Abbreviation for “number” seen in inter-war architectural renderings

In my early years I have been fascinated why the word “number” is abbreviated “no” and not “nr”, which later I read in a book about printing fonts that the “no” shortening is a sort of tradition and was used as such since medieval times, when Latin was the most used written language, and comes from  “numero”, one of its Latin forms. I like the instances when the letter “o” is rendered sitting above an equal (“=”) sign or just a hyphen (“-“). The abbreviation containing the equal sign was often encountered in the inter-war period, adopted in many Art Deco designs, from famous posters of that era (adverts for transoceanic liner tickets, drinks, medicines, etc.) to architectural renderings like building or apartment numbers, etc.

Abbreviation for “number” in architectural renderings, Matei Basarab area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

I found during the architectural tour, which took place last Sunday, in Matei Basarab area of Bucharest, three cases of “no” abbreviation as architectural rendering, shown in the photographs of this post. The first one is the most attractive, with a catchy “=” sign under “o”, embellishing an Art Deco style house dating from the early 1930s.

Abbreviation for “number” in architectural renderings, Matei Basarab area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The second image shows the name plate of a shop window blinds manufacturer, which most probably was active in the early 1920s, judging from the spelling of Bucharest (as “Bucuresci”) typicall for the period 1900s-1920s.

Abbreviation for “number” in architectural renderings, Matei Basarab area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The third plate, seen in the photograph above, dates from the mid-1930s, indicating an workshop (perhaps a shoemaker or tailor) on the ground-floor of an Art Deco apartment block in the Jewish neighbourhood of the city (close by the State Jewish Theatre of Bucharest).

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.

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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.

Architectural 1910s letter rendering example from Bucharest

The pre-World War One architectural lettering exaples in Bucharest are relatively rare, with the one presented here adorning the ticket counter of the Iolanda Balas Stadium in the Kisseleff area of the city, itself one of the very few surviving sporting facilities from that era. The entrance to the stadium, seen in the third photograph bellow, contains well design neoclassical features and quite minimalist in its ornamental aspects, contrasting with the rich decorative architectural fashions of that era. According to a plaque affixed to the entrance wall, the stadium has been built in 1915 (a year of peace for Romania, which entered the Great War only one year later). I like the well balanced design of these letter and the discrete serifs which smooth their aspect and make their reading more cursive, reminding of the Victorian age newspaper headlines.

Letter rendering dating from the 1910s, Iolanda Balas stadium, built in 1915, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

Letter rendering dating from the 1910s, Iolanda Balas stadium, built in 1915, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The entrance of Iolanda Balas stadium, built in 1915, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

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I endeavour through this daily series of 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.

Masonic, Phoenician?… inscription on doorway pediment

The doorway assembly of a house in Spanish Mission style dating from 1932, with a unusual pediment inscription. Kiseleff area, Bucharest. (©Valentin Mandache)

I found in one of my research days in Bucharest in one of the most well-heeled areas of the city an inscription decorating the pediment of an inter-war Spanish Mission style house (one of the very few such design buildings from Romania’s capital) rendered in an unknown script. I tried to identify the letters in various online and paper printed sources, but to no avail. My impression is that the inscription is rendered in a medieval European alphabet revived and used by the Freemasons, who were vigorously active in Romania before the communist take over. I have already identified and published in the recent past photographs and considerations on a couple of long forgotten Masonic signs rendered as architectural decorations in another upmarket area of Bucharest, articles which can be accessed here and at this link. Another theory would be that the writing is Phoenician, the letters resembling somehow that script, my reasoning being that the house should have belonged to someone with Spanish connections (Romania used to have a sizeable Jewish Ladino community before the Holocaust and postwar emigration), as the architectural style would  imply, a land so much linked with the ancient Carthaginian civilisation. Anyway, I very much hope that someone from among my readers would be able to help in identifying the meaning of this peculiar piece of architectural history,.

Masonic or Phoenician inscription? on the doorway pediment of a Spanish Mission style hosue (1932) from the Kiseleff area of Bucharest. (©Valentin Mandache)

PS In February 2011 I received an email from one of my readers, Mr. Ion Musceleanu, who conveyed to me an interesting interpretation of this inscription, made by a specialist in ancient Indo-European linguistics, known to the online community under the nickname Teofil. He considers that the text is in Sanskrit Devanagari, a script derived from the Gupta type, encountered in northern India and Nepal; the first row is a numa (“Gold”, “Golden”, which seems to be slightly misspelt), while the second row means “Fortune”/ “Chance”, again slightly misspelt. I would like to thank Teofil for this interpretation, which hopefully would help deciphering this architectural enigma of Bucharest.

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Prin aceasta serie de articole zilnice intentionez sa inspir in randul publicului aprecierea valorii si importantei caselor de epoca din Romania – un capitol fascinant din patrimoniul arhitectural european si o componenta vitala, deseori ignorata, a identitatii comunitatilor din tara.

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Daca intentionati sa cumparati o proprietate de epoca sau sa incepeti un proiect de renovare, m-as bucura sa va pot oferi consultanta in localizarea proprietatii, efectuarea unor investigatii de specialitate pentru casele istorice, coordonarea unui proiect de renovare sau restaurare etc. Pentru eventuale discuţii legate de proiectul dvs., va invit sa ma contactati prin intermediul datelor din pagina mea de Contact, din acest blog.