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)

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.

Chronicle of the architectural tour in Bellu Cemetery

Case de Epoca - Historic Houses of Romania blog author at the grave of architect Ion Mincu (1852 - 1912); photo - 7 Jan. '12

I am pleased to report that the architectural tour, which took place last Saturday, in Bellu Cemetery, considered in many aspects as the National Pantheon of Romania, was well attended, despite the sleety weather that we had to face that afternoon. That followed a stormy night, which caused mayhem in Bucharest. In fact we encountered, within the cemetery itself, torn away tree branches blocking the alleys and even an uprooted old tree that has fallen over some of the gravestone, fortunately without causing much damage, facts that all concurred to producing, of what one might say, a perfect cemetery visit atmosphere. The place is really vast, over 28 ha, if we just take into account its main Christian Orthodox denomination section. We were thus able to encounter a multitude of fine architecture monuments hosting the earthly remains of important personalities of this country. The funerary structures display in general the three main historical styles that characterise the local urban architecture from Little Paris, Neo-Romanian to Art Deco and Modernist designs. There are also monuments in ethnographic and composite styles. An important objective of the tour was the viewing and examination of monuments designed by the architect Ion Mincu (1852 – 1912), the initiator of the Neo-Romanian style, which are among the finest in the entire cemetery, for example the sepulchers of G. Gr. Cantacuzino, M. Ghica, or the Gheorghieff brothers. I also brought the participants to Mincu’s grave, where the photograph presented above was taken. To our astonishment, the grave was without a cross or other more apparent funerary monument, except a name plate on a small pedestal outside the grave area itself, a sure sign of neglect from the public and authorities regarding the memory of this important figure in the history of Romanian visual arts. The parcel was in the past embellished with a beautiful Romanian peasant wooden cross, as can be seen in a photograph from the 1920s, in the image bellow, depicting a remembrance gathering of Mincu’s students at his burial place. It is amazing and shocking that now, in 2012, when we commemorate one hundred years since the great man’s death, that there is nothing put in place to properly mark his grave, not even by the Architecture University “Ion Mincu” in Bucharest, which bears his name, and is the chief higher education institution in that field of this country. I just hope that something is in the making, now at the centenary of his death, by the university or other institution, to right that tragic anomaly!

Former students of architect Ion Mincu at his grave in Bellu Cemetery in the early 1920s (photo in "Ioan Mincu" by N. Petrascu, Cultura Nationala, Bucharest 1928)

Fin de siècle villa in Campulung Arges: architect identification controversy – Video-analysis

In this video I analyse whether or not the architect Ion Mincu, the initiator of the Neo-Romanian style, is the designer of Villa Mirea in the town of Campulung Arges, southern Romania. I discuss the characteristics of Mincu’s architectural design by analysing two of his most important creations- Lahovary House and the Causeway Buffet in Bucharest and conclude that Mincu could in fact be the designer of anther edifice in Campulung, namely Villa Apostol Mirea (notice the similarities between the names of the two buildings, a fact which possibly led to the actual confusion in identifying the architect). The photograph is by Daniel Bobe, a native of Campulung; the old postcards- private collection.

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I endeavor 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.

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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.

Magnificent Wallachian Church Floral Motifs

A photomontage of resplendent c18th Byzantine style floral motifs, Stavropoles church, Bucharest. (©Valentin Mandache)

The small c18th Stavropoleos church in Bucharest is perhaps one of the most beautiful religious buildings in the entire eastern church world. The building has been a main inspiration source for the architect Ion Micu when he initiated in late c19th the Neo-Romanian style, the only original architectural order created in Romania. Mincu lovingly restored the church between 1904 – ’10, toward the end of his life, when he also added a well designed cloister and outbuildings (see here an article and also a video on that subject). I am always most impressed, when visiting this church, by the flamboyant, colourful and full of life floral motifs decorating its exterior walls and cloister. That spurred me to put together the photo-montage above and thus try to make better known to the outside world this wonderful floral panoply, which resides at the heart of Bucharest. The cloister decoration was created by Mincu and contains a beautiful rendering, with an excellent spatial impression, of two floral motifs from the church register (seen here on the top-centre and right-hand-corner sectors of the above collage).

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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.

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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.

Daily Picture 4-Mar-10: Quaint Early Neo-Romanian Style House

An ealy type of Neo-Romanian style house, with discernible Art Nouveau outlines, dating from the turn of the 19th to 20th century, inspired from the first and more elegant buildings created in this style by the architect Ion Mincu. Maria Rosetti area, Bucharest. (©Valentin Mandache)

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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 Contact page of this weblog.

The Central School for Girls: Woes of An Architectural Landmark in Post-Communist Romania

The architectural heritage of a country is an essential part of its cultural identity, defining the local communities, making them recognisable to the outside world and generating civic pride among the locals. The Neo-Romanian style is the only original architectural order that had emerged in Romania and as a consequence is a vital part of the national heritage and modern cultural identity.

The style has been initiated by the remarkable architect Ion Mincu (1852 – 1912) with the construction of the Lahovary House (1886) in Bucharest, followed by a number of outstanding designs and finished buildings. Unfortunately Mincu’s output was very small when compared with other seminal architects in Europe and elsewhere that put the basis of new styles or other architectural innovations. That was because of the fairly poor economy of Romania in that period, a newly independent country that emerged from the ruins of the Ottoman Empire, not a very propitious environment for the development of innovative architecture, and a still crystallizing modern Romanian cultural identity that was more concerned with following Western models, perceived as more prestigious, than developing its own heritage. Micu has thus planted the first seeds in the field of national architecture, which grew into the vigorous Neo-Romanian current that then developed effervescently throughout the country for following five decades until the WWII.

Architect Ion Mincu, title page of his biography book by Mihail Caffé, published in 1960, Editura Stiintifica, Bucharest.

This is why the first Neo-Romanian style buildings created by Ion Mincu are monuments of architecture of extraordinary importance for the national heritage, listed on the heritage registry and in theory protected by strict laws and regulations. The largest and in my opinion the most innovative Neo-Romanian style building designed by Mincu is the Central School for Girls in Bucharest (works started in 1890), a boarding school open to deserving girls from all social classes, emulating the Victorian modernising and democratising principles that permeated Romania at that time. I have here an old postcard, from the early 1930s, showing an aerial image of the building, which gives a good idea about its size and proficient layout, in many aspects ahead of its times.

The Central School for Girls, Bucharest, aerial photograph from early 1930s (old postcard, Valentin and Diana Mandache collection)

The Central School for Girls, together with the city around it, has withstood many vicissitudes in the century and a score since its first foundation stone was laid: the Great War and the enemy occupation of Bucharest, the World War II with bombing air raids by both Allied and German forces, followed by Soviet troops that swept through the city, nearly five decades of harsh communist regime, a bloody anticommunist revolution in 1989 and finally twenty years of chaotic and rapacious transition to a market economy. The sad irony is that the school and the architectural heritage of Bucharest have suffered most in the last Continue reading

Daily Picture 23-Jan-10: The Cloister of Stavropoleos Church

The cloister of Stavropoles church, a creation of the architect Ion Mincu, the initiator of the Neo-Romanian style, exuding a soothing and serene atmosphere in the middle of a bustling Bucharest city centre. (©Valentin Mandache)

The small Stavropoleos church in the centre of Bucharest has been restored between 1904-10 by the remarkable architect Ion Mincu, the initiator of the Neo-Romanian style (he is the equivalent of Pugin in this country, if I am allowed to illustrate somehow crudely his status and fame regarding the revival of local architecture). Mincu designed the church cloister, shown in the photograph above, a wonderful architectural achievement within the very limited space available, in which he brought together many of his concepts and ideas pertaining to the Neo-Romanian order developed by him starting with the 1880s.  From Ion Mincu’s initial designs, the Neo-Romanian architectural style had a fascinating evolution in distinct phases and on several directions until its decline in the 1940s. The cloister of Stavropoles church is thus an wonderful textbook for anyone interested in studying or just admiring the initial stage of this style.

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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.

Stravopoles Church Cloister. Short Video

I just made this short video featuring the cloister of the beautiful and architecturally significant c18th Stravopoles church in Bucharest: