Daily Picture 12-Feb-10: Identity Messages of an Art Nouveau Doorway

The doorway of the "Liga Culturala" building in Bucharest, erected in 1929, following an earlier design by architect Ion Trajanescu. The architectural style of the edifice is a very peculiar fusion between Art Nouveau and Neo-Romanian (its "Gothic" variety). (©Valentin Mandache)

The inscription above the doorway translates as “The League for the Cultural Unity of All Romanians” and refers to this organisation’s (founded in 1890) nationalist goals to foster the cultural unity of the Romanian ethnic communities within and without the country (when the organisation was set up, the provinces of Transylvania, Bucovina and Bessarabia were not part of the then Romania), with the ultimate goal to achieve their union within a single national state. Although the building was erected in the inter-war period, its fusion of Art Nouveau and Neo-Romanian national architectural styles is also a cultural expression in the field of architecture of the pre-Great War political national movements in Eastern Europe, that militated for the break up of European empires and formation of national states on an ethnic basis. The format of the rendered letters on the doorway’s pediment is also significant as it contains an interesting cultural identity message. The main word “Liga” (The League) is rendered in an Art Nouveau style type that models a transitory format between the Cyrillic and the Latin letters, reflecting the c19th modernisation and also a reflection of the supposedly ancient roots of the Romanian national culture. The Cyrillic alphabet was used for many centuries to render Romanian language in text and was finally abandoned in mid c19th in favour of the Latin alphabet. Its adoption was considered for Romanians, a self-declared Romance speaking people of Latin origins, as a rediscovery of their true identity after centuries of Slavonic culture/ Cyrillic alphabet cultural domination. Moreover, the second part of the doorway pediment text is rendered in a letter format that is found on the the inscription at the base of Trajan’s Column in Rome (the model from which the modern Times New Roman font was derived). The Trajan’s Column is the monument that celebrates the conquest of the Dacians, considered as among the ancestors of today Romanians, by the Roman Empire two millennia ago. That is also a somehow subtle nationalist message, fashionable then, about the old roots of the nation and its quite illustrious pedigree by association with ancient Rome.

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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.