Bucharest’s “Sea” of Art Deco Flag Posts – Photomontage

A small sample from the multitude of figurative flag posts adorning the Art Deco style edifices of Bucharest, built mostly during the 1930s. (©Valentin Mandache)

The Art Deco style is a quintessential order within the rich tapestry of Bucharest’s inter-war architecture. I found from my many field days around the city researching its architecture in situ that Bucharest is virtually an undiscovered Art Deco “power”. The flag posts are some of the most conspicuous artefacts adorning these edifices, an expression of the era of oceanic cruise liners during the prosperous inter-war years and longing to travel to exotic places. A majority of Bucharest’s Art Deco architecture is constructed around the oceanic cruise liner theme. That is a bit surprising for a city located in the middle of the Lower Danube Prairie and at a long distance from a seaport. It just denotes the dream of the locals in those years to travel to the foreign and beautiful places of the southern seas, so different from their world in Eastern Europe and the Balkans. I hope that the above collage, which I made with just a small sample from Bucharest’s “sea” of Art Deco flag posts, will give you a minimal impression about how that sentiment was expressed in the architecture of the period. Sadly most of this wonderful architecture is now falling into disrepair, unappreciated and in many instances frantically demolished by the contemporary inhabitants of Romania’s capital; a tragic consequence of a low quality cultural education during the last seven decades of communism and chaotic post-communist transition.

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I endeavor through this daily series of images and small articles to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of European architectural history and 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 sourcing 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.

Getting Rid of One’s Own Heritage in Bucharest

Derelict, heritage listed, mid 1910s Neo-Romanian style house, fire gutted by squatters with the tacit approval of absentee proprietors- a common method in Bucharest for obtaining a demolition permit for historic houses, in order to develop the plot with a more profitable modern office building. Iancului area, Bucharest. (©Valentin Mandache)

The architecture of this mid 1910s house is extremely interesting, being a transition style between early Neo-Romanian, as was conceived by the architect Ion Mincu, its initiator in the 1880s, and the citadel like structure popular in the inter-war period. One can see here some of Mincu’s hallmarks in the pointed arch windows and airy veranda, together with the bastion tower structure borrowed from the fortified yeoman dwelling of Oltenia region, the “cula” (a word derived from Turkish meaning citadel) type house. Unfortunately the building has suffered during the wild Romanian property bubble of the last few years, eyed by greedy developers and irresponsible proprietors for the development of a more profitable modern building on the valuable plot of land occupied by this quite centrally located historic house. The building in this instance has probably changed hands in speculative transactions a number of times in the space of just a few years and was left to deteriorate, open to the elements and squatters, in order to secure the much coveted demolition permit. In the end the house was gutted by fire and although the authorities brick boarded its entrances, it looks that the fate of this magnificent house is sealed. That fact most probably makes its proprietors extremely hopeful of pocketing large profits from the development of the land (I very much doubt that as the Romanian property market is now the most inflated and least profitable in the entire European Union).

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I endeavor through this daily series of images and small articles to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of European architectural history and 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 sourcing 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.

Art Deco Details Grafted on Neo-Romanian House

A late 1930s Neo-Romanian style house with interesting Art Deco elements in the form of the imaginary crenature (functioning as balcony brim flowerpots) crowning the typical Neo-Romanian bastion like structure of the entrance assembly. Domenii area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

Starting with the 1930s, the Neo-Romanian architectural style with its heavy citadel like structure and a burdensome decorative register inspired from late medieval Wallachian church and ethnographic motifs, entered its zenith, facing acute competition from the slender modern Art Deco and International Modernist styles that were becoming very popular in the Bucharest of that time.  As the patriotic local style, expressing the national identity in architecture, the order was not abandoned, but there were intense searches among the architects to adapt to the new conditions imposed by the modern decorative fashions and adopt the new construction materials, like reinforced concrete, steel and glass. One such interesting direction was the expression of the Neo-Romanian style in an Art Deco matrix. There were also rarer and captivating attempts to graft the International Modernist style on reduced to essential Neo-Romanian structures. The example above, which I photographed in an area of Bucharest developed mainly in late 1930s, presents such an example of a Neo-Romanian style house adopting Art Deco elements, which are imaginatively integrated, without creating an obvious contrast. The Neo-Romanian style retains the citadel like structure of the entrance area, with the arched stairway flanked by a Neo-Romanian type column and a square Byzantine floral panel. The Art Deco elements fall perfectly into place in this citadel like assembly by playing the role of the bastion crenature, in real life being the flowerpots adorning the brim of the balcony above the entrance stairs. In all, I think this is an interesting example of architectural evolution in an era of intense stylistic and technological transformations.

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I endeavor through this daily series of images and small articles to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of European architectural history and 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 sourcing 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.

Ornate Neo-Romanian Style Window

An elaborate wood frame Neo-Romanian style window adorning a late 1920s house from Buzesti area of Bucharest. (©Valentin Mandache)

The ornaments of this exquisite window are inspired especially from the late medieval Wallachian church motifs (spiral and Byzantine type colonnettes, the grape vine abstraction surrounding the glazed area, etc.) I like the symmetry and balance achieved by the designer of this window between the many different size ornaments and panes of glass. Although the natural light flows inside the building in a less than ideal manner, the window is quite luminous for the standards of the Neo-Romanian order, an usually corpulent architectural style.

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I endeavor through this daily series of images and small articles to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of European architectural history and 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 sourcing 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.

Bucharest Fin de Siècle “Wagon” Type House

Fin de siècle "wagon" type house (1890s -1900s), built in what I call the "Little Paris" style (French late c19th styles provincially interpreted in Romania), very popular at that time in Bucharest. Calea Calarasi area. (©Valentin Mandache)

Some of the most picturesque and very specific for Bucharest houses are the small dwellings built at the turn between the c19th and c20th on the city’s former outskirts, which today are located quite centrally as the town expanded at an amazing rate in the last 110 years (I reckon that Bucharest had and still has one of the highest, if not the highest, rate of demographic growth among the major EU area cities in that time interval).  I already wrote about this type of house in its diverse fin de siècle decorative incarnations in the following posts:  1910s town house or picturesque decay house, etc. The house plan is very practical, having to adapt to the limitation of the small, expensive plots available for construction in Bucharest of that time. It usually had an oblong shape, able to fit into the strip like plot, with the short side facing the street. This type of dwelling is known locally as “wagon” house because of this more unusual long oblong shape with a narrow side yard, where also the entrance was also placed,  and a narrow street side. The example above is just such a ‘wagon’ house displaying a characteristic vernacular architecture that combines elements characteristic of a rural structure decorated with more urban looking c19th French inspired motifs, like the garlands and apparent key stones seen on the windows’ pediment. Another interesting architectural touch, present on many such buildings, is the rounded corner made by the street façade with the yard side of the house, as can also be seen in the photograph presented here. This type of house was very popular among the local public of the period, especially among the small merchant and state employee classes (policemen, clerks, teachers). Today these quaint period buildings, very specific for Bucharest, have the potential to constitute excellent renovation projects due to their usually small size, relatively basic and well preserved decorative registers and inexpensive structure.

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I endeavor through this daily series of images and small articles to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of European architectural history and 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 sourcing 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 26-Mar-10: Bucharest Minimalist Art Deco Doorway

A well preserved minimalist Art Deco style doorway from a mid-1930s block of flats in the Mosilor area of Bucharest. (©Valentin Mandache)

I found this wonderful doorway very evocative of the confident 1930s era of modernisation and industrialisation, especially in a country like Romania that had then an economy based primarily on traditional agriculture, with over 70% of the population living in ancestral rural areas. I am just enthralled by the its harmonious simple design, which although is presented in a grey colour, it still conveys with great effect the messages of the period. It is like a metaphoric doorway to a temple of progress, as the inter-war people imagined it. I also like the coloured glass that backs the door, which is very impressive when the light is on in the hallway during the evenings.

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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 25-Mar-10: On the Village Green 110 Years Ago

A Sunday dance, "hora" in Romanian, with the participation of all local classes, on the village green sometime in late 1890s in Southern Romania. (Old postcard - Valentin Mandache collection)

The old postcard above shows a typical village green from the lower Danube plains region Romania at the turn of the 19th to the 20th century. The scene is that of a Sunday dance, or “hora” in Romanian, an energetic round dance where eligible young peasant men and women met and danced together in their Sunday bests (homespun and richly embroidered with ethnographic motifs costumes). The custom is still present in many of Romania’s villages, especially in the more isolated mountain communities. The Sunday dance was a very important village event, even more important than the church service, at which often also participated the local landlord, the estate administrator and their families. The photograph above shows on the left hand side a covered horse carriage, which most probably belongs to the local land owner, the “boyar”, the wealthiest local, who came from his nearby country mansion, or “conac“. Next to it is another somehow more modest carriage which probably belonged to the estate administrator, the “arendas” in Romanian, and further to the right is another really modest horse drawn carriage which probably belonged to one of the local state officials like the teacher or policeman. In the middle of the round dance is the orchestra, usually a gypsy band composed by musicians from the local gypsy community, descendants of the former estate slaves, an ethnic group that was freed by the state only in mid-c19th, after half of millennium of slavery. They play at the usual instruments in this region like a portable zimbalon, violin and lute, etc. There is a group of two ladies in c19th town dress on the right hand side of the photograph who keep a formal distance from the peasants; they are presumably members of the landlord’s family. There are however some in the crowd in town dress that mingle happily with the peasants. The village green is surrounded by an assortment of peasant houses- in the foreground two modest, basic houses with thatched roof, typical of very poor peasant families. Next to their right is the fence surrounded courtyard of a wealthier peasant with a better house, that has a shingle covered roof. In all the image is a wonderful glimpse of a happy moment in the life of a Romanian village at the height of the Victorian era, and a good document that nowadays helps in understanding the psychology and way of life of the Romanian peasants for anyone interested in visiting these areas or buying a traditional house there.

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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 24-Mar-10: Italian Architects and Art Deco Buildings in Bucharest

1930s Bucharest Art Deco house designed by Italian architects. Calea Calarasi area. (©Valentin Mandache)

A couple of weeks ago, in one of my field days in Bucharest, I came across, this well proportioned and attractive Art Deco style house. I spoke with the owner and his family, who were extremely kind and had shown me the house, which still preserves most of its original exterior and interior features and decorations. They mentioned that the building has been designed by Italian architects and built by an Italian construction firm in the second part of the 1930s. I knew about the Italian influence on the local inter-war architecture, especially as regards to what I call the Venetian style, but was much less aware about the scale of the direct involvement of Italian architects and construction companies in the Bucharest building scene of that time. That information had the role to put sense within the disparate bits and pieces of information which I gathered from the archives and field observations about the Italian presence here. They seem to have contributed in quite an important measure to the design and building of many of the city’s Art Deco style edifices.  That is an interesting chapter of the Italian architects’ and constructors’ creations in the Art Deco style in many regions of the world from Eritrea, Dodecanese Islands of Greece, Albania to Romania, etc. It is a phenomenon which I hope to find out more data about for a more extensive future article.

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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.

HRH Princess Margarita of Romania – Birthday Anniversary


HRH Princess Margarita of Romania. (Weekly Picture: Diana Mandache's weblog - Royal History 26 March 2010)

A Happy birthday Your Royal Highness from the bottom of our hearts!

26 March 2010: Princess Margarita’s birthday

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This post has initially been published in Diana Mandache’s weblog on royal history at the following link: http://tiny.cc/rb3m1

HRH Princess Margarita is the Crown Princess of Romania, the descendant and continuator of the good work of Romania’s line of sovereigns, Carol I, Ferdinand, Carol II and Michael, under whose reigns the country’s beautiful period buildings and valuable old architecture, ranging from Neo-Romanian, Little Paris, Art Deco to International Modernist styles, have been created.

Daily Picture 23-Mar-10: Neo-Classical School Building

1880s Neo-Classical style school building, Elefterie area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

I very much like the simple and suggestive lines of this provincial design Neo-Classical style school building, dating from the end of c19th, for primary and secondary stage pupils from the Elefterie area of Bucharest. It dates from the heights of an era of profound education reforms in Romania that saw the final transition from the church and private schools, accessed mostly by the privileged families, to a mass, state sponsored national school system. The architectural style is an allusion to the ancient Greek and Roman moral, philosophic and scientific ideals, which the Victorian era national school systems, such as the then Romanian one, tried to emulate and instil in their pupils.

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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 21-Mar-10: Neo-Romanian Style Roof Ridge Ornament

Neo-Romanian style roof ridge ornament, adorning a late 1920s grand house in Mihai Voda area of Bucharest. (©Valentin Mandache)

The ornamental roof ridge embellishing many of the Neo-Romanian style house, together with their roof finials (see my article about this particular artefact here) are some of the most peculiar looking decorative elements adorning buildings in this architectural style particular to Romania. I was very amused when one of my readers in a comment/ email compared them with “Star Treck” spaceship antennae . The Neo-Romanian roof ridge is inspired form its wooden equivalent found on shingle roofed peasant houses in the villages of the Carpathian Mountains and also from the ornamental roof ridge of some of the late medieval Wallachian churches, which are in their turn inspired from Byzantine/ Ottoman Balkan motifs. I photographed the example above a few days ago in the first proper spring light this year. It is a well designed Neo-Romanian style roof ridge, cross-inspired from peasant and church models, adorning a beautiful grand edifice in the Mihai Voda area of Bucharest.

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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.

“Old and New in Bucharest Architecture. How to Preserve our Identity?”- Radio Programme

This was a radio broadcast programme by Radio Romania International on 16 March ’10, 20.00h-21.00h, on the subject of Bucharest’s old buildings and their plight in the last two decades of Romania’s painful transition from communism to democracy and market economy. The debate, entitled “Old and new in Bucharest architecture. How to preserve our identity?”, took place among blog authors specialised on the architectural heritage. The participants were the following: the author of this blog- Valentin Madache (Historic Houses of Romania), Cezar Buimaci (Orasul lui Bucur) and Dan Rosca (Bucurestii Vechi), moderator- Mara Popa. The language used is Romanian; apologises for the non-speakers of this language.

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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-Mar-10: Fin de Siècle Doorway

A grandiose doorway that has seen better days, in an assortmnet of rococo and Art Nouveau styles, characteristic of the Fin de Siècle (1880 - '90s) French architecture, very popular in Romania of that time. Mantuleasa 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.

Art Deco Chimney Stacks

A set of interesting Art Deco chimneys on the rooftop of a Bucharest house, built in the same style, dating from early 1930s. Calea Mosilor area, Bucharest. (©Valentin Mandache)

I very much like the three-bars set adoring each of the chimney, conforming with the Art Deco rule of three inspired from the Egyptian mythology fashionable among the architects and artists of that period.

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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 Picture 18-Mar-10: Art Nouveau and Property Bubble Hangover

A Bucharest variety of 1900s Art Nouveau style house that also displays rococo and early Neo-Romanian elements, in a very bad state of repair, next to a flashy stretch limo that gathers dust, among empty plastic bottles scattered on on a dirty unmaintained pavement. Maria Rosetti area. (©Valentin Mandache)

The photograph, which I took in late autumn last year, of a luxury limousine next to a deteriorated period house, inhabited by poor state tenants, is a telling metaphor of the hangover feeling that engulfed Bucharest after the bursting in 2009 of the Romanian property and financial bubble, which saw New York type prices for property and credit fuelled ‘new Russian’ style consumption excesses. The sky-high property prices are still lingering aroung, making the purchase of a period property in Bucharest one of the most expensive, riskiest and unprofitable investments anywhere in the European Union. My estimate is that although the prices are about 20% less than the exuberant levels of late 2008, they are still having a very long way to go (another 60% down from today prices) and reach a level that would reflect the undeveloped infrastructure and economic reality of 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.

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

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.