Art Deco southern seas waves

I found the two Art Deco panels representing waves of the southern seas as a cheerful contrast with the freezing temperatures plaguing now, at the end of January ’12, Bucharest (at the time when I write, the temperature outside is minus 15 centigrades). The motif reflects the lust of inter-war Bucharesters for travelling to exotic places, so different from their own, especially for a city located in the middle of the Wallachian prairie, far away from a sea shore.

Art Deco southern seas waves representation; a decorative plaster panel about 2m in length placed under the roof eave of a mid-1930s house in Cotroceni area of Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

Art Deco southern seas waves representation; a decorative wall base panel about 4m in length, late 1930s house in Matei Basarab area of Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

Little Paris style building in wintry weather

Little Paris style building, dating from the 1900s, in the hibernal weather of January 2012, Berthelot Street, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The Military Cemetery of Buzau: history and architecture

Buzau is located in southeastern Romania at the great bend made by the chain of the Carpathian Mountains, a place  of many bloody conflagrations between enemy empires and also nation states. The video presents the Military Cemetery of that town, the sections for the Second Balkan War and the Great War.

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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 King Michael of Romania in Majesty Magazine with the occasion of his 90th birthday

Bellow is the article in the British monthly magazine “Majesty” published in their October 2011 issue, authored by Diana and the undersigned with the occasion of the celebration of King Michael of Romania‘s 90th birthday on 25 October last year.

Cubist house in Prague, an article dedicated to Vaclav Havel

This article is dedicated to the memory of Václav Havel, who died on 18 December 2011, the first post-communist president of Czechoslovakia and its successor country of Czechia, a most prominent freedom fighter during the dark decades of communist dictatorship in Eastern Europe. Havel has been for many of us, especially those who lived behind the Iron Curtain, a beckon of hope with his ever inspiring principled attitude and actions, often enduring prison terms for opposing the communist ideology and regimentation of the society.

Vigil for Vaclav Havel, Hrad castle courtyard, Prague, 22 Dec. '11 (photo: Daniela Oana Gagu)

Havel was equally an intellectual of highest calibre and creator of literary masterpieces, an authentic product of his country’s sophisticated and rich heritage. He was also closely linked with the world of architecture through the work of his grandfather, Vácslav Havel, one of the architects of Lucerna Palace, the first commercial and cultural complex of Prague, an innovative design built at the beginning of the c20th.

A cutting edge innovation of that period was the Czech cubist architecture, unique to that country. It represents one of the most original historic forms of architectural expression in Europe, which unfurled during the 1910s, for just a few short years preceding the Great War. The proponents of Czech cubism were part of a group that admired the creations of Picasso and Braque, which included creators from different artistic fields, among them the painter and writer Josef Čapek who introduced the word “robot” for human-like machines. They realised the pivotal importance of Picasso’s and other great artists of cubism’s work and ideas in exposing the elemental essence of their subjects through representations of straight lines and figures, as revealed by both latest scientific discoveries of the industrial era, and artistic products of the “primitive” communities from Africa or Oceania. The architects belonging to that group, people like Josef Gočár, Vlastislav Hofman or Josef Chochol, endeavoured to infuse those ideas in their designs by means of crystal-like outlines and facets applied to the overall building architecture, reducing and unifying as many elements as possible to an envisaged primordial cubist state. They in fact, by applying the principles of cubism, wonderfully prefigured in an novel way, the global Art Deco and Modernist styles of the inter-war period or even, I venture to say, the deconstructivism of the late c20th. The legacy of Czech cubism continued in the years between the world wars through an equally fascinating offshot named Rondocubism, that combined cubism with Czech ethnographic motifs, an order also termed as the Czech national architectural style.

The images bellow illustrate one of the cubist houses of Prague, designed by architect Josef Chochol, located at the base of Vysehrad hill, on the river Vltava’s Rasin Embankment. The edifice was built in 1912 – ’13, being the earliest cubist project of Chochol. The photographs were provided by Daniela Oana Gagu, a reader of my blog and good friend, who works and lives in Prague. Oana has also witnessed and went through the collective grief with the occasion of Vaclav Havel’s death, furthermore sending the evocative image, presented above, with the vigil outside Hrad Cathedral for that great personality of Czech and European history.

Cubist style house, Rasin Embankment, Vysehrad, Prague (Photo Daniela Oana Gagu)

Chochol abundantly uses crystal-like shapes in modelling the different architectural elements making up the edifice. I can sense that he tries to organically integrate the cubist forms as completely as possible within the overall architectural design of the house, although remnants of the old styles are easily detectable, such as baroque echoes seen in the elevated roof or central pediment.

Cubist style house, Rasin Embankment, Vysehrad, Prague (Photo Daniela Oana Gagu)

The basrelief embellishing the polygonal pediment is a later addition, representing national legends connected with Vysehrad castle. Remarkable is also the cubist style ironwork of the balcony.

Cubist style house, Rasin Embankment, Vysehrad, Prague (Photo Daniela Oana Gagu)

Above is one of the side façades where the crystal-like motifs and shapes come together even more expressively, afforded by their higher density, giving the impression of spilling over into the street through the interesting cubist design of the gate poles.

Cubist style house, Rasin Embankment, Vysehrad, Prague (Photo Daniela Oana Gagu)

Cubist style house, Rasin Embankment, Vysehrad, Prague (Photo Daniela Oana Gagu)

Josef Chochol's cubist house, Rasin Embankment, Vysehrad, Prague (in Rostislav Svada: "Cubist Prague, 1900-1925. A Guide book", Central Europe Gallery and Publishing House, Prague)

The Czech cubist architecture was not only limited to the architecture of the exterior, but envisioned to encompass as much as possible of the habitable space, as can be learned from the plan of this house, going as far as to the minute design of furniture and day to day objects. It anticipated something of a “cubist way of life”, in tone with the high hopes of the modern industrial society of that time, which was so thoroughly shattered not long after by the conflagration of the Great War.

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.

Images from today’s architectural tour in Mosilor historic quarter of Bucharest

Historic Houses of Romania architectural history tour, Sunday 22 Jan. '12, in Mosilor area of Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

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Images from today’s architectural walking tour in Cotroceni quarter of Bucharest

Historic Houses of Romania: images from today's (Sunday 15 Jan. 2012) architectural walking tour in Cotroceni quarter of Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

Images from today’s architectural tour: Art Nouveau Bucharest

Art Nouveau Bucharest: images from today's Historic Houses of Romania tour (©Valentin Mandache)

Images from last Sunday’s architectural tour – remnants of the Great Exhibition of 1906

Sunday 8 Jan. '12 architectural tour in Carol Park, Bucharest: Remnants of the Great Exhibition of 1906 (©Valentin Mandache)

Brief consideration on the Brancovan style architecture

The Brancovan architectural forms, which unfurled in the period between the mid-c17th and first decades of the c18th, epitomised a sublime relation between symbols representing the way of life of that period and the belief system peculiar to the place in which they took shape, namely the Principality of Wallachia. The arhictecture of those edifices mirrored the spiritual universe and psychology of those who erected them and the communities for whom they were built. That is the reason why the symbolism of those monuments contains the answer to the question why the architecture, especially the ecclesiastical design, has acquired a unique language during the Brancovan epoch, leading to the emergence of what we call today the Brancovan style, intrinsic to that principality and pivotal to the underpinning,  in the modern era, of the Neo-Romanian style.

The conceptual tools employed in analysing the architectural phenomenon of that age in central and western Europe are, in my opinion, not wholesomely adequate in examining the stylistic complexity of the Brancovan style buildings, where a more feasible means of investigation would be that used in interpreting the Christian and especially the Islamic architecture of the Ottoman Empire, a realm within which Wallachia was then an integral part.

What we permanently need to take into account is that the Christian message of following the salvation call and example of Jesus, in the conditions of being a subordinated religion to the Muslim one, the supreme faith and also ideology of the Ottoman caliphate, generated an entirely different dynamics of artistic and implicitly architectural expression within the Christian millet that included the then Principality of Wallachia, distinct from what was taking place in countries where Christianity was the uncontested supreme religion and ideology as in Russia or Austria. The Brancovan architecture became thus expressed through coordinates specific to the cultural environment of the Ottoman dominion, searching for the harmony and universality of the mankind within the reality of the political, economic and cultural primacy of the Musslim world. The architecture became in that way a privileged province of free and sophisticated artistic expression, of spiritual travail toward the attainment of the ideals symbolised by the deeds and life of Jesus, which fascinated not only the high minded princes Serban Cantacuzino and Constantin Brancoveanu, during whose reigns what we now call the Brancovan style  took shape and content, but also the Wallachian population, which preserved and insured the continuity of the style after the Phanariot regime was later imposed upon them.

Valentin Mandache, expert in Romania’s historic houses

The cupola turret of Mantuleasa church in bucharest, built in 1734 in late Brancovan style. It is probably an inter-war restoration, in close respect of the the original structure (©Valentin Mandache)

Gravestone slabs, mid-c17th, from the beginnings of the Brancovan style, Stelea Monastery, Targoviste (©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.

Chronicle of the architectural tour in Bellu Cemetery

Case de Epoca - Historic Houses of Romania blog author at the grave of architect Ion Mincu (1852 - 1912); photo - 7 Jan. '12

I am pleased to report that the architectural tour, which took place last Saturday, in Bellu Cemetery, considered in many aspects as the National Pantheon of Romania, was well attended, despite the sleety weather that we had to face that afternoon. That followed a stormy night, which caused mayhem in Bucharest. In fact we encountered, within the cemetery itself, torn away tree branches blocking the alleys and even an uprooted old tree that has fallen over some of the gravestone, fortunately without causing much damage, facts that all concurred to producing, of what one might say, a perfect cemetery visit atmosphere. The place is really vast, over 28 ha, if we just take into account its main Christian Orthodox denomination section. We were thus able to encounter a multitude of fine architecture monuments hosting the earthly remains of important personalities of this country. The funerary structures display in general the three main historical styles that characterise the local urban architecture from Little Paris, Neo-Romanian to Art Deco and Modernist designs. There are also monuments in ethnographic and composite styles. An important objective of the tour was the viewing and examination of monuments designed by the architect Ion Mincu (1852 – 1912), the initiator of the Neo-Romanian style, which are among the finest in the entire cemetery, for example the sepulchers of G. Gr. Cantacuzino, M. Ghica, or the Gheorghieff brothers. I also brought the participants to Mincu’s grave, where the photograph presented above was taken. To our astonishment, the grave was without a cross or other more apparent funerary monument, except a name plate on a small pedestal outside the grave area itself, a sure sign of neglect from the public and authorities regarding the memory of this important figure in the history of Romanian visual arts. The parcel was in the past embellished with a beautiful Romanian peasant wooden cross, as can be seen in a photograph from the 1920s, in the image bellow, depicting a remembrance gathering of Mincu’s students at his burial place. It is amazing and shocking that now, in 2012, when we commemorate one hundred years since the great man’s death, that there is nothing put in place to properly mark his grave, not even by the Architecture University “Ion Mincu” in Bucharest, which bears his name, and is the chief higher education institution in that field of this country. I just hope that something is in the making, now at the centenary of his death, by the university or other institution, to right that tragic anomaly!

Former students of architect Ion Mincu at his grave in Bellu Cemetery in the early 1920s (photo in "Ioan Mincu" by N. Petrascu, Cultura Nationala, Bucharest 1928)

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

  1. Art Deco Building Interior Elements
  2. Psychedelic-like Design Art Deco Doorway
  3. Lilac leaf shaped Art Nouveau windows
  4. CASOTA CONAC: a magnificent Romanian period property with a great potential
  5. Travel writing: trip to Naples, Pompeii and Herculaneum
  6. Design elements of a Bucharest Art Deco house
  7. The BATTLE SCAR PEDIGREE of Bucharest’s period buildings: relics of the 1989 Revolution
  8. ALLEGORICAL SCULPTURES on the Building of Romania’s National Bank
  9. ART DECO Bucharest building damaged through ignorance and avarice
  10. Decorative tiles and stone from the Art Deco Era