Late Neo-Romanian style doorway assembly

Late Neo-Romanian style doorway assembly, house buit in the early-1930s, Cotroceni area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

I divide the evolution of the Neo-Romanian architectural style in three main phases. The early one lasted from its initiation in 1886 by the architect Ion Mincu with his edifice in the national style, Lahovary house, until 1906 when the Royal Jubilee exhibition took place, showing to the public its grand pavilions, many designed in an elevated unitary manner that “canonised” the style, which marked the beginning of its mature phase. It reached an apogee after the country’s victory in the Great War and subsequently in the 1920s decade, when was adopted all over the territory of interbellum Romania. The late 1920s, and the 1930s decade saw the increase popularity and in the end prevalence of the international styles Art Deco and Modernism, which induced a crisis of expression for the Neo-Romanian, thus marking its late phase. The national style managed to strive through an imaginative synthesis with the Art Deco and also Mediterranean inspired forms, resulting in extremely interesting designs. The evolution of the style practically ended with the instauration of communism in the winter of 1947, under the impact of the ideologically driven architectural priorities of the new political regime. It continued to have echoes for another two decades especially in vernacular forms and in motifs used on post-war edifices.

The street gate and doorway assembly presented above belongs in its design outline and period when it was built to the late phase of development of the Neo-Romanian style. The wrought iron gate is inspired from Brancovan style church or altar doors, but expressed in coordinates close to Art Deco. The two gate posts are also derived from church or medieval citadel towers, conforming with the national-romantic message of the style. The door itself shows a series of square panels pointed each by a central disc, which can be understood as the outline of an ethnographic solar disc or an interpretation of a Greek cross. The wall surround of the door is basically an adaptation of a church door opening in reduced to essence coordinates of the Art Deco style. The doorway assembly dates from the beginning of the 1930s, and as the time progressed into that decade, the expression of the Neo-Romanian forms in an Art Deco “ambiance” became even more prevalent and captivating as a form of architectural language.

Bucharest early wrought iron doorway awning

Bucharest doorway wrought iron and cast lead doorway awning dating from the early 1890s. (Valentin Mandache)

Bucharest doorway awning made from wrought iron and cast lead, dating from the early 1890s, Patriarchy Hill area. (©Valentin Mandache)

This is an early type of Little Paris style doorway awning, dating from the early 1890s, being a precursor of the clamshell one, which was typical of the Art Nouveau fashions. Most of these examples, now rare, are in a bad state of repair, and despite the fact that they are important markers of Bucharest’s architectural identity and history, remain uncared and unloved, ignored or even sold for scrap iron, a reflection how the local citizens, after the decades of communism and shallow post-communist transition, value their heritage.

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.

Neo-Romanian style wall lamps designed by architect Ion Mincu

Neo-Romanian style wall lamps designed by architect Ion Mincu, Monteoru House, 1889, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The exquisite pair of lamps, presented in the images of this post, adorn the monumental doorway of Monteoru House in Bucharest, a grand boyar (the Romanian term for “aristocrat”) mansion, built in a French flavour Beaux Arts style. The edifice lines up Calea Victoriei Boulevard, a thoroughfare that is traditionally among the prime streets of Romania’s capital. The lamps belong to the early phase of the Neo-Romanian style, designed, in my opinion, by the architect Ion Mincu, under whose direction the building was radically remodelled, works finalised in 1889.

Neo-Romanian style wall lamp designed by architect Ion Mincu, Monteoru House, 1889, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

What makes me to attribute these lamps to Mincu, are two elements that betray his manner of design. The most conspicuous is constituted by the “spikes” embellishing the artefact like an out of the normal proportion crown. The other element is the shape of each of the lamp’s windows.

Neo-Romanian style wall lamp designed by architect Ion Mincu, Monteoru House, 1889, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

I noticed during my fieldwork at Ion Mincu’s houses in Bucharest, his tendency to design certain architectural elements, especially those placed on the edges of an edifice or of other major components, as out of the usual proportions, like looking at them through a magnifying glass. Such examples are the spikes adorning the rainwater troughs of Lahovay House (1886 – the first Neo-Romanian style building), or the ornamental “spikes” adorning the street fence in front of Central School for Girls (1890). That tendency is also mentioned in Mincu’s biography written by Mihail Caffe (Editura Stiintifica, 1960), as regards the appearance of his sketches. The out of normal optics lamp “spikes” shown here are in that vein, which in my opinion divulge their author.

The second Mincu element discussed here, the shape of the lamp window, is designed like a miniature church doorway, modelled after examples found at Curtea de Arges cathedral and Coltei Church in Bucharest. Mincu uses this type of window for his masterly work of interior design at Constanta Bishopric Cathedral (1895), on the Romanian Black Sea shore.

Neo-Romanian style wall lamps designed by architect Ion Mincu, Monteoru House, 1889, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The lamps through those characteristics, which I attribute to Ion Mincu, have a striking aspect, certainly drawing the attention of visitors and passerby, and giving a plus of personality to Monteoru House, one of the landmark architectural edifices of Bucharest. This type of design was later used by other architects, many former students of Mincu, for some of the most prestigious Neo-Romanian style buildings that are still embellishing the city.

Late Neo-Romanian style doorway awning

Late Neo-Romanian style doorway awning, early 1930s house, Dorobanti area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

This is a small doorway awning of a type belonging to the late Neo-Romanian style, which unfurled between the late 1920s until the end of the Second World War. That phase of Romania’s national architectural design is characterised by a reduction to fundamentals of its decorative register, often expressed in Art Deco and sometimes Modernist coordinates, in a medium that made ample use of modern construction technologies, such as reinforced concrete, steel and glass.  The outlines of the awning are clearly reduced to essential, especially the arched corbels, embellished with the rope symbol, a religious as well as an ethnographic motif. There are also representations of other ethnographic elements throughout the structure, in the same abstract vein. The whole assembly integrates itself quite harmoniously with the rest of the architecture of the house, making it an interesting late Neo-Romanian design.

Late Neo-Romanian style doorway awning, early 1930s house, Dorobanti area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

Late Neo-Romanian style doorway awning, early 1930s house, Dorobanti area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

Balanced colours Art Deco doorway

Art Deco style doorway, late 1930s house, Dacia area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

I was quite pleased to encounter this clean Art Deco – Modernist design doorway dating from the second part of the 1930s Bucharest. I believe that the contemporary choice of colours (dark red and blueish white) largely follows the original scheme. That reminds me of the fashion in Bauhaus and Modernist International styles of employing primary colours in decoration (a case in point is Mondrian’s influence on those currents). I played around with a number of colour filters to highlight even more the pleasing to the eye proportions of this assembly, a proof of the good quality architecture performed in inter-war period Bucharest; the photomontage bellow shows a few of those colour filtered photographs.

Art Deco style doorway, late 1930s house, Dacia area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

Ethnographic solar discs doorway

The doorway presented here dates from the second half of the 1930s and is of a late Neo-Romanian style type. This phase of the national style of Romania unfurled in the 1930s and also went on until its twilight in the years of the Second World War. It is characterised by what I would call a “crisis of expression” caused by an erosion of its popularity due to the ascending preference among the public for the Art Deco and Modernist styles and of also for Mediterranean inspired forms and motifs. The Neo-Romanian style tried, in its late phase, in many cases successfully, to assimilate the new forms of expression as is the case with this well preserved wooden doorway. The artefact brings together ethnographic solar discs, common in the Romanian peasant art, the rope motif decoration of the doorway edges, and Mediterranean style elements, belonging to the type which I term as fairy tale style, such as the gridiron protecting its window or the hinge and knob plates. The are five kinds of solar discs, displayed bellow the photograph of the doorway. The first two are pagan, pre-Christian, shared with the rest of the Indo-European world, while the other three include the motifs of the cross typical of Christianity, thus making their combination a wonderful reflection of half-pagan, half-Christian universe of the traditional Romanian peasant communities.

Ethnographic solar discs doorway, late 1930s house, ASE area Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

Ethnographic solar discs doorway, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

Ethnographic solar discs doorway, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

Ethnographic solar discs doorway, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

Ethnographic solar discs doorway, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

Ethnographic solar discs doorway, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

Art Deco doorway displaying “Apple’s design philosophy”

I photographed this beautiful Art Deco doorway during yesterday’s architectural walking tour in Dacia area of Bucharest. I like its pleasant to the eye proportions and reduced to essence decoration: the window has a simple reverberating diamond motif, pointed underneath by four small letter box openings that are also marked by label holders. These details are embraced by an ample handlebar, which bends horizontally in the lower half of the doorway, thus balancing the concentration of detail in the upper half. The excellent composition brings to my mind Apple computer company’s philosophical approach in designing its products, which is to be found “at the intersection of the technology and the humanities”, with the difference that the Bucharest example was designed about eight decades ago!

Art Deco style doorway, mid-1930s apartment house, Dacia 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.

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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.

Art Deco doorhandle

The doorhandle and doorway that it embellishes, presented in the images bellow, were photographed during last Sunday’s architectural walking tour in Mantuleasa quarter of Bucharest. The whole assemble is still in good condition after probably about eight decades of continuous use now. I like how the flower motif decorating the upper end of the handle is repeated on the keyhole lid, or the  references to the Art Deco style’s rule of three seen in the bars and diamonds motif embellishing the lower end of the doorhandle.

Art Deco style doorhandle, mid-1930s house, Piata Rosetti area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

Art Deco style doorhandle, mid-1930s house, Piata Rosetti area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

Art Deco style doorway with original doorhandle, mid-1930s house, Piata Rosetti 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.

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.

Art Nouveau doorway awnings

One of the hallmarks of Fin de Siècle Bucharest is its great multitude of glazed doorway awnings, of a design similar with those fashionable in the France of that period. Indeed, if I were to chose an architectural symbol of Bucharest, then high on the list would be the glazed French Fin de Siecle style awning. Standing out among them and few in numbers are those rendered in a clear Art Nouveau style, featuring free flowing curves, effusive floral ornaments or whiplash shape motifs. I found two better preserved such rare architectural artefacts, which I would like to present in the photograph bellows. I am not sure if the glass (or other material) skin that covers the metal framework is the original one or is a later replacement, a detail which however does not diminish from the exceedingly pleasing visual impression made by these century-old structures.

Art Nouveau style doorway awning, 1900s house designed by architect Dimitrie Maimarolu, Mantuleasa area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

Art Nouveau style doorway awning, house dating from the 1900s, Piata Victoriei 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.

Neo-Romanian style elevator

Neo-Romanian style elevator, 1926 apartment bloc designed by architect Arghir Culina, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The Neo-Romanian style was intended since its inception as a “total” national style, covering domains such as civil, industrial and military architecture, interior design, visual arts or even book design. A less known direction of application was that of the machinery associated with big edifices built in the Neo-Romanian style, such as the elevators. There are some interesting examples around of lifts, which show attempts to ornate or imprint on those machines a Neo-Romanian outlook. An telling example is the elevator doorway and stairs rail that coils around the lift shaft, presented in the photograph above, which I recently found in the main hallway of one of the largest apartment blocks ever built in the Neo-Romanian style. The structure is located on Hristo Botev boulevard in Bucharest, designed by architect Arghir Culina, dating from 1926, during what I call the mature phase of the Neo-Romanian style.

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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.

Two contrasting types of Neo-Romanian style doorways

The Neo-Romanian architectural style throughout its over six decades of existence, between the 1880s and 1940s, had to adapted itself to evolving architectural trends and technologies and also adopted, sometimes quite liberally, motifs and symbols from other styles, the most prominent such synthesis being perhaps its hybridisation with the Art Deco style in the 1930s era. Bellow are two Neo-Romanian style doorways that express those processes. The first one embellishes the front entrance of “Iulia Hasdeu” high school in Bucharest, which combines Neo-Romanian, classical and Gothic style motifs, while in the second example is a doorway displaying ethnographic motifs. They are just a sample from the great diversity of forms and motifs found within the decorative register of this architectural style peculiar to Romania.

Neo-Romanian style doorway, "Iulia Hasdeu" highschool front entrance, edifice built in 1926, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The high school doorway, seen in the photograph above and detailed image bellow, has a very interesting reference to a classical Greek-Roman temple pediment, symbolising the fact that the school is conceived as a “temple” or learning. The assembly also contains two thin Gothic column motifs at the door’s centre and on its arcade mullions, perhaps a metaphor for the fact that the school is envisaged as a “cathedral” of learning too.

Neo-Romanian style doorway, "Iulia Hasdeu" highschool front entrance (1926), Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

Neo-Romanian style doorway, late-1920s house, Cismigiu area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The photographs above and bellow show a Neo-Romanian style doorway that displays prominent ethnographic motifs, the most remarkable of which being the intricately carved corbels supporting the awning. The assembly is imagined as echoing an ancestral Romanian peasant gateway, suggesting types found in villages that dot the piedmont of the Carpathian Mountains.

Neo-Romanian style doorway, late-1920s house, Cismigiu area, Bucharest, 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.

Art Nouveau style gates

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

These interesting Art Novueau iron gates are one of the “discoveries” made yesterday during the architectural history and photography tour in Mosilor area of Bucharest. The metalwork of this once exquisite structure, which is an architectural rarity for the entire south-east region of Romania, is quite corroded and would need an ample restoration process to bring it to its former glory. I very much doubt that would ever happen in contemporary Bucharest, where most the inhabitants do not have even an elementary understanding, let alone appreciation, of their architectural heritage. The gates have, in my opinion, an infinitely higher chance to reach the scrapyard.

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

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.