Daily Picture 21-Feb-10: Art Nouveau Style Property Defaced by Ignorant Owner

One of the countless examples of defacement and destruction of historic houses in Bucharest by ignorant nouveau riche owners. (©Valentin Mandache)

I made the montage above from photographs taken at a distance of one year from each other (autumn 2008 – ’09) of the doorway of a superb 1907 Art Nouveau style house in Cismigiu-north area of Bucharest. The owner has replaced the original and valuable Art Nouveau glass and wood door with an unsightly mass produced, modern metallic one, which does not have anything to do with the style of the house. The owner is from among the class of nouveaux riches that emerged in post-communist Romania and have started to acquire historic property in central areas of Bucharest. The lot, as a rule, is very arrogant and ignorant in cultural and historic matters, with devastating consequences for the properties which fall into their hands. In a majority of cases they abusively demolish the historic buildings in order to have them replaced with modern characterless houses or in ‘best instances’ deface the period property replacing the original artefacts with modern mass production equivalents, perceived as more prestigious and valuable. In the instance pictured above, the owner is most probably convinced that the market value and aesthetics the house were greatly enhanced by replacing the despised old ‘strange looking’ door. The phenomenon has reached dangerous proportions in Romania, threatening the integrity of the built heritage and identity of the local communities.

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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.

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2 comments on “Daily Picture 21-Feb-10: Art Nouveau Style Property Defaced by Ignorant Owner

  1. Valentin – I can’t imagine anyone in their right mind replacing the characterful original with that hideous metal garage door, but, trying to get inside the mind of somebody who has, is it a question of perceived improved security? Is burglary a problem in Bucharest? And if it is simply a case of ‘I think the modern door looks classier’, might there not be plenty of other people who agree, and therefore will think that the intrinsic value of the property has been enhanced?

    A very tricky issue. Although these people may well be ‘owners’ as far as the law is concerned, they should be encouraged to consider themselves no more than temporary custodians with a responsibility to future custodians of their property. We face similar issues in the UK – maybe not quite as crass as the example you have posted here!

    Best wishes,

    Chris Baker

    • Hello Chris,
      Thank you for your comment! The security is not a big issue in Bucharest; it is perhaps the EU capital city with the lowest crime levels. The problem with that owner and many like him is poor education and self-importance (being from among the moneyed Romanians thinks that his august person, not the house, is better protected with a metallic door- the phenomenon is similar among the Moscow moneyed people). The beautiful Art Nouveau door could have been well preserved and a secure door installed discreetly behind the original one. That was not the case because the owner could better show his status as moneyed ‘important’/’VIP’ individual by having a metal reinforced door instead. It is a pity that the Art Nouveau door is not there any more- it has seen many historical watershed moments in Bucharest: the Great War invasion and enemy occupation of the city, the WWII quartering of the German and then Soviet troops or the bloody 1989 anti-communist revolution in the city. These were truly insecure times and the original door had withstood all of those unsettling events, until the uneducated rich owner came along in the actual most peaceful time and replaced it.
      My best wishes,
      Valentin

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