Domenii – Casa Scanteii area: images from last Sunday’s architectural history & photo tour

Domenii - Casa Scanteii area Sunday architectual tour (©Valentin Mandache)

We had, last Sunday in the Domenii – Casa Scanteii area of Bucharest, an extensive and in my view mind-blowing viewing and examination of two major genres of 1930s architecture: Art Deco and “Stalinist Gothic”. Again, I was very fortunate to have enthusiastic and well informed participants from a variety of backgrounds. Domenii quarter has been developed mainly in the 1930s and ’40s and hosts a myriad of equisite Art Deco and peerless Neo-Romanian – Art Deco amalgam style dwellings, built for the inter-war Bucharest’s elite. Nowadays the area is in a rapid process of being taken over by the new class of post-communist Romanian moneyed people who unfortunately are not cultured or sophisticated enough to understand the importance of conserving that heritage and, as a result, a large part of those buildings were demolished, replaced with characterless massive new structures or in the best case aggressively renovated. Casa Scanteii – the former headquarters of the communist central press, located close by Domenii quarter, is the second largest building of this country, second after Ceausescu’s enormous House of the People, itself one of the largest in the world. It was designed by a group of architects led by Horia Maicu and built in 1950 – 51, following the model of the 1930s Muscovite buildings known as the “seven sisters”, a species of grandiose communist era Art Deco style structures erected in the 1930s Stalinist Soviet Union. The building was intended to stamp on the Soviet domination of Romania and herald the dawn of a new era and society in this corner of the world. While Casa Scanteii looks from afar similar with its Soviet counterparts, at a closer examination its architectural details are very indigenous- inspired from the late medieval Wallachian church architecture (Brancovan style) and using a multitude of Neo-Romanian style motifs. Even its monumental doorways look like a Wallachian church entrance. These absolutely particular aspects of this Stalinist era building, which are today forgotten by the locals specialists and laypersons alike, were closely examined and discussed by the participants at the tour. I trust that those who took part in the tour had thus a fulfilling cultural Sunday out and now are the privileged keepers of some of the most interesting and esoteric architectural history information about this corner of Bucharest! :)

Domenii - Casa Scanteii area architectural tour

Domenii - Casa Scanteii area architectural tour

!!! The next Sunday (21 August ’11) architectural history and photography tour will take place in Campina and Comarnic, OUTSIDE Bucharest, on the Prahova Valley (1h 15min hour by train), see a map at this link; meeting point: Gara de Nord train station, in front of McDonald’s restaurant, inside the station. I look forward to seeing you there !!!

Valentin Mandache, expert in Romania’s historic houses

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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 Contactpage of this weblog.

Book review – Dracula is Dead: How Romanians Survived Communism (via Diana Mandache’s Weblog)

Book review - Dracula is Dead: How Romanians Survived Communism Dracula is Dead: How Romanians Survived Communism, Ended it, and Emerged as the New Italy Since 1989, by Sheilah Kast and Jim Rosapepe, Bancroft Press, 400 pp, hardback,  November 2009 The United States throughout the Cold War decades has been a beacon of democracy and freedom for the peoples of Eastern Europe. Americans and their representatives were enthusiastically received in the region as friends and liberators after the momentous 1989 revol … Read More

via Diana Mandache’s Weblog

Peasant Devastated Country Mansion

Former country mansion in Wallachia, Giurgiu county, devastated and looted by local peasants during the 1990s, when the property rights were not specifically protected by Romania’s basic law. (©Valentin Mandache) 

I took the above photograph during one of my field trips in the environs of Bucharest, searching for traditional peasant architecture houses and old country mansions or conacs, how these buildings are named in Romania. Most of the larger villages have a country mansion built by the local land owner or aristocrat as a residence and headquarters from which the farm, an important business concern, was run. When the communist regime took over during the collectivisation programme in the 1950s- early ’60s, these mansions were used as collective farm headquarters or local schools. This new role saved them from destruction or complete deterioration. After the events of 1989, and during most of the 1990s, the Romanian basic law (aka Constitution) was lacking specific articles protecting the private property. Also the crypto-communist government of that time was doing everything in its power to stop the descendants of the rightful owners to recover their historic properties. That led to many abuses perpetrated by the locals, who profited of the ambiguity of the law and in more isolated areas, like the countryside, went on a rampage looting and devastating the former aristocratic mansions. The conac presented here, a large residency built in 1920s in a basic Neo-Romanian style, is one of those countless victims. It is hard to believe that the sorry landscape presented in this image, with sad remains of architectural ornaments scattered on the lawn, was the result of events that have happened only a few years ago. The scene in my opinion is more akin to that of an ancient Roman villa rustica devastated by invading barbarians during the fall of the Roman empire…

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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 Contactpage of this weblog.