Art Nouveau Bucharest – architectural tour, Saturday 19 April

Dear readers,

I will organise a thematic architectural tour this Saturday 19 April ’14, for two hours, between 11.30h – 13.30h, on the subject of the exceedingly interesting, but often elusive Art Nouveau architecture of Bucharest. This cultural excursion may be of interest to any of you visiting the city as a tourist or on business looking to find out more about its fascinating historic architecture and identity.

The innovative and flamboyant Art Nouveau current that emerged at the end of c19th, as a reaction to the rigidity of the historicist styles, had also an important impact in Fin de Siècle Romania. One of its notable influences was the articulation within its coordinates of the local national style, known today as Neoromanian, in a similar manner with other emerging national styles in the rest of Eastern Europe. Today the once exquisite Art Nouveau remnants are hard to notice by the untrained eye, although they are quite numerous, but scattered throughout the area of old Bucharest and often obscured by inclusion within ampler architectural assemblies rendered in historicist c19th styles. This tour endeavours to locate and explain the meaning and message of  some of the significant Art Nouveau representations that embellish the city center and give you an overall image about this style and its impact on the architectural development of Romania’s capital.

The tour costs Lei 35 (Romanian currency) per person, book by emailing v.mandache@gmail.com or using the comments section of this post. You will be informed of meeting place on booking.

I look forward to seeing you at the tour,

Valentin Mandache, expert in Romania’s historic houses (tel: 0040 (0)728323272)

Art Nouveau Bucharest – architectural tour (©Valentin Mandache)

Historic Houses of Romania tour: Art Nouveau Bucharest

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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.

Clamshell doorway awnings from the La Belle Époque period in Ploiesti

Bellow are two wonderful clamshell house entrance awnings that I photographed in Ploiesti, the oil town 60km north of Bucharest. They date from the La Belle Époque period (late Victorian and Edwardian periods) and belong as an architectural “species” to the Art Nouveau current, constituting a part of what I call the Little Parish style built landscape of the urban areas of that period in Romania. The clamshell awnings are widespread in Bucharest, which make me consider them as one of the main architectural symbols of Romania’s capital, but also popular throughout the country before the Great War (which was then formed by the provinces of Moldavia and Wallachia, without Transylvania). Ploiesti was developing spectacularly in that era on the proceeds of the newly emerging oil economy and as an important regional market town. The clamshell awnings are a superb reminder of those times of economic boom and architectural finery.

Clamshell doorway awning from the La Belle Époque period in Ploiesti (©Valentin Mandache)

Clamshell doorway awning from the La Belle Époque period in Ploiesti (©Valentin Mandache)

Clamshell doorway awning from the La Belle Époque period in Ploiesti (©Valentin Mandache)

Art Nouveau letter box plate

Art Nouveau letter box plate dating from the 1900s, Mosilor area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

Bucharest is an interesting Art Nouveau province, located at the geographical and in many aspects architectural periphery of this style. That is why the Art Nouveau designs occur mostly fragmentary, in small bits and pieces on buildings that display overall conservative c19th historicisit styles or on some early Neo-Romanian edifices. That makes them less visible for the the untrained eye, constituting one of my favourite past-times to spot them. The letter box plate from the image above is one of those discoveries, adorning the Little Paris style doorway of a 1900s house in Mosilor area of Bucharest. Its lettering style renders, somehow in a provincial Art Nouveau manner, the free flowing plant leaves so peculiar for this style, making it quite evocative for the manifestation of this current in this part of the world.

Art Nouveau letter box plate

Art Nouveau letter box plate dating from the 1900s, Mosilor area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

Bucharest is an interesting Art Nouveau province, located at the geographical and in many aspects architectural periphery of this style. That is why the Art Nouveau designs occur mostly fragmentary, in small bits and pieces on buildings that display overall conservative c19th historicisit styles or on some early Neo-Romanian edifices. That makes them less visible for the the untrained eye, constituting one of my favourite past-times to spot them. The letter box plate from the image above is one of those discoveries, adorning the Little Paris style doorway of a 1900s house in Mosilor area of Bucharest. Its lettering style renders, somehow in a provincial Art Nouveau manner, the free flowing plant leaves so peculiar for this style, making it quite evocative for the manifestation of this current in this part of the world.

Grand Art Nouveau style remodelling project in Chisinau

Chisinau (Kishinev), the capital of the Republic of Moldova, is blessed with a fascinating mix of period architecture dating mostly from the second part of c19th and the first half of the c20th, reflecting the evolution of architectural tastes of the Russian Empire, Romania and the Stalinist Soviet Union. The city contains a number of attractive Art Nouveau style edifices, the most spectacular being a recent remodelling of a Fin de Siècle house, which I encountered during my recent Chisinau trip. The edifice is mentioned on the well documented website “Centrul Istoric al Chisinaului“, which is a comprehensive database of architecturally valuable buildings in the historical centre of the Republic of Moldova’s capital. At the entry detailing the house, which was compiled before the start of the remodelling project, is mentioned that the façade used to be Art Nouveau (named “modern” in the terminology of the Moldovan architects), but completely erased of its decoration during the vicious 1990s post-Soviet property boom. It seems that in the intervening time an enlightened proprietor has decided to bring something back from the edifice’s former glory, as the photographs, which I was able to take from the street, amply testify. In my opinion is a tasteful remodelling and it might also be in the spirit of the original decoration that adorned the house, as I believe the owner had access to old plans and photographs from which the contemporary designer could guide him/her/self. It reminds me of another Art Nouveau project from scratches which takes place in Bucharest, which I documented in 2010 on this blog. I believe that this particular instance is a positive development for Chisinau, and the post-Soviet world, in raising the awareness and appreciation about the local architectural heritage that suffered so much during the two world conflagrations of the c20th, the Soviet era or the most devastating for heritage last two decade since the Soviet empire fell.

Grand Art Nouveau style remodelling project, Pushkin Street, Chisinau (©Valentin Mandache)

Grand Art Nouveau style remodelling project, Pushkin Street, Chisinau: first floor balcony decoration (©Valentin Mandache)

Grand Art Nouveau style remodelling, Pushkin Street, Chisinau: detail of the pediment decoration, 1st floor balcony (©Valentin Mandache)

Grand Art Nouveau style remodelling, Pushkin Street, Chisinau:  detail of the pediment decoration, 1st floor balcony (©Valentin Mandache)

Grand Art Nouveau style remodelling, Pushkin Street, Chisinau: window pediment decoration (©Valentin Mandache)

Grand Art Nouveau style remodelling, Pushkin Street, Chisinau: pilaster capital (©Valentin Mandache)

Grand Art Nouveau style remodelling, Pushkin Street, Chisinau: detail of doorway pediment decoration (©Valentin Mandache)

Art Nouveau gate

Art Nouveau style gate dating from the1900s, Mosilor area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

This article is on the theme of today’s architectural tour on the Art Nouveau style of Bucharest. The photographs present a rare Art Nouveau style gate found during one of my tours last year. It is in a quite run down state, but still preserves its design details from the 1900s period. I like the gate handle and the decorative lock plate, which in a nutshell convey the air of those times.

Art Nouveau style gate dating from the 1900s, Mosilor area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

Art Nouveau balcony

Art Nouveau style balcony, 1900s apartment house, Izvor area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

I am planning an Art Nouveau architecture tour for this Saturday, announcement to follow. I hope that this image of a Bucharest Art Nouveau style balcony would act as a foretaste for that event. The ironwork of the balcony contains abstract representations of flower motifs. Also Art Nouveau are the plaster decorations embellishing the window openings. Unfortunately the attractive over a century old design of this apartment house is diminished by the air conditioning units affixed without any regard for aesthetics, a situation encountered at every step and corner in Bucharest. The air conditioning units are still seen as a high status symbol (as the satellite dishes not long ago) by the local property owners and consequently are “flagged” with impunity even on the best period buildings of this city.

Art Nouveau ironwork ornaments

This is quite an extensive example, for Bucharest, of Art Nouveau ironwork, in a city where the Art Nouveau details are frequently of  modest dimensions and usually part of larger structures expressed mainly in Little Paris or Beaux Arts styles. The building in this instance, located in the Dorobanti area, displays a series of other Art Nouveau features, such as on its main doorway (not visible here), window opening decorations or columns. However, the ironwork is the most remarkable among them and of a good quality design, pleasing to the eye. The entrance awning rests on two “free flowing” long leaf motif corbels, while the attractive stairs balustrade displays abstract motifs recycled from traditional Japanese drawings, a main source of inspiration for this style. As everywhere in Bucharest, there are aggressive renovations and modern “improvements”, like the white plastic frame double glazing and the air conditioning unit, which obliterated original architectural elements, damaging the visual value of this building.

Art Nouveau ironwork ornaments, 1900s house, Dorobanti area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

Art Nouveau ironwork ornaments, 1900s, house, Dorobanti area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

Art Nouveau ironwork ornaments, 1900s house, Dorobanti area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

Art Nouveau ironwork ornaments, 1900s house, Dorobanti area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

Bucharest 1930s skyline

The two images presented here are typical examples of Bucharest 1930s modernist and Art Deco apartment building tops, that in many aspects defined the skyline of the city for decades, until the huge communist building programme of the 1980s turned Romania’s capital, including its skyline, into a North Korean dictatorship inspired eyesore. The photographs also show how a renovation would work wonders on those edifices. In the instances shown here, I like the ziggurat composition, which gives an impression of svelteness and confidence typical of a skyscraper, which the design subtly suggests. The first image shows how attractive a newly cleaned and painted façade can be. The building in the second photograph is still waiting a sprucing up, which I am sure would greatly bring back its former beauty and remind the locals about the good quality architecture of yesteryars of this city.

Bucharest 1930s skyline, Modernist - Art Deco apartment block in Piata Romana area (©Valentin Mandache)

Bucharest 1930s skyline, Modernist - Art Deco apartment bloc, Mosilor area (©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)

Art Nouveau lettering

The Art Nouveau style architecture is a bit of a rara avis in Bucharest. My periodical walking tour “Art Nouveau Bucharest” endeavours to survey an ample proportion of those elements embellishing the city. I thus feel rewarded when from time to time I find the odd Art Nouveau gem here and there, as is the case with the two letter rendering examples presented in the photographs bellow. The first one, with the name of the old Agricultural Bank, Banca Agricola or “Agricola”, as it was habitually known one century agao, was quite hard to spot, on top of a backstreet building façade in the CEC area of central Bucharest. The second Art Nouveau lettering example is on the floor of the western entrance of Amzei Church, a peculiar Art Nouveau – Byzantine design by architect Alexandru Savulescu in 1901. It welcomes the churchgoers with the saying “Sa fim credinciosi” (“Let’s be faithful/ believers”). Both examples are delicate signals to the indifferent contemporary passer-bys  from a long gone and beautiful epoch.

Art Nouveau lettering: the name panoply for "Banca Agricola" ("The Agricultural Bank") dating from the 1900s, CEC area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

Art Nouveau lettering: "Let's be faithful" on the pavement at the western entrance of Amzei Church, dating from 1901, 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.

1900s Ploiesti doorway

1900s Ploiesti doorway

I found in one of my occasional trips to Ploiesti last summer, a well preserved house dating from the 1900s in a style halfway between neo-baroque and neoclassical, which was also embellished with a splendid wrought iron doorway that displayed some interesting Art Nouveau motifs. The area endowed with the amplest such design was the upper window of the doorway, presented in the second photograph bellow. It shows a flowing, whiplash shape, flower motif typical of the Art Nouveau decorative panoply. The house is illustrative for the urban architecture of the first decade of the c2oth Romania, when the historicist style buildings also encompassed and often seamlessly integrated fashionable Art Nouveau elements, as is the case with this doorway assembly.

The doorway of a 1900s Ploiesti house (©Valentin Mandache)

Art Nouveau style ironwork decorating the upper window of a 1900s doorway in Ploiesti, southern Romania (©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 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.

“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.

Art Nouveau garden gate

Art Nouveau style garden gate dating from the 1910s, Gradina Icoanei area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

I discovered the rare for Bucharest Art Nouveau style garden gate, detailed in the photographs presented here, during the architectural history and photography tour, which I organised this just passed Sunday in Gradina Icoanei area of Bucarest. It is located on a private cul-de-sac road and as a result difficult to see from the main street. Solely the lower half of the structure, or rather a part of that sector, is original, created a century ago, constituted from a curvaceous wrought iron plant motif arranged in a typical Art Novueau tulip bulb pattern. Its upper half is quite an uninspired contemporary addition stitched on to increase the height of the fence and thus deter eventual intruders, a fact that reflects the stark contrast between the happy and prosperous times of the La Belle Époque Bucharest when this gate was put in place and today’s social topsy-turviness generated by Romania’s wild transition form communism to capitalism of the last two decades.

Art Nouveau style garden gate dating from the 1900s, Gradina Icoanei area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

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

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.