Bucharest now goes, as many other places in the northern hemisphere, through a terrible heath wave, which has unfurled for a month now and is still going on unabated. The city in this period went through temperatures of over 35 – 37 centigrades or even higher, which in my opinion is an obvious sign of a the ongoing climate change. The nights are hot too, many people taking walks on the streets, going to parks or sitting on balconies at very late hours. I have been one of those strollers, walking in the last few days late at night up and down the streets of Domenii quarter, which is near the area where I currently live. It was developed in the inter-war period and contains some beautiful examples of Art Deco architecture. I found very interesting to observe how the architectural forms and all sorts of details show off in the clear-obscure of the discreetly lit residential streets of this quarter. The diverse decorations, motifs embellishing the old houses look like glowing or vibrating in very warm air, and the flying insects crowding around light bulbs complete the exotic atmosphere, which coincide with the southern seas theme (jungle and sunburst motifs, ocean liner shapes, etc.) so typical of Bucharest’s Art Deco architecture. Here are two Art Deco entrances shot during those late hours, which I believe relay something from what I have seen and sensed about Bucharest’s historic architecture in the heath of the night.
This is a run of the mill type of Neo-Romanian style house dating from the late 1920s, during the mature phase of development of Romania’s national style, just before the Art Deco and Modernist designs and building technologies made their triumphal entrance of the local architectural scene. The house is located in Domenii quarter in north west of Bucharest, a residential quarter developed mostly in the inter-war and wartime years by the upper middle classes. The edifice contains the essential Neo-Romanian features like the aparent cula tower (inspired from the c17h – c19th fortified yeoman houses in Oltenia in south western Romania) that makes up the corner (on the left hand side of the above photograph).
Another Neo-Romanian feature is seen in the triptych like windows and veranda, making allusion to the Christian trinity, inspired in their turn from the c18th Wallachian renaissance architecture (known as the Brancovan style).
The doorway awning is also inspired from Brancovan designs encountered at monasteries in Oltenia region.
The house has a heavy aspect due to the use of brick and wood in its structure and not much concrete and steel. It would represent a superb potential renovation and restoration project, which would probably consider the addition of another, more airy, floor in the same style and a new roof in the same manner, using ceramic tiles reminding the wooden shingle that from time immemorial covered the peasant houses in this part of the world.
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!
!!! 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
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.
The Domenii quarter of Bucharest has been developed in the inter-war period for habitation by the city’s elite. At that time it was located on the outskirts of Romania’s capital in a green area, not far from the Colentina river lake system. The Art Deco style is the predominant architecture of the Domenii villas, the area containing some of the best examples of such architecture in Romania. I documented some of those brilliant buildings in a few blog articles a while ago, two of which can be accessed here or at the this link. The Domenii quarter is now, according to the city’s regulations, an architecturally protected area, but nevertheless it suffered and continues to suffer untold damage at the hands of rapacious developers or uncultured property owners, who got wealthy in the recent property boom and moved en mass to this prestigious area. A sample of the handiwork of that truly barbarian new wave of moneyed post-communist settlers (sometimes euphemistically called “new Romanians”) in the area can be found at this link; it is an Art Deco house stridently painted by its ignorant owner, who has replaced its original doorway with a cheap DIY store door and has also replaced the original Art Deco windows with cheap plastic frame double glazing. Most probably the Domenii quarter will continue to be mutilated for years to come by that type of property owners and developers and consequently its character and attractiveness will be lost for ever. The photomontage above and the slide show bellow represents just a small selection from that area’s treasure of Art Deco style houses. I very much like the the house from the lower right hand corner of the photomontage, which sports a giant abstractly rendered violin on its stairs tower (see it in more detail in the slide show photograph).
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 history and heritage.
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.