Transparent staircase windows

One the most conspicuous features of Bucharest’s Art Deco style edifices is the staircase tower. It is often embellished with ample windows unfurling along the length of the tower, which is sometimes also decorated with portholes and flag poles, symbolising the ocean liner and the idea of voyages to the southern seas, a the recurrent and much loved architectural theme by the 1930s Bucharest people. In most cases the staircase windows are densely decorated, glazed with opaque or coloured panes, not allowing any meaningful glimpse inside the tower, to see the design of the stair spiral. Bellow are a couple of the relatively rare transparent staircase windows, which I photographed in the Dacia and Calea Mosilor area of Bucharest. The glass transparency enhances the impression of lightness and slenderness of the overall Art Deco design and allows a glance inside these interesting buildings. It is however quite possible that their initial glazing was non-transparent and later replaced with what we see today, as a result of damages that might have occurred during the strong earthquakes, wars or revolutions, which have plagued the city in the last eight decades.

Art Deco transparent staircase window, apartment block dating from the late 1930s, Dacia area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

Art Deco transparent staircase window, apartment block dating from the mid-1930s, Calea Mosilor 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.

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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.

Images from last week’s architectural tours: “Art Nouveau Bucharest” & “The built heritage of Piata Victoriei area”

Historic Houses of Romania thematic architectural tour on Saturday, 26 Nov. '11: "Art Nouveau Bucharest" (©Valentin Mandache)

Historic Houses of Romania architectural tour on Sunday, 26 Nov. '11: "Piata Victoriei area"(©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.

Buzau maces

The roof finials are some of the most conspicuous elements of the Neo-Romanian style, a sort of apotheosis of what that architecture represents. They come in many shapes expressing a multitude of national-identity symbols. There are thus finials symbolising peasant ethnography and way of life (ethnographic totemic poles, abstract haystacks), abstractions of fortress towers, religious symbols or medieval weapons. Bellow are two eloquent mace shaped finial examples, which I found in the town of Buzau in south eastern Romania. The mace, a fearsome medieval weapon, is seen as a national-romantic symbol of the armed resistance of the Romanian principalities, as Christian states, against the invasions and menacing power of the Ottoman Islamic califate, one of the main messages of the Neo-Romanian architectural style during its early and mature phases. The first image shows a mace finial crowning the stairs tower of an early 1920s house, while the second embellishes the roof of the Commune Palace, which hosts the town hall of Buzau, a magnificent public early Neo-Romanian style building designed in 1899 by the architect Alexandru Savulescu.

Neo-Romanian style roof finial in the shape of a mace, mid-1920s house, Buzau (©Valentin Mandache)

Neo-Romanian style roof finial in the shape of a mace, the Commune Palalce (town hall), Buzau (©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.

Modernist Serliana window

Definition: a Serliana window is a “window with three openings, the central one arched and wider than the others: so called because it was first illustrated in Serlio‘s Architecture (1537)” [from The Penguin Dictionary of Architecture & Landscape Architecture, Penguin Books, 1999]. It is also known as a Palladian or Venetian window.

The Serliana structure is a quite a common occurrence in Renaissance, Baroque or Rococo inspired architectural settings. I have therefore been pleasantly surprised to discover in Bucharest a Serliana-like window, with a suggested arch, within a modernist setting, presented in the photographs bellow:

Modernist Serliana window, late 1930s house, Dorobanti quarter, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The design is reduced to essence, even the pillars dividing the openings displaying just outlines of Renaissance columns.

Modernist Serliana window, late 1930s house, Dorobanti quarter, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The building dates just before the Second World War, located in the Dorobanti area, also known as the “embassy quarter” of Romania’s capital.

Modernist Serliana window, late 1930s house, Dorobanti quarter, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The architecture is an inter-war Modernist interpretation of Renaissance Italianate models, seen in the veranda column capital or its beamed ceiling, the Serliana window of course, and the wooden corbels supporting the protruding structure (Oriel type) containing the Serliana.

Modernist Serliana window, late 1930s house, Dorobanti quarter, 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.

Decorative tiles and stone from the Art Deco Era

I photographed, during my last architectural tour in  Gara de Nord area, a few interesting examples of decorative ceramic tiles and stone embellishing exterior and interior areas of Art Deco style buildings from the 1930s. Those elements are quite rare sights nowadays, as the usually aggressive renovations and damages sustained through wars or earthquakes in the intervening eight decades have erased them in great proportion from the architectural landscape of the city.

Decorative tiles from the Art Deco era, apartment block from Gara de Nord area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

Above is a wall base decorated with high quality black and white bands of ceramic tiles, which I documented in an earlier post, speculating that it represents an architectural metaphor of the tuxedo suit and spectaor/ wingtip shoes so popular in the jazz age.

Decorative stone from the Art Deco era, apartment block from Gara de Nord area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The image above and the three following bellow are from the entrance hall of a mid-1930s apartment block, where the designer used good quality decorative stone, from marble to various colours and textures of calcareous rock such as lime and travertine, combining them with great visual effect.

Decorative stone from the Art Deco era, apartment block from Gara de Nord area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

Decorative stone from the Art Deco era, apartment block from Gara de Nord area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

Decorative stone from the Art Deco era, entrance hall pavement of an apartment block from Gara de Nord area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

Decorative tiles from the Art Deco era, apartment block from Gara de Nord area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The above and bellow photographs present the ceramic tile floor of a modest apartment block from the early 1930s. The tiles are of very good quality, being in excellent shape after so many years of intensive wear; of hexagonal shape, arranged in a plain three colour floral “mosaic” pattern, which reminds quite poignantly the atmosphere of the inter-war period.

Decorative tiles from the Art Deco era, apartment block from Gara de Nord 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.

Protected: Tour for Polish Institute: BUCHAREST AS THE LITTLE PARIS OF THE BALKANS

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Bucharest’s history man

The interview in today’s issue of  “Adevarul”, one of the main Romanian daily newspapers, with the author of the Historic Houses of Romania blog, about his architectural tours throughout the city (click the link or the photograph to access the article [in Romanian]): Omul care-ţi explică istoria Bucureştiului.

Omul care-ţi explică istoria Bucureştiului

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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.

Neo-Romanian façade

Neo-Romanian style facade, house dating from the mid-1920s, Mosilor area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

This it how an “ordinary” Neo-Romanian style house façade looks. The four storey building dates from the mid 1920s and belongs to the mature stage of development of this style, which took place between 1906, the year of the Great Royal National Exhibition, when the Neo-Romanian order was made known to the wider public, thenceforth becoming fashionable among the mass of the citizens, and the late 1920s, when the style reached a crisis of expression under the “assault” of modern forms, ideas and technologies brought about by the increasingly popular, in Bucharest and Romania, Art Deco and Modernist styles. This particular façade displays a multitude of archetypal Neo-Romanian elements such as references to the Christian trinity in the number of window sectors (envisaged as triptychs), the number of three-lobed veranda arcades, etc., short columns decorated with the rope motif, arched window pediments, or an allusion to the cula tower (the c17th-c18th fortified yeoman houses of Oltenia region in the frontier south western region of the country) seen in the massive protruding multi storey Oriel window-veranda structure.

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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.

Neo-Romanian triptic windows

Neo-Romanian style windows, house dating from the 1910s, Dacia area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

Above is a good example of Neo-Romanian style triptych motif set of windows from the mature phase of development of Romania’s national style, which took place between 1906 (the year of the Great Royal National Exhibition when the style was made known to the larger public) and the late 1920s (when the Neo-Romanian style reached a crisis of expression generated among others by the increased popularity of the international Art Deco and Modernist architecture). I like the broken arch embellishing the central window, an echo of the late medieval Brancovan church architecture, which in its turn is inspired from the Islamic Ottoman architecture of the Balkans of that era. The pediment is decorated with vine leaves and grapes springing up from two plant pots, symbolising abundance in paradise, a metaphor for the prosperity and peace of the family inhabiting that house.

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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.

The blog author in Balcic on the Black Sea coast

Balcic - Queen Marie of Romania's Palace gardens on Bulgaria's Black Sea Coast

Historic Houses of Romania blog author enjoying, in the summer of 2009, the magnificent gardens of Queen Marie of Romania’s Palace in Balcic, Bulgaria, on the Black Sea coast. The palace complex and gardens are one of the finest and most representative pieces of architecture produced in inter-war Romania. Balcic and the southerly facing coast around it is a place reminding more of the Mediterranean than the Balkans and Central Europe that in general characterise Romania’s geographic and man-made landscape, which made it a sort of local Riviera for the Romanian elite in those happy days before the conflagration of the Second World War and what followed after. The place is teeming with Romanian villa architecture of the golden 1930s decade, which will constitute, together with the Palace, the subject of two Historic Houses of Romania tours in the late spring and early autumn in 2012. Watch this space! :)

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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.

“Round” Neo-Romanian windows

The round and pseudo-round windows are a rare apparition within the decorative register of the Neo-Romanian architecture. They are rather an Art Nouveau style characteristic, as in the cases that I found throughout Bucharest, mentioned at this link. For the Neo-Romanian design, the round window is certainly an Art Nouveau echo from its seminal early stage of development in the last decade of the c19th until the mid-1900s. The two pseudo-round windows presented in the photographs bellow are such echoes vigorously reverberating in the early 1930s. I like the interesting juxtaposition of two church inspired motifs: that of the triptych/ holy trinity seen in the tree main window sectors together with that of the rope, obvious in the first image and implied in the second.

"Round" Neo-Romanian window, early 1930s house, Patriarchy Hill area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

"Round" Neo-Romanian window, early 1930s house, Gradina Icoanei 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.

Design elements of a Bucharest Art Deco house

I encountered in one a my architectural tours, a few months ago in Foisorul de Foc (Fire Watchtower) area of Bucharest, an Art Deco era house of a distinguished design, of which the most remarkable was the ironwork of its gate and staircase window. The building also contained other design elements worthy of attention, such as its general volumetric set up, concierge window shape or the rusticated façade base pattern reminding of geometric, Mondrianesque, style paintings of the 1920s and ’30s. The images bellow detail those interesting Art Deco elements.

Art Deco style gate, late 1930s house, Foisorul de Foc area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

I like the pleasant to the eye proportions of this gate and how its general rectangular pattern is broken by diagonal wave and solar disk motifs wonderfully distributed throughout the design field. It is perhaps an abstraction of a modern city (the rectangular pattern) on an ocean shore bathed by undulating sea waves in its daily life cycle from dawn till dusk and over again (the full and outlined solar disks), etc.

Art Deco style house dating from the late 1930s, Foisorul de Foc area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The house has good volumetric proportions adapted to the small plot of land available for construction, an ubiquitous and age old problem in Bucharest. The rule of three typical of the Art Deco style is detectable in many of the design elements of the façade. Interesting is also the wall rendering, which reproduces the coral motif of the Southern seas, a theme popular in those years among Bucharesters, aspiring to visit exotic places so different from their continental European landscape and climate.

Art Deco style house dating from the late 1930s, Foisorul de Foc area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The staircase window is also embellished with a high quality ironwork which shares the design theme of the gate. There is also a porthole window, an echo of the ocean liner theme so fashionable in those happy years after the Great Economic Depression and before the conflagration of the Second World War.

Staircase tower window (©VM)

The staircase window design is indeed remarkable, a cubist-like painting rendered in ironwork.

Concierge window, late 1930s Art Deco style house, Foisorul de Foc area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The 1930s architect was obviously a talented professional who paid attention to minutiae details, such as the concierge window seen in this photograph, cut within the rusticated pattern of the façade base, itself resembling a marvellous avant-garde composition.

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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.

Neo-Romanian style corbel lamp

Neo-Romanian style corbel lamp, mid-1930s house, Kiseleff area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

I located, during my “The Late Neo-Romanian style” architecture tour a couple of weeks ago, an exterior lamp of that design, which is a rare object, with only a handful of such artifacts still surviving throughout Bucharest. I already documented three other Neo-Romanian lamp finds in the following articles: incense burner shape lampslantern-like lamp and Greek cross shape lamp. In this particular example, the relic is attached to an elaborate wood and concrete-modelled corbel, being made from molded glass meshed in an attractive wire pattern in tone with the decorations featured on corbel ends. It decorates a late Neo-Romanian style house dating from the mid-1930s, which features a large access stair covered by an extensive roof eave supported at regular intervals by corbels, all originally embellished with the interesting glass and wire lamp model presented in this article.

Neo-Romanian style corbel lamp, mid-1930s house, Kiseleff 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.

Old Bucharest pebble road

Old Bucharest pebble road, Radu Voda monastery gardens, (©Valentin Mandache)

Before the advent of cubic stone paved roads in the mid-c19th and tarmac laid ones around 1900s, most of old Bucharest’s streets were unpaved at all. The few ones deemed essential enough to have them surfaced, such as Podul Mogosoaiei (now called Calea Victoriei), the main artery that linked the city with the north of the then Wallachian Principality, were paved paved with heavy oak planks, a timber provided in abundance from forests in the hilly area about 70km to the north. The smaller important inner city roads, such as those in Lipscani, the commercial quarter, or those used for princely or religious ceremonies, were paved with pebbles collected from the Dambovita riverbed, the main river course that crosses the old city. Nowadays roads surfaced with timber are of course long gone, while there are still surviving rare short stretches of pebble surfaces, mostly within the courtyards of some old churches. The photograph above shows one of those antique pavements, surviving within the Radu Voda monastery courtyard, a very short distance from the Dambovita river, from where the pebbles were sourced. The stones were transported by the river over perhaps thousand of years from the Bucegi Mountains in the Transylvanian Alps, where the Dambovita river source is. I examined them closely and was able to see the mountain rock geology from which they originate, which is mainly a sedimentary formation known as Bucegi conglomerate, which dates from the Cretaceous times, being found at altitudes  between 1000 and 2000 metre high. This small stretch is very picturesque and a telling vestige of Bucharest’s old urban fabric and identity,  which in large part has disappeared from its built environment.

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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.

Art Deco street fence

Art Deco street fence, mid-1930s property, Cotoroceni area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

Above is one of the multitude of Art Deco street fence motifs, which can be encountered by any casual visitor throughout Bucharest. It depicts a series of sunbursts or reflector beams, very typical of that style’s decorative panoply.

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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.