarkable modernist style design of a 1930s, Teleorman county, Wallachia. (©Valentin Mandache)

The early 1930s, immediately after the Great Depression, were very productive years for the Romanian modernist architects. Bucharest is the place that gathers many of their master-works, but these can also be found in smaller towns or in the countryside, such as the above villa which I photographed in May last year, SW of Bucharest. It has replaced an earlier country mansion built at the end of c19th in a style inspired from the French architecture of the time. I was not able to find who was the architect, but the design is grass roots Romanian modernism in  the manner of the classic works of produced by the great architect Henriette Delavrancea-Gibory (see especially her Black Sea shore villa examples): rectangular volumes, enlivened by arches and columns (derived from the Neo-Romanian order), oblique roof profiles and small ornaments. Now the villa is renovated by local owners, who have altered or replaced many of its original features in an amateurish manner, using ordinary DIY stock products, a fate shared by an increasing number of period properties throughout Romania.

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I endeavor through this daily image series to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of European architectural heritage.

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If you plan acquiring a historic 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.

Daily Picture 19-Jan-10: Glazed Stair Towers Art Deco Building

Art Deco - Modernist style building, designed by the architect Alexandru Zamphiropol in 1933. Domenii area, Bucharest. (©Valentin Mandache)

The architect has enlivened an apparent boring façade symmetry through the prominent use of glazed staircase towers (a large and rounded near-central one, balanced by a side angular shape tower). The whole composition mimics an ocean cruise liner (round windows, flag pole, large glazed surfaces), an important Art Deco style motif.

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I endeavor through this daily image series to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of European architectural heritage.

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If you plan acquiring a historic 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.

Daily Picture 18-Jan-10: Neo-Romanian Shops and Flats Building

A harmonious, reduced to essence design of a late 1920s Neo-Romanian style building, purpose built for use as shops on the ground level and residential apartments on the upper floor. The central gateway gives access to a small interior courtyard. Natiunile Unite area, Bucharest. (©Valentin Mandache)

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I endeavor through this daily image series to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of European architectural heritage.

***********************************************

If you plan acquiring a historic 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.

Daily Picture 17-Jan-10: “Little Paris” Atmosphere

A representative architectural detail for the prosperous and nonchalant times of La Belle Epoque in Romania when the "Little Paris" architecture (provincially interpreted French late c19th styles) became popular throughout the country. The rooftop allegorical group embelishes the 1890s building of the Centre Culturel Français de Iasi, NE Romania. (©Valentin Mandache)

The architectural ornament formed by the two cherubs feeding from an abundant fruit bowl (and also fittingly crowned by two live collared doves) embellishes a landmark building in Iasi, the former second capital of Romania. It is an epitome of what I call the “Little Paris” atmosphere that permeated the country as a whole in the last decades of the c19th until the Great War. The French architectural styles of that period ranging from eclectic to Second Empire or Beaux Art were assiduously followed in a picturesque provincial manner in the far away Romania, where Bucharest became known as the “Little Paris” of the Balkans. That was not of course restricted to the capital, but a myriad of other towns throughout the country were endowed with beautiful such buildings. Iasi, the old capital of the principality of Moldova and for a while a second capital of unified Romania in the 1850s, was an worthy rival of Bucharest. The city today still preserves numerous and excellent quality examples of “Little Paris” architecture. I took the photograph above in the autumn of the last year and was amazed to discover that the artefact is identical with one which I encountered in Bucharest and also wrote a post about it on this blog in August ‘o9: http://historo.wordpress.com/2009/08/29/daily-picture-29-aug-‘09/ It shows the popularity of the style and that there was practically an industry producing those artefacts. That is also an indication that the buildings in that style were not produced by high level architects, but picturesque pattern reproductions according to the tastes of a clientèle, which was in its starting phases of amassing a more subtle cultural baggage. The emergence of highly professional architects and sophisticated patrons became a reality after the Great War when the Neo-Romanian style became widely popular together with the international modern styles.

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I endeavor through this daily image series to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of European architectural heritage.

***********************************************

If you plan acquiring a historic 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.