I would like to present you three of the most conspicuous hallmark elements of Bucharest’s old architecture that imprint the identity of this large city at the eastern margin of the European Union. These are the glazed clamshell shape canopies embellishing the entrances of Little Paris style houses from the La Belle Epoque Period (corresponding with the late Victorian and Edwardian epochs for the British world or the Gilded Age for the Americans), the Neo-Romanian style panels depicting biblical and ethnographic scenes, which came into fahion especially in the first half of the inter-war period, and last, but not least, the charming, also avant-garde looking, Art Deco style doorways from the city’s golden age in the 1930s and early 1940s. The photograps bellow show representative examples form the multitude of that type of Bucharest architectural isnignia.
Clamshell doorway canopy, 1890s Little Paris style house, Mosilor area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)
The glazed clamshell canopies, which still delight Bucharest’s visitors, are inspired from the French late c19th architecture that incorporated the technological advances of the period in using wrought iron and glazed structures, pioneered even earlier by London’s Crystal Palace, expressed in iconic designs such as the roof of Le Grand Palais or Paris Metro entrances.
Neo-Romanian style decorative panel (1m lenght horizontally), late 1920s house, Cotroceni area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)
The Neo-Romanian decorative panels adorn many period houses in that style throughout the city. They depict abstract scenes from biblical stories or peasant mythology, being rendered in the manner of Brancovan church representations of the early c18th, which themselves are a remarkable synthesis, peculiar to the visual arts in the old principality of Wallachia, between indigenous, Byzantine, Ottoman, Renaissance and baroque motifs. The above panel shows a metaphor for the Garden of Eden, where peacocks as personifications of beauty and peace, feed themselves from grape fruit hanging from a luxuriant and elaborately contorted vine plant, a main agricultural crop in Romania and also a symbol of the country’s rich natural environment, seen as the paradise on earth. The symbolism of the panel is that of the prosperity and well being for the house inhabitants. Interestingly, the peacocks show also eagle-like features, such as the curved beak, stern eyes and potent claws, a dual character that shows them also as protectors of that house, of the familly that dwells there. The “multi-role” appearance of animals or plants is quite a speciality of the Neo-Romanian imagery as eloquently shown in this panel.
Art Deco style doorway, late 1930s house, Dorobanti area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)
The Art Deco style is well represented in Bucharest through a great multitude of private and public buildings, the best exemplified such type of architecture in the entire South East Europe. The intelligent and harmonious design of their doorways is among the most conspicuous hallmark for those edifices, together of course with their wonderful staircase towers, porthole windows, decorative panels or ocean liner-like flag poles. There are literary many thousand of doorway designs to be admired, many of them of high quality. Above is a good such example, which displays the rule of three, a defining parameter of the Art Deco style, being probably an abstraction of a 1930s city skyline with tall buildings and sunrays bursting through the gaps between their tops, an epitome of those confident times in the forth decade of the c20th.
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.