Evolution of the Neo-Romanian architectural style

Neo-Romanian houses showing this style's evolution over at least one decade and a half (ie early-'20s - mid-'30, Soseaua Viilor area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

I found the two Neo-Romanian houses pictured above as very instructive in showing the evolution of this style during a quite short period in the first part of the c20th, when technology innovations, new building materials and fashions gave a new dynamism to the Romanian architectural scene. The buildings are located next to each other, fronting the street, and therefore excellently placed for an outside observer to study their differences and style intricacies.

The building at the top is the earlier built one, dating probably from the early 1920s, possibly mid-1910s, just before Romania entered the Great War (1916). An elements which distinguishes it as being from that period is the heavy wall structure made mostly from brickwork, which afforded a limited number of window openings and just a single upper floor. Stylistically the house has many elements peculiar to the early Neo-Romanian style such as indentations mimicking the crenels of a fortress  and other citadel-like motifs seen on the veranda and top of the faux tower at the centre. Other early Neo-Romanian aspects are the Byzantine-Ottoman inspired window frames and arches as well as the chunky grapevine motif frieze, all echoing the Art Nouveau current popular in the previous decades. There are also elements borrowed from the Little Paris style (French c19th historicist architecture interpreted in a provincial manner in Fin de Siecle Romania) noticeable especially in the steep slope roof crowning the faux tower.

The second building, at the bottom of the photograph, belongs to the mid-1930s era, when the wider use of structural elements made from reinforced concrete afforded a much slender appearance and also a greater amount of fenestration, additional floor levels and a taller roof. Stylistically one can easily notice a departure from the Ottoman and Byzantine motifs (present here mostly in the ornamentation of the faux tower roof, most prominent such element being the beautiful finial that crowns that sector of the roof) toward the Art Deco. The syncretism between the Neo-Romanian and the Art Deco is especially displayed in the reticular ornamentation of the balcony fences and the aspect of the window frames.

These two buildings are a proof of the dynamism of the inter-war Romanian architectural scene and of the flexibility and adaptability of the Neo-Romanian style to evolving fashions, concepts and technologies.

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I endeavor through this daily series of daily 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.