Walking tour Saturday 13 September: The Late Neo-Romanian Style of Bucharest’s Kiseleff Park area

Dear readers,

I would like to invite you to a thematic architectural tour this Saturday 13 September ’14, on the subject of the late phase of the Neo-Romanian architectural style, which unfurled mainly in the fourth and the fifth decades of the c20th, a period when this order peculiar to Romania reached a crisis in terms of expression, mitigated by a fascinating synthesis with the Art Deco, Mediterranean and Modernist styles. The tour takes approximately two hours, between 11.00h – 13.00h, and it may be of interest to those of you visiting the city as a tourist or on business looking to find out more about its enchanting historic architecture and identity.

The modern construction technologies that emerged in the roaring twenties affording the development of light, airy structures expressed in the Art Deco and Modernist architecture, were quite antithetical to the traditionally ornate, heavy, built in brick and masonry, Neo-Romanian style edifices, as typical to its early and mature phases. That led to a crisis within this indigenous architectural order, threatened also by the high popularity among the public of the international modern styles or other fashionable building types, such as the Mediterranean inspired designs, which were all the rage in Bucharest during the 1930s. The Neo-Romanian style managed to survive and even thrive, until the watershed of the Second World War, through fascinating syntheses especially with the Art Deco, Mediterranean and to a lesser extent with the Modernist designs. The tour aims to present a number of telling examples from that phase of stylistic development located in Kiseleff Park area of north-central Bucharest, which is endowed with a higher concentration of such edifices, and thus chart a captivating chapter of Romania’s national style development and of Bucharest’s historic architecture.

Book by emailing v.mandache@gmail.com or using the comments section of this post. You will be informed of meeting place on booking.

I look forward to seeing you at the tour,

Valentin Mandache, expert in Romania’s historic houses (tel: 0040 (0)728323272)

Historic Houses of Romania thematic tour: The Late Neo-Romanian Style

Historic Houses of Romania tour: The late 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.

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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.

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.

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)

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)

Chronicle of the 17 and 18 Dec. ’11 architectural tours

The first photograph bellow shows a quite enigmatic identity message within a decorative panel embellishing the façade of an early 1930s house located in Kisselef area of Bucharest, which was among the buildings examined during my thematic architectural tour entitled “The Late Neo-Romanian Style” on Saturday 17 Dec. ’11. The second photograph presents most of the participants at the Sunday 18 Dec. ’11 architectural walking tour in the Cismigiu historic area of Romania’s capital.

"The Late Neo-Romanian Style" - Saturday 17 Dec. '11 architectural tour: identity panel on Neo-Romanian style house, dating from the early 1930s, Kisselef area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The Saturday tour started on a quite unpromising rainy weather, which was probably the reason why the participation came from Ireland, with no natives at all :) However the conditions improved less than half an hour into the excursion, when we benefited from beautiful sunbursts through clouds crossing Bucharest’s sky. We had the opportunity to examine a great multitude of Late Neo-Romanian style houses, concentrated in the Kisselef area of the city, rounding up our image about this particular phase in the development in Romania’s national architectural style, which unfurled between the late 1920s and the end of the 1940s. As the tour came to a close, the intriguing panel presented here came in our view. It contains the representation of a tree from whose trunk springs out a human arm holding a bucket, having on the other side something looking like a stack of six spheres arranged like the dots on a dice face. This panel could be, in my opinion, a family coat of arms or even a Masonic symbol connected with the first proprietor of the house. I look forward for opinions from you, dear readers, who might have access to better information, to clarify that tormenting, for me, riddle!

"Cismigiu historic area" - Sunday 18 Dec. '11 architectural tour: excursion participants

The Saturday tour in Cismigiu quarter was well attended by a nationally diverse group (Australia, US, Ireland and natives of course). We benefited of a wonderful weather, with a bright sun and a crisp, clear atmosphere propitious to view intricate architectural details. The trip started at Izvor tube station, ending at the Romanian Classical Writers’ Round in Cismigiu Gardens, after an assiduous walk of over five kilometres in three hours, examining at close range a large number of exquisite historic buildings. The photograph shows us toward the end of the tour, all with quite happy faces in my opinion, myself exhibiting a bit of the effects of speaking almost continuously throughout in my quality as a guide. :)

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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.

The Neo-Romanian Style in an Arts and Crafts Presentation

A mid 1930s house in an interestig and rare Arts and Crafts-like variety of the Neo-Romanian style, Calea Victoriei area, Bucharest. (©Valentin Mandache)

Starting with the 1930s, the Neo-Romanian architectural style, which has its roots in the Romanian late romantic movement of the c19th, being also developed within the coordinates of a pan-European Art Nouveau artistic environment and based on the use of Victorian era construction materials and techniques, entered a period of what I call “crisis of expression”. This erstwhile architectural order was in that period in close competition with the slender and highly fashionable Art Deco and International Modernist styles that used the new building materials and technology like glass, steel and reinforced concrete. There were a few directions in which the Neo-Romanian style tried to evade a dead end in its artistic expression and reinvent itself, by branching out in what I call the inter-war Venetian style or slowly remodelling itself in an Art Deco or modernist mantle. There where also hasty attempts to go “back in time” to Art Nouveau shapes and motifs. A very interesting and refreshing direction of expression in those seminal years was the Neo-Romanian style presented in an Arts and Crafts-like manner. The image above shows one of those relatively rare buildings, preserved in an excellent state in central Bucharest. The Arts and Crafts characteristics can be seen in the essential decorative motifs rendered in apparent stone that dresses the window and doorway openings or the basic decoration of the upper floor balcony and veranda fences, the building being heavily pruned of the rich decoration typical of the classical Neo-Romanian style. It also retains the medieval-like massivity of the old Neo-Romanian order, but in the same time is more airy and also attempts to have the brick exposed as a ‘public presentation’ of its structure. All of these result in a very vitalist look reached by the Neo-Romanian style via the Arts and Crafts defining coordinates.

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I endeavor through this daily series of images and small 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.