Central School for Girls’ logo

The Central School for Girl's logo, displayed on the street facade of this renowned Bucharest high school (the abreviations stands for Scoala Centrala de Fete),

The Central School for Girl’s logo, displayed on the street façade of this renowned Bucharest high school, designed by architect Ion Mincu in the early Neo-Romanian style, 1891. The abreviations stands for Scoala Centrala de Fete. (©Valentin Mandache)

Early Neo-Romanian style house in Campina

I have found in Campina, a beautiful town north of Bucharest, on Prahova Valley, during the preparation of the last year’s architectural tour in that location, an interesting Neo-Romanian house, belonging to the early phase of development of Romania’s national architectural style. That period unfurled between 1886, the year when Lahovary House, the first Neo-Romanian edifice was built by the architect Ion Mincu, and 1906, when this design peculiar to this country, was “codified” within the architecture of the great buildings that functioned as pavilions of the Royal Jubilee Exhibition of 1906 in Bucharest. The Neo-Romanian style subsequently underwent a mature and also a late phase of development until its zenith in the late 1940s.

Early Neo-Romanian style house, dating from the early 1900s, in Campina (©Valentin Mandache)

This wonderful example from Campina dates, in my opinion, from the 1900s, exhibiting a mixture of Neo-Romanian and Little Paris features, characteristic of the early phase of this design. Specifically Neo-Romanian is the three arched veranda, coloured ceramic medallions or the toothed brick arch above the doorway. Little Paris is the general aspect of the building, a wagon house facing the street, with a typical doorway woodwork and roof finial. The house has probably underwent a series of renovations throughout more than a century of existence, which altered or erased part of its ornaments and other architectural details, the most aggressive such intervention taking place, in my view, in the last few years.

Early Neo-Romanian style house, dating from the early 1900s, in Campina (©Valentin Mandache)

Nevertheless the structure retains enough original elements and details that preserve its original early Neo-Romanian character. The duo-tone processed photograph above emphasizes even more the outlines of this picturesque house, giving us a better idea about its interesting mix of Neo-Romanian and Little Paris designs.

Early Neo-Romanian style house, dating from the early 1900s, in Campina (©Valentin Mandache)

The main Neo-Romanian sector is the three arched veranda, a reference to the Christian holy trinity. That is also seen in the three-lobes forming the arch span. The broken arch feature is a reference to the Ottoman-Balkan architectural traditions of this region, as seen in the local Brancovan style churches of the c18th and early c19th centuries, a main source of inspiration for the Neo-Romanian design. The veranda poles are of ethnographic type, as encountered in peasant houses, another fountain of inspiration for the national architecture.

Early Neo-Romanian style house, dating from the early 1900s, in Campina (©Valentin Mandache)

The most eye catching elements of the facade are the glazed ceramic medallions embellishing the entrance sector or the wall space between the arches and windows. The coloured ceramic on building façades is a Victorian era innovation, that had somehow faint echoes in Romania of that period, seen mostly in early Neo-Romanian edifices. Above is a rendering in that material of a Brancovan church frieze medallion, in its turn inspired from Ottoman-Balkan Islamic architecture. Suggestive for Neo-Romanian is the toothed brick arch, which is an allusion to pre-Brancovan church architecture (as seen for example in Mihai Voda Church‘s brickwork).

Early Neo-Romanian style house, dating from the early 1900s, in Campina (©Valentin Mandache)

I particularly like the yellow and blue coloured ceramic medallions pointing out the wall between the arches that together with the brown-red shade of the façade rendering, which originally was probably a Pompeian red hue, used in the decoration of many early and mature phase Neo-Romanian edifices, make up the colours of Romania’s national flag, a peculiar instance that I encountered in few other examples of houses in this design genre.

Ottoman Balkan and Neo-Romanian type house

The quaint looking Ottoman Balkan and early Neo-Romanian type house, presented in the photographs bellow, dating probably from the last two decades of the c19th, sits in the backyard of the Military Topography Department of Romania’s Ministry of Defence, in the Ion Mihalache boulevard area. The building is probably one of this army branch’s first headquarters, left as a piece of heritage, as more modern edifices were erected in its vicinity in the subsequent decades.

Ottoman Balkan and Neo-Romanian type house, late c19th, Ion Mihalache area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The structure is typical for the domestic architecture in the region of northern Ottoman Balkans, where similar buildings, dating from the mid c18th until late c19th, are encountered nowadays also in Bulgaria or European Turkey. The house has a symmetric arrangement, sits atop a “half buried” basement, with a big protruding veranda adorned with wooden ethnographic poles that sustain large decorative column pediments adorned with floral motifs in stucco, forming three-lobed (a references to the Christian trinity) broken arches between columns.

Ottoman Balkan and Neo-Romanian type house, late c19th, Ion Mihalache area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The pediments are also sometimes crowned by a rich frieze of wooden fretwork (as can be seen in the above image). This genre of house was typically built by Christian small traders or or small landowners of the late Ottoman era.

Ottoman Balkan and Neo-Romanian type house, late c19th, Ion Mihalache area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

What is unusual in this example is the presence of early Neo-Romanian style elements, seen in the decoration of the doorway (see the second photograph), the window pediments or the wall frieze, which were probably added as this patriotic style became popular in the last decade of the c19th, fusioning with local consecrated styles such as the Little Paris in urban areas or Ottoman Balkan in countryside or provincial towns as we can see here (the Ion Mihalache area was in that period a good few kilometres away from Bucharest).

Ottoman Balkan and Neo-Romanian type house, late c19th, Ion Mihalache area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The window pediments and the wall frieze as seen in the above and bellow photographs are picturesque references to the late medieval church architecture of Wallachia (Curtea de Arges cathedral inspired motifs).

Ottoman Balkan and Neo-Romanian type house, late c19th, Ion Mihalache area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The building has most probably endured many renovations and transformations in the last century of its existence, but it is still conserving quite accurately its transitional architectural character from an Ottoman Balkan design to timid, but eloquent early Neo-Romanian style elements, making it an excellent sampler of the cultural atmosphere of that era of intense transformations in Romania.

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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.

Wallachian Art Nouveau

The city of Targoviste, 80 km north-west of Bucharest and a former capital of the old principality of Wallachia, has managed to preserve an important proportion of its architectural heritage during the last seven decades of communist misrule and post-communist wild transition to a market economy in Romania. It has also weathered quite well the calamitous property boom of 2000 -’08, which saw destruction of historic public and private buildings on a larger scale than throughout the entire communist period. One of those interesting historic architecture examples preserved in Targoviste is the house presented in the photographs bellow, displaying Neo-Romanian elements in an Art Nouveau guise. It dates probably from the 1900s and shows signs of extensive subsequent alterations. The edifice is located at one end of city’s old commercial street, near the beautiful Beaux Arts style Targoviste town hall, about which I wrote an article at this link. The Neo-Romanian style has evolved in large part, during its initial stages, within the Art Nouveau current and this building is an interesting product of that period. I apologise for the differences in shade and colour intensity between photographs, due to the various hours and light conditions in which they were shot and subsequently processed.

Wallachian Art Nouveau, house dating from the 1900s, Targoviste (©Valentin Mandache)

I like the Romanian ethnographic motifs giving personality to this house such as the wood carved poles embellishing the oriel balcony or the frieze modelling a peasant embroidery that decorates its street façade.

Targoviste Art Nouveau house displaying Neo-Romanian motifs, house dating from the 1900s (©Valentin Mandache)

The main widow is also a Neo-Romanian type, making references to a church triptych, rendered in an Art Nouveau manner. The geometrical pattern of the wall frieze, easily discernible in this photograph, is inspired from peasant embroideries found in this area of Wallachia.

Neo-Romanian triptych type window in an Art Nouveau guise, 1900s house, Targoviste (©Valentin Mandache)

Wallachian Art Nouveau, house dating from the 1900s, Targoviste (©Valentin Mandache)

The above image shows the oriel balcony adorned with wooden poles carved in a similar manner with those encountered in Wallachian peasant houses.

Wallachian Art Nouveau, detail of the oriel balcony, house dating from the 1900s, Targoviste (©Valentin Mandache)

The main Art Nouveau trait in the design of the balcony is the circle arch, spanning the wooden poles, a reference to the Islamic inspired medieval and early modern architecture of the Ottoman Balkans, a region that also encompassed the former principality of Wallachia.

Wallachian Art Nouveau, the carved wooden poles of the oriel balcony, house dating from the 1900s, Targoviste (©Valentin Mandache)

Wallachian Art Nouveau, side entrance and widows, house dating from the 1900s, Targoviste (©Valentin Mandache)

Other Art Nouveau elements, which are not related to Neo-Romanians motifs, are the two simple doorways embellishing the side of the house, the more remarkable of them looking inspired from the design of a Rennie Mackintosh Argyle chair.

Wallachian Art Nouveau, side doorway (Argyle chair motif), house dating from the 1900s, Targoviste (©Valentin Mandache)

Wallachian Art Nouveau,side doorway, house dating from the 1900s, Targoviste (©Valentin Mandache)

There is another similar design building in Targoviste, about 0.5km away toward the old princely courts, presumably the work of the same architect(s), about whom I hope to find out details in my future fieldtrips to this wonderful southern Romanian city.

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

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.