Abbreviation for “number” seen in inter-war architectural renderings

In my early years I have been fascinated why the word “number” is abbreviated “no” and not “nr”, which later I read in a book about printing fonts that the “no” shortening is a sort of tradition and was used as such since medieval times, when Latin was the most used written language, and comes from  “numero”, one of its Latin forms. I like the instances when the letter “o” is rendered sitting above an equal (“=”) sign or just a hyphen (“-“). The abbreviation containing the equal sign was often encountered in the inter-war period, adopted in many Art Deco designs, from famous posters of that era (adverts for transoceanic liner tickets, drinks, medicines, etc.) to architectural renderings like building or apartment numbers, etc.

Abbreviation for “number” in architectural renderings, Matei Basarab area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

I found during the architectural tour, which took place last Sunday, in Matei Basarab area of Bucharest, three cases of “no” abbreviation as architectural rendering, shown in the photographs of this post. The first one is the most attractive, with a catchy “=” sign under “o”, embellishing an Art Deco style house dating from the early 1930s.

Abbreviation for “number” in architectural renderings, Matei Basarab area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The second image shows the name plate of a shop window blinds manufacturer, which most probably was active in the early 1920s, judging from the spelling of Bucharest (as “Bucuresci”) typicall for the period 1900s-1920s.

Abbreviation for “number” in architectural renderings, Matei Basarab area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The third plate, seen in the photograph above, dates from the mid-1930s, indicating an workshop (perhaps a shoemaker or tailor) on the ground-floor of an Art Deco apartment block in the Jewish neighbourhood of the city (close by the State Jewish Theatre of Bucharest).

1940s lettering

1940s style lettering, name board of a shoe repair shop in Dacia area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

This is an original name board of a small shoe repair shop in Bucharest, which dates probably from the years of the Second World War. The lettering style is very evocative of that historical watershed period for the city and Romania in general. For me it suggests the streets of the city during the hot August 1944 days, when King Michael broke the disastrous alliance with Nazi Germany, arrested the pro-German dictator and joined the allied cause, saving the country from a looming catastrophic punishment invasion by the Red Army.

(I am grateful to Romulus Andrei Bena for pointing out this shop board, during a Historic Houses of Romania architectural walking tour in Dacia area, last year)

Art Nouveau lettering

The Art Nouveau style architecture is a bit of a rara avis in Bucharest. My periodical walking tour “Art Nouveau Bucharest” endeavours to survey an ample proportion of those elements embellishing the city. I thus feel rewarded when from time to time I find the odd Art Nouveau gem here and there, as is the case with the two letter rendering examples presented in the photographs bellow. The first one, with the name of the old Agricultural Bank, Banca Agricola or “Agricola”, as it was habitually known one century agao, was quite hard to spot, on top of a backstreet building façade in the CEC area of central Bucharest. The second Art Nouveau lettering example is on the floor of the western entrance of Amzei Church, a peculiar Art Nouveau – Byzantine design by architect Alexandru Savulescu in 1901. It welcomes the churchgoers with the saying “Sa fim credinciosi” (“Let’s be faithful/ believers”). Both examples are delicate signals to the indifferent contemporary passer-bys  from a long gone and beautiful epoch.

Art Nouveau lettering: the name panoply for "Banca Agricola" ("The Agricultural Bank") dating from the 1900s, CEC area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

Art Nouveau lettering: "Let's be faithful" on the pavement at the western entrance of Amzei Church, dating from 1901, 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.

Neo-Romanian Style Architectural Lettering: Photomontage & Slide Show

Neo-Romanian style architectural lettering: examples dating from 1890s to 1940s, except the upper right hand corner panel Latin type derived from Old Church Cyrillic letters as seen in the c18th Bucharest church votive inscription from the upper left hand corner of this photomontage. (©Valentin Mandache)

The Neo-Romanian style architectural lettering is a Latin type rendering using peculiar letter shapes inspired from the Cyrillic script of the Old Church Slavonic texts. This distinctive rendering conveys a powerful identity message reflected in the use by the Romanian language speakers of both scripts throughout their history. The Romanian language is a Romance/ Latin origin idiom, sharing many similar traits with Portuguese and Sardinian, but with a strong Slavic influence over its vocabulary and grammar. That is the result of the historical cultural development of the Romanian communities in close contact with speakers of Slavic languages in South East Europe and as followers of a Christian Orthodox creed based for centuries on Old Church Slavonic liturgy. As a consequence, the influence extended to the use of the Cyrillic alphabet in rendering the Romanian language, until well into the c19th. The alphabet reform of mid c19th, a part of the then nation building process, saw the adoption of the Latin alphabet, perceived as more prestigious and proper for a Latin people, proud of its roots in the ancient Empire of Rome. However, the Romanians kept hankering back to the symbolism and messages of the Cyrillic script associated with the heroic medieval times of battles and resistance against the Catholic power of the Hungarian Kingdom or the Islam of the Ottoman Empire. That coincides with the identity messages of the Neo-Romanian order, that has its ideological roots in the c19th national romantic movement and glorification of the medieval past. As a consequence, the architectural lettering is a very important component of the Neo-Romanian decorative panoply. I collected in the photomontage above examples of this type of letter rendering from a multitude of sources: architect’s name tablets, proprietor’s name, school plaques, house name inscriptions, etc. dating from 1890s (see the Art Nouveau like shapes) to 1940s (see the discernible Art Deco patterns on the panel at the centre of the photomontage). There is also, for comparison, an old votive inscription in the Cyrillic script dating from 1715, that adornins the ‘Saint Apostles’ church in Bucharest, visible on the upper left hand corner of the photomontage. The panels are also displayed individually in the slide show bellow.

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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 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.

Art Deco Era House Numbers

House numbers dating from Bucharest's Art Deco era. (©Valentin Mandache)

The house numbers presented in the montage above adorn a series of Art Deco buildings in central areas of Bucharest and date from 1929 to late 1930s. I like the futuristic shape of the example positioned in the middle of the image. The house numbers through their interesting design and the sense of modernity that they manage to exude constitute veritable Art Deco statements in their own right.

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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.

Daily Image 29-Jan-10: Art Deco Era Architect’s Name Tablets

A part of my collection of wall tablet images containing some of the most famous names of architects that made Bucharest an Art Deco gem city in the 1930s. The letter rendering of these names bears also the mark of the beautiful Art Deco era writing styles. (©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.