King Carol I’s mosaic image

King Carol I’s mosaic image, The Romanian Athenaeum, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The superlative building of the Romanian Athenaeum, which is rightly considered the architectural symbol of Bucharest, contains a series of five mosaic medallions, each about 1 m in diameter, depicting past glorious rulers of Romanian lands, on its iterior frieze behind the colonade supporting the pediment. The one at the centre is that of King Carol I of Hohenzollern Sigmaringen (1839 – 1914), the moderniser of Romania, under whose reign the country undertook an epic process of cultural Europeanisation and economic reform, after more than four centuries within the orbit of the Ottoman Empire. I believe that the mosaics are the creation of the famous painter Costin Petrescu, a proponent of the Neo-Romanian style within the graphic arts, who also painted the great circular fresco representing the history of the Romanian people, unfurling along the wall of the Athenaeum’s auditorium. The medallion shows the king in regalia, cloacked with a coronation mantle and crowned with the steel crown made from Turkish canon captured by his army on the battlefield during the Independence war of 1877. The medallion is, in my opinion, one of the most expressive representations of King Carol I, which fortunately was left untouched during the communist rule, conveying his energetic spirit and vision that made him such an all time popular and praised leader of this country.

King Carol I’s mosaic image, detail, The Romanian Athenaeum, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

Cats, Dogs and Architectural Photography in Bucharest

Cats, dogs and architectural photography in Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

One of the joys of doing architectural photography in a place like Bucharest is encountering a multitude of inquisitive cats and usually taciturn dogs. They are stray animals or pets left to roam about town. The old city quarters still retain a patriarchal atmosphere and tolerant attitude concerning the stray cats and dogs, inherited from the times of the erstwhile Ottoman Empire. A few times I had to face awkward  situation when encountering packs of suspicious or aggressive dogs, but I invariably managed to avoid trouble by having a common sense approach and taking into account their territoriality. I snapped a few photographs with subjects from those almost always enjoyable encounters, which I grouped in the above photomontage and the slide show just bellow the text. I hope you would enjoy these images- “by-products” of my architectural photography work :).

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

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

Daily Picture 2-Feb-10: Crude Renovation of an Art Deco House

A high quality design Art Deco style house dating from the 1930s, crudely renovated by its owner. Domenii area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The most visible interventions on the wonderful Art Deco style house in the image above are the exaggerated colour scheme and near complete replacement of original features with cheap modern mass production fixtures (white plastic frame double-glazing and DIY store metallic doorway). It is interesting to note that in Romania most of the historic house owners and a large proportion of the public, because of deficient cultural education during the communist period and the last two decades of transition, have a deep rooted contempt for heritage conservation and consider such invasive renovations as greatly increasing the value of the property.

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I endeavor through this daily image series to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of European architectural heritage.

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

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

Daily Picture 16-Dec-09: Bucharest 1900s Backstreet

Bucharest 1900s backstreet, Izvor area. (©Valentin Mandache)

The central areas of Romania’s capital have developed along a bewildering maze of small streets that characterised the old oriental market town that Bucharest has been during the long centuries of Turkish domination. The modernisation of the city that started in the second part of c19th did not follow a proper master plan as was the illustrious case of Paris. Only in the 1930s the city got a proper urban development master plan that is still followed today. In c19th the locals were concerned in terms of modernisation, mainly with erecting French inspired architecture residencies in place of the Balkan Ottoman style houses. That led to the emergence of a certain type of backstreet within the old Bucharest quarters, where some relic building structures still stand, as in the photograph above, which I took in Izvor area. Here one can still feel the faint pulse of the Ottoman times in the layout of narrow streets flanked by tall walls with small windows and the air of privacy characteristic of oriental residencies.

-Romanian language version/ Versiunea in limba romana la: http://casedeepoca.wordpress.com/2009/12/16/imaginea-zilei-16-dec-09-strada-gang-in-vechiul-bucuresti/

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I endeavor through this daily image series to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of European architectural heritage.

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

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

Daily Picture 14-Dec-09: Deliberate Deterioration of a ‘Little Paris’ Style House

Picturesque 'Little Paris' style house built at the end of c19th, deliberately left to deteriorate by owners as a short cut to obtaining a demolition permit. central Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The ‘property bubble mentality’ is still lingering around in Romania, a consequence of the hugely insane property development boom that has affected the country in the last five years, which saw prices rise in many instances by 5,000%(!) or even more for properties in central Bucharest. Many historic house owners do everything in their power to sell their asset or build there a more profitable modern commercial building. Because most of these houses are on the architectural heritage list, the usual short way to secure their demise is by deliberately leaving them to deteriorate in order to obtain the much desired demolition permit from the usually corrupt city authorities. One such telling example is in the image above depicting a Little Paris style house (what I call the French c19th architectural styles, provincially interpreted in Romania), which I took in one of the central areas of Bucharest. The old ceramic roof tiles were dismantled and replaced with ordinary plastic sheeting, practically leaving the structure open to the elements. The drain pipes are falling apart and some of the windows are broken. All of these are obvious sings of deliberate neglect in order to deteriorate the house beyond repair. That type of building is one of the most iconic for c19th – early c20th Bucharest and marks the identity of this town in Europe. The house, into the right hands, would constitute a wonderful renovation project. Unfortunately many inhabitants of this city are completely oblivious to the intrinsic value of their architectural heritage, being focused on quick, short term gain by flipping on the market historic properties or building in their place modern low quality structures that are perceived as immensely more prestigious.

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I endeavor through this daily image series to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of European architectural heritage.

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

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

Daily Picture 9-Dec-09: Post-Communist Urban Tastes

Is this a new and worrying trend in Romania's urban landscaping? Disused Soviet era MIG-21 fighter jet used as public park monument in a civilian residential area of Fetesti, South East Romania. (©Valentin Mandache)

Is the above image a measure of Romania’s population ignorance and neglect, after decades of communism and chaotic post-comunist transition, of its own architectural heritage? That seems to be the case in provincial towns such as Fetesti, where I took this photograph. The Soviet era awe inspiring MIG-21 fighter jet publicly displayed as a monument in a residential area is a reflection of the terror and brain washing induced by decades of communism and how that transformed the local psyche. Appreciation of history, old urban and peasant architecture and local arts and crafts seems to be light years away from the minds of citizens of this town. The hope is that the next generation would somehow be able to again appreciate its heritage and identity, facts considered by many locals today as shallow pernicketies.

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I endeavor through this daily image series to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of European architectural heritage.

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

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

Daily Picture 7-Dec-09: Bucharest Art Deco Public Conveniences

Art Deco style public conveniences structure dating from mid 1930s when the most extensive infrastructure improvement of Romania's capital took place. Izvor area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

Bucharest is a city of 3 million inhabitants (including the non-registered residents) with just a handful of public conveniences. Today, the local McDonald’s network of restaurants seems to offer the only decent such public facility in this large urban agglomeration. Back in 1930s the city was much better provided and served in that respect, by the vast infrastructure modernisation works undertaken during the reign of King Carol II. Public conveniences were some of the best achievements of that time and these were built according to a standardised pattern as the one presented in the image above: an Art Deco style pergola made from a reinforced concrete structure. Because of the lack of funds and interest from the city authorities, most of these architecturally noticeable facilities, which survived the five decades of communist administration, are now closed or demolished. The structure above was repainted, cleaned and re-decorated because of the recent inauguration of the Holocaust Memorial of the Romanian Jews, which is located nearby. The local Bucharest officials in a true East European communist fashion spruced up the surrounding area, including these former public conveniences, in order to make a good impression on the foreign diplomats and journalists who participated at the event.

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I endeavor through this daily image series to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of European architectural heritage.

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

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

Daily Picture 11-Nov-09: Empty Shell of A Historic Building

The interior shell of a historic building, Bucharest

The interior shell of a historic building, Lipscani area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The photograph above was taken last February and, as I write, the building is more advanced in its construction. The developer intends to preserve the outer shell of the historic building, putting up an entire new structure in its interior. The image is, in my opinion, a text book representation of the initial stage of that process. The project represents one of the better facets of the recently passed property development boom in Romania’s capital, one that seeks to preserve certain features of the historic buildings. This example is unfortunately an extremely rare occurrence in a sea of bad taste among developers and a frenzy of destructive development projects and illegal demolition of heritage sites.

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

I endeavor through this daily image series to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of European architectural heritage.

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

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