Stairwells of Bucharest’s Art Deco houses – September ’11 update

I naturally have less oportunities to go or be invited inside a period house and investigate its entrails, compared with the relative ease of studying such an edifice from outside. From among those fewer opportunities I would like to present you here three interesting examples of  Art Deco house stairwells that embellish mid-1930s Bucharest apartment houses in that style.

The stairwell of a Bucharest Art Deco house, Mantuleasa area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The above photograph presents an interesting circle spiral stairwell with an off centre shaft, which apart from its structural role, it also gives a nice aesthetic “twist” to the whole design assemble.

The stairwell of a Bucharest Art Deco house, Iancului Area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The stairwell in the second image is a rectangular spiral example that leaves a square section air column in the middle, which is very much in tone with the exterior Art Deco – Modernist architecture of the edifice that hosts it.

The stairwell of a Bucharest Art Deco house, Pache Protopopescu area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The picture above shows a rounded corner rectangular staircase, photographed from the top down. It looks quite heavy, with the Continue reading

Apples and light for birthday celebration!

Diana's birthday celebration

Today Diana, my wife, celebrates her birthday! The image above, of a prosperous apple tree from the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains, photographed in the soothing autumnal daylight at this latitude is intended as a greeting metaphor on this beautiful occasion! Valentin

Neo-Romanian style wood burning stove

Neo-Romanian style wood burning stove, house from the late 1920s, Dorobanti area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

After posting, a couple of days ago, an article about a Neo-Romanian style elevator, which proved very popular, today I am presenting another esoteric Neo-Romanian design artefact: a ceramic tile wood burning stove. It resembles the pedestal of a Neo-Romanian statuary monument, which were often encountered in the 1920s town squares of Romania, depicting heroic war scenes from not logn ago concluded Great War conflagration. Those pedestals had shapes inspired from ancient Greek-Roman altars, commemorating together with the statue, which they supported, the war heroes. The same metaphor of an altar is also encompassed within the shape of this stove, but in this case the meaning is that of the  mythical symbolism associated the hearth of a house. The stove through its design and ornamental elements (i.e. the rope motif columns) represents thus a condensed statement of the house’s soul, character and architecture.

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I endeavour through this series of periodic 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 or selling a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in sourcing and transacting the property, specialist research, etc. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contact page of this weblog.

Neo-Romanian style elevator

Neo-Romanian style elevator, 1926 apartment bloc designed by architect Arghir Culina, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The Neo-Romanian style was intended since its inception as a “total” national style, covering domains such as civil, industrial and military architecture, interior design, visual arts or even book design. A less known direction of application was that of the machinery associated with big edifices built in the Neo-Romanian style, such as the elevators. There are some interesting examples around of lifts, which show attempts to ornate or imprint on those machines a Neo-Romanian outlook. An telling example is the elevator doorway and stairs rail that coils around the lift shaft, presented in the photograph above, which I recently found in the main hallway of one of the largest apartment blocks ever built in the Neo-Romanian style. The structure is located on Hristo Botev boulevard in Bucharest, designed by architect Arghir Culina, dating from 1926, during what I call the mature phase of the Neo-Romanian style.

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I endeavour through this series of periodic 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 or selling a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in sourcing and transacting the property, specialist research, etc. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contact page of this weblog.

Article on HM King Michael in the October ’11 issue of Majesty magazine

Majesty Magazine, October 2011 issue, front cover

Dear readers,

The British monthly magazine “Majesty” has just published a richly illustrated article written by Diana Mandache and the undersigned with the occasion of the celebration of King Michael of Romania‘s 90th birthday on 25 October. This is our humble homage to His Majesty’s remarkable life, personality and achievements, and of all what he represents for the identity and history of his country!

The magazine cover is presented in the first image here, while the second, bellow, shows the first text page of the article. Majesty magazine is for sale at good newsagents in the United Kingdom and in the larger US cities and other English speaking countries.

I would like to cite here, for you, two short excerpts from the article:

King Michael stands high among royals throughout the world for having fulfilled his mission to be an example to his people, and for courageously defending their freedom against the many vicissitudes that befell that part of Eastern Europe.

***

King Michael, a great personality who has decisively influenced and determined the history of his country, survived a tumultuous period. His actions saved Romania from catastrophe during the Second World War, and his uncompromising moral stand throughout his life, however difficult the personal circumstances were, constitute a supreme example for his countrymen and the rest of the world.

Valentin Mandache, expert in Romania’s historic houses.

Majesty Magazine article dedicated to the celebration of HM King Michael of Romania 90th birthday, by Valentin and Diana Mandache, October 2011 issue

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I endeavour through this series of periodic 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 or selling a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in sourcing and transacting the property, specialist research, etc. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contact page of this weblog.

Greek cross shape Neo-Romanian lamp

Greek cross shape Neo-Romanian lamp, the old Postal Customs House (early 1920s), Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

This is another discovery of a rare Neo-Romanian style lamp, the third one documented so far on this blog. It adorns the back wall of the grandiose Postal Customs House building in central Bucharest, designed by a group of architects led by Statie Ciortan in the period just before the Great War and completed in the early 1920s. I like its Greek cross shape and intricate ornaments. Unfortunately the lamp is left unmaintained, being now used by birds for nesting.

The first type of lamp documented on this site can be seen at this link, embellishing the doorway sides of Marmorosch Blank Bank, a building designed by arch. Petre Antonescu in 1915 and finished in the early 1920s, while the second lamp can be accessed at this link, adorning the doorway arch of former Prim Minister Ionel IC Batianu’s home, designed by the same architect and completed in 1908.

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I endeavour through this series of periodic 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 or selling a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in sourcing and transacting the property, specialist research, etc. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contact page of this weblog.

Mondrian like Art Deco – Modernist hallway floor patterns

Art Deco - Modernist ceramic tile hallway floor patterns in a flat from a late 1930s apartment block, Magheru area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

I recently had the opportunity to view a flat in a well designed Art Deco – Modernist style apartment block in central Bucharest, dating from the last years of the 1930s. I have been “blown away” by the exquisite ceramic tile (3 x 3cm squares) patterns that embellish the entrance original hallway floor, a fragment of which is shown in the above photograph, which also reminded me of Piet Mondrian‘s paintings of that era. That is in my opinion a first class modernist design, comparable in many aspects with another ceramic tile pattern arrangement, which I documented some time ago (article at this link). It represents an eloquent proof about the quality of the interior design and architecture in general, produced in Bucharest some eight decade ago.

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I endeavour through this series of periodic 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 or selling a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in sourcing and transacting the property, specialist research, etc. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contact page of this weblog.

Ottoman Balkan and Neo-Romanian type house

The quaint looking Ottoman Balkan and early Neo-Romanian type house, presented in the photographs bellow, dating probably from the last two decades of the c19th, sits in the backyard of the Military Topography Department of Romania’s Ministry of Defence, in the Ion Mihalache boulevard area. The building is probably one of this army branch’s first headquarters, left as a piece of heritage, as more modern edifices were erected in its vicinity in the subsequent decades.

Ottoman Balkan and Neo-Romanian type house, late c19th, Ion Mihalache area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The structure is typical for the domestic architecture in the region of northern Ottoman Balkans, where similar buildings, dating from the mid c18th until late c19th, are encountered nowadays also in Bulgaria or European Turkey. The house has a symmetric arrangement, sits atop a “half buried” basement, with a big protruding veranda adorned with wooden ethnographic poles that sustain large decorative column pediments adorned with floral motifs in stucco, forming three-lobed (a references to the Christian trinity) broken arches between columns.

Ottoman Balkan and Neo-Romanian type house, late c19th, Ion Mihalache area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The pediments are also sometimes crowned by a rich frieze of wooden fretwork (as can be seen in the above image). This genre of house was typically built by Christian small traders or or small landowners of the late Ottoman era.

Ottoman Balkan and Neo-Romanian type house, late c19th, Ion Mihalache area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

What is unusual in this example is the presence of early Neo-Romanian style elements, seen in the decoration of the doorway (see the second photograph), the window pediments or the wall frieze, which were probably added as this patriotic style became popular in the last decade of the c19th, fusioning with local consecrated styles such as the Little Paris in urban areas or Ottoman Balkan in countryside or provincial towns as we can see here (the Ion Mihalache area was in that period a good few kilometres away from Bucharest).

Ottoman Balkan and Neo-Romanian type house, late c19th, Ion Mihalache area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The window pediments and the wall frieze as seen in the above and bellow photographs are picturesque references to the late medieval church architecture of Wallachia (Curtea de Arges cathedral inspired motifs).

Ottoman Balkan and Neo-Romanian type house, late c19th, Ion Mihalache area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The building has most probably endured many renovations and transformations in the last century of its existence, but it is still conserving quite accurately its transitional architectural character from an Ottoman Balkan design to timid, but eloquent early Neo-Romanian style elements, making it an excellent sampler of the cultural atmosphere of that era of intense transformations in Romania.

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I endeavour through this series of periodic 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 or selling a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in sourcing and transacting the property, specialist research, etc. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contact page of this weblog.

Doorbell buttons from the Art Deco era

Bellow are a couple of electric doorbell button board examples, which I found during my fieldwork throughout Bucharest, dating from the 1930s and adorning Art Deco style buildings. They aptly convey the machine era ethos of those times expressed so well by this architectural style, very popular in inter-war Bucharest.

Doorbell buttons from the Art Deco era, early 1930s apartment house, Gara de Nord area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

Doorbell buttons from the Art Deco era, late 1930s apartement block, Cismigiu area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

Doorbell buttons from the Art Deco era, late 1930s apartement block, Cismigiu area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

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I endeavour through this series of periodic articles to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of European architectural history and heritage.

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

If you plan acquiring or selling a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in sourcing and transacting the property, specialist research, etc. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contact page of this weblog.

Bucharest Art Nouveau style round window

Art Nouveau style round window, 1900s house, Piata Romana area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

Above is one of the rare Art Nouveau style windows of Bucharest dating from the La Belle Époque period. I managed to gather, what I believe is a majority of them, including round profile doorways, within articles previously published on this blog, links to which are provided bellow:

  1. http://historo.wordpress.com/2010/04/02/blue-frame-art-nouveau-window/
  2. http://historo.wordpress.com/2010/03/07/daily-picture-7-mar-10-art-nouveau-round-window/
  3. http://historo.wordpress.com/2010/01/02/daily-picture-2-jan-10-circular-art-nouveau-window/
  4. http://historo.wordpress.com/2011/02/26/vestiges-of-a-round-art-nouveau-doorway-window/
  5. http://historo.wordpress.com/2011/04/22/round-profile-art-nouveau-doorway/
  6. http://historo.wordpress.com/2010/10/03/art-nouveau-round-doorway/

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I endeavour through this series of periodic articles to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of European architectural history and heritage.

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

If you plan acquiring or selling a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in sourcing and transacting the property, specialist research, etc. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contact page of this weblog.

Sparrows at a Bucharest palace

Sparrows at the palace, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

I photographed the small flock of sparrows, seen above, during yesterday’s architectural history and photography tour, in front of the neo-rococo Cantacuzino Palace on Calea Victoriei, Bucharest. The birds are like a messenger of the changing of seasons period going on now at this latitude, with the autumn starting to be felt all around here at forty five degree north in continental Europe. These are juvenile house sparrows (Passer domesticus) judging after their plumage and dusty sullied look. The second one, from the right, was loudly singing, in tone with the music festival hosted by the building :) The huge stock of period houses in Bucharest, which are as a rule in a dreary state of repair, provide an excellent environment for these beautiful birds to nest and proliferate. They are thus an unassuming, but important part of city’s environmental identity, together with the crows or species of trees such as acacia or lime trees.

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I endeavour through this series of periodic articles to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of European architectural history and heritage.

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

If you plan acquiring or selling a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in sourcing and transacting the property, specialist research, etc. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contact page of this weblog.

Historic Houses of Romania checking out the forts of Bucharest

I undertook, some month ago, an exploratory trip around Bucharest, visiting a number of the more accessible forts and batteries built in the late c19th in the reign of King Carol I. That was in the perspective of organising there a specialist history and architecture tour (by appointment only) in one of the week end days next month (October ’11). The designer and supervisor of those huge military works, some of the largest in late Victorian Europe, is the Belgian general Henri Alexis Brialmont, famous also as a designer and builder of the first modern fortifications that defended Liège and Antwerp in his home-country. The remarkable defence complex surrounding Romania’s capital, now disused and left unmaintained, stretches over a circumference of 72km, containing a series of 18 forts placed at a distance of 4km from each other with another 18 batteries placed in between the forts. Bellow is a gif composition photograph of me posing inside Popesti fort in the south-east of Bucharest’s fortification ring, location marked with a red circle in the second image. The third image is a Google Earth satellite view of the city, on which the fort ring is marked, while the last image is a scheme of one of those forts.

You are invited to register your interest in visiting some representative examples of these forts and batteries in the comments section of this article or by email-ing me (v.mandache@gmail.com). VM

The forts of Bucharest: the author in the underground of Popesti fort, SE Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

Bucharest forts sketch map (source: “Fortificatia Permanenta Contemporana”, by D.I. Vasiliu, Revista Geniului, Bucharest 1934) – location of the above photographic composition is marked in red.

The ring of forts and batteries that once were meant to protect Bucharest: masterpiece of general Henri Alexis Brilamont. View from 35.0km altitude.

Bucharest fort type I (source: “Fortificatia Permanenta Contemporana”, by D.I. Vasiliu, Revista Geniului, Bucharest 1934)

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I endeavour through this series of periodic articles to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of European architectural history and heritage.

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

If you plan acquiring or selling a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in sourcing and transacting the property, specialist research, etc. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contact page of this weblog.

Two contrasting types of Neo-Romanian style doorways

The Neo-Romanian architectural style throughout its over six decades of existence, between the 1880s and 1940s, had to adapted itself to evolving architectural trends and technologies and also adopted, sometimes quite liberally, motifs and symbols from other styles, the most prominent such synthesis being perhaps its hybridisation with the Art Deco style in the 1930s era. Bellow are two Neo-Romanian style doorways that express those processes. The first one embellishes the front entrance of “Iulia Hasdeu” high school in Bucharest, which combines Neo-Romanian, classical and Gothic style motifs, while in the second example is a doorway displaying ethnographic motifs. They are just a sample from the great diversity of forms and motifs found within the decorative register of this architectural style peculiar to Romania.

Neo-Romanian style doorway, "Iulia Hasdeu" highschool front entrance, edifice built in 1926, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The high school doorway, seen in the photograph above and detailed image bellow, has a very interesting reference to a classical Greek-Roman temple pediment, symbolising the fact that the school is conceived as a “temple” or learning. The assembly also contains two thin Gothic column motifs at the door’s centre and on its arcade mullions, perhaps a metaphor for the fact that the school is envisaged as a “cathedral” of learning too.

Neo-Romanian style doorway, "Iulia Hasdeu" highschool front entrance (1926), Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

Neo-Romanian style doorway, late-1920s house, Cismigiu area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The photographs above and bellow show a Neo-Romanian style doorway that displays prominent ethnographic motifs, the most remarkable of which being the intricately carved corbels supporting the awning. The assembly is imagined as echoing an ancestral Romanian peasant gateway, suggesting types found in villages that dot the piedmont of the Carpathian Mountains.

Neo-Romanian style doorway, late-1920s house, Cismigiu area, Bucharest, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

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I endeavour through this series of periodic articles to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of European architectural history and heritage.

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

If you plan acquiring or selling a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in sourcing and transacting the property, specialist research, etc. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contact page of this weblog.

Architectural tour chronicle (28.08.11): Calea Calarasi area, Bucharest

Architectural history tour chronicle: Calea Calarasi area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The last Sunday’s architectural and photography waking tour took place in Calea Calarasi area of Bucharest, an off the beaten track part of the old city. The light was brilliantly clear, although quite intense, typical for end of summer conditions at this latitude, favourable for observing the otherwise hardly visible small architectural details embellishing the many picturesque houses encountered at every step. The participants had the opportunity to closely examine a balanced mix of Little Paris style houses, craftsman Neo-Romanian buildings and small, but svelte Art Deco dwellings. Apart from those types, we were also able to view two old houses from the Ottoman era displaying forms and motifs encountered from the Balkans to Anatolia. The tour had two highlights: the “discovery” of the magnificent Art Deco edifice of the “Ludovic” shoe factory (one of its superb decorative panels being presented in the photomontage and slideshow here) and the viewing of “Hala Traian” (the “Trajan” Market Hall). I could not find any information about the “Ludovic” factory, which seems to have been a well provided industrial establishment of the inter-war period. Its building is still quite well preserved and a restoration can easily bring the construction to its former architectural Art Deco glory. The “Trajan” market hall is a jewel of Victorian structural engineering, built in 1896 after a design by the Italian architect Giulio Magni, one of the then city hall chief architects. We were able to go inside, which is now occupied by a supermarket, and admire the outstandingly beautiful slender cast iron columns and the impressive ironwork ceiling. The tour ended back at the Ionic order Greek church building, where the congregation invited us to sample same tasty cakes brought for a special religious celebration. I trust that the participants had thus a wonderful cultural Sunday out! :)

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I endeavour through this series of periodic articles to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of European architectural history and heritage.

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

If you plan acquiring or selling a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in sourcing and transacting the property, specialist research, etc. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contactpage of this weblog.

The 10 most popular Historic Houses of Romania articles in August 2011

  1. Art Nouveau Beer Restaurant in Provincial Romania
  2. Well Preserved Art Deco House
  3. Art Deco Building Interior Elements
  4. Art Deco garage door masterpiece
  5. Bucharest’s Art Deco glass canopies
  6. Welcoming Art Deco Gate and Doorway
  7. Bucharest mid-1930s Art Deco Style House
  8. The Royal Antifascist Coup of 23 August 1944 in Romania
  9. Art Deco Floral Motifs for Birthday Celebration
  10. Masonic Symbol on a Neo-Romanian Style Panel

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I endeavour through this series of periodic articles to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of European architectural history and heritage.

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

If you plan acquiring or selling a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in sourcing and transacting the property, specialist research, etc. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contactpage of this weblog.