Architectural tour after working hours: Art Deco and Modernist Bucharest – Thursday 21 August

Dear readers,

I would like to invite you this Thursday 21 August ’14, to a thematic walking tour, scheduled to take place after the working hours, between 18.00h – 20.00h, on the subject of the Art Deco and inter-war Modernist architectural designs of Bucharest. The tour may be of interest to any of you visiting the city as a tourist or on business looking to find out more about its fascinating historic architecture and identity.

The Art Deco style, peculiar to the “roaring ’20s” and the 1930s was the first truly global architecture, embraced with gusto by the Bucharest people and the rest of Romania. The city became in those years a veritable Art Deco architectural regional “power“, embellished with high quality edifices in this style, many of which are still around, for us to admire and investigate, despite the terrible historical upheavals of the last eight decades in this part of Europe. A favorite Art Deco theme in Bucharest was that of the ocean liner, reflecting the longing of inter-war locals to travel to exotic places in the southern seas, far away from the local Siberia-like winters. The inter-war Modernist style and syntheses between Art Deco and Modernism are also well represented in Bucharest, with creations signed by talented architects such as Horia Creanga or Duiliu Marcu. That great multitude of buildings were developed on a solid economic background when Romania was one of the main oil exporters of the world and also an important agricultural producer. The present tour endeavours to locate and explain some of the representative edifices in the Art Deco style  in central Bucharest and give you a well referenced overall image about how these designs impacted the identity of this city and Romania in general.

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)

Art Deco Bucharest – architectural tour

Historic Houses of Romania architectural tour: Art Deco Bucharest

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

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.

Images from the Art Deco style walking tour on Saturday 7 April ’12

Images from last Saturday, 7 April '12, Historic Houses of Romania walking tour: Bucharest's Art Deco architectural style (©Valentin Mandache)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

iPhone photo of the day: St. Catherine’s Church, Bucharest

St. Catherine Church, Patriarchy Hill area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

This is St. Catherine’s Church (Biserica Sfanta Ecaterina) in Bucharest’s Patriarchy Hill area (I organised an architectural tour a couple of weeks ago there), which as a place of worship dates from the c16th, but the actual building is from the early 1850s. It is in a provincial neo-baroque style, a quite sporadic design for a church of Byzantine rite, epitomizing the process of modernisation and Europeanisation of the Romanian society of that era, following the national revolutions of 1848 and drive toward modern nation building and independence from the Ottoman Empire, the erstwhile oriental overlord of this region. The iPhone photo has been perspective corrected in Lightroom and cross-processed in Picassa, giving it this interesting vintage postcard aspect. That impression is charmingly enhanced by the exposed brick facade produced by the current restoration works.

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)

Bucharest 1930s skyline

The two images presented here are typical examples of Bucharest 1930s modernist and Art Deco apartment building tops, that in many aspects defined the skyline of the city for decades, until the huge communist building programme of the 1980s turned Romania’s capital, including its skyline, into a North Korean dictatorship inspired eyesore. The photographs also show how a renovation would work wonders on those edifices. In the instances shown here, I like the ziggurat composition, which gives an impression of svelteness and confidence typical of a skyscraper, which the design subtly suggests. The first image shows how attractive a newly cleaned and painted façade can be. The building in the second photograph is still waiting a sprucing up, which I am sure would greatly bring back its former beauty and remind the locals about the good quality architecture of yesteryars of this city.

Bucharest 1930s skyline, Modernist - Art Deco apartment block in Piata Romana area (©Valentin Mandache)

Bucharest 1930s skyline, Modernist - Art Deco apartment bloc, Mosilor area (©Valentin Mandache)

Bucharest 1900s architectural ironwork

The Fin de Siècle period was a time when the architectural ironwork, expressed largely in wrought iron designs, became affordable as a construction material and architectural embellishing, adopted throughout the globalised world of the late Victorian era. The tone was given by the famous Eiffel Tower built for the 1889 Exposition Universelle in Paris, which represented a climax for ironwork structures, traced back to the Crystal Palace pavilion of the 1851 Great Exhibition in London.

Bucharest was a rapidly developing city in those years before the Great War, with many buildings being erected in the then fashionable historicist styles, which I collectively call the “Little Paris” style, inspired mostly from French c19th architecture. Many of those buildings were embellished with exquisite wrought iron elements, from balconies, doorway assemblies, gates and street fences, conservatories, etc., which constitute now a definitory parameter of Bucharest’s historic built landscape.

I would like to present in the following photographs just a tiny part from the multitude of those architectural ironwork structures, dating in this instance mostly from the 1900s, found now throughout Romania’s capital. In my view they are quite well preserved when taking into account the upheavals experienced by the city in the last century since they were put in place and the general lack of maintenance of the last few decades. It is not hard to imagine how a basic restoration of these structures would notably increase the aesthetics of this metropolis and emphasise in a very positive way its identity; unfortunately there is still a long way for its post-communist inhabitants to learn and understand that.

Bucharest 1900s architectural ironwork: gate and clam shell doorway awning structures, Icoanei area (©Valentin Mandache)

Bucharest 1900s architectural ironwork: gate and clam shell doorway awning structures, Dacia area (©Valentin Mandache)

Bucharest 1900s architectural ironwork (detail of the above): clam shell door awning structure, Dacia area (©Valentin Mandache)

Bucharest 1900s architectural ironwork: ornamental doorhandle in the shape of a sphinx, Mantuleasa area (©Valentin Mandache)

Bucharest 1900s architectural ironwork: doorway awnings and gate, Mosilor area (©Valentin Mandache)

Bucharest 1900s architectural ironwork: conservatory structure, Mosilor area (©Valentin Mandache)

Bucharest 1900s architectural ironwork: clam shell awning structure, Mosilor area (©Valentin Mandache)

Bucharest 1900s architectural ironwork: floral ornaments of a street fence structure, Piata Romana area(©Valentin Mandache)

Bucharest 1900s architectural ironwork: balcony structure embellished with the house owner's monogram, Gara de Nord area (©Valentin Mandache)

Bucharest 1900s architectural ironwork: entrance conservatory structure, Gara de Nord area (©Valentin Mandache)

Bucharest 1900s architectural ironwork: gate, street fence and doorway assembly structures, Patriarchy Hill area (©Valentin Mandache)

Images from last Sunday’s architectural tour – remnants of the Great Exhibition of 1906

Sunday 8 Jan. '12 architectural tour in Carol Park, Bucharest: Remnants of the Great Exhibition of 1906 (©Valentin Mandache)

Design elements of a Bucharest Art Deco house

I encountered in one a my architectural tours, a few months ago in Foisorul de Foc (Fire Watchtower) area of Bucharest, an Art Deco era house of a distinguished design, of which the most remarkable was the ironwork of its gate and staircase window. The building also contained other design elements worthy of attention, such as its general volumetric set up, concierge window shape or the rusticated façade base pattern reminding of geometric, Mondrianesque, style paintings of the 1920s and ’30s. The images bellow detail those interesting Art Deco elements.

Art Deco style gate, late 1930s house, Foisorul de Foc area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

I like the pleasant to the eye proportions of this gate and how its general rectangular pattern is broken by diagonal wave and solar disk motifs wonderfully distributed throughout the design field. It is perhaps an abstraction of a modern city (the rectangular pattern) on an ocean shore bathed by undulating sea waves in its daily life cycle from dawn till dusk and over again (the full and outlined solar disks), etc.

Art Deco style house dating from the late 1930s, Foisorul de Foc area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The house has good volumetric proportions adapted to the small plot of land available for construction, an ubiquitous and age old problem in Bucharest. The rule of three typical of the Art Deco style is detectable in many of the design elements of the façade. Interesting is also the wall rendering, which reproduces the coral motif of the Southern seas, a theme popular in those years among Bucharesters, aspiring to visit exotic places so different from their continental European landscape and climate.

Art Deco style house dating from the late 1930s, Foisorul de Foc area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The staircase window is also embellished with a high quality ironwork which shares the design theme of the gate. There is also a porthole window, an echo of the ocean liner theme so fashionable in those happy years after the Great Economic Depression and before the conflagration of the Second World War.

Staircase tower window (©VM)

The staircase window design is indeed remarkable, a cubist-like painting rendered in ironwork.

Concierge window, late 1930s Art Deco style house, Foisorul de Foc area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The 1930s architect was obviously a talented professional who paid attention to minutiae details, such as the concierge window seen in this photograph, cut within the rusticated pattern of the façade base, itself resembling a marvellous avant-garde composition.

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

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 Deco style school

I continue here the series of posts dealing with the historic architecture of the city of Ploiesti, the major oil extraction and refining centre of Romania. Today I would like to present a remarkable Art Deco style school building, dating probably from the second part of the 1930s, located on Republicii Boulevard, just across the street from the Art Deco era tram, which I documented in a post published yesterday. The school is named “St. Basil Gymnasium” (“Colegiul Sfantul Vasile”), presenting a symmetrical street façade, where the rule of three is noticeable in the window partitions at its centre. The building features a number of interesting Art Deco elements, seen in the following photographs, comprising details such as well designed doorways for boys (“baieti”) and girsl (“fete”) to a nicely preserved 1930s clock. I will let the photographs to speak for themselves and hope that you would enjoy this short visual Art Deco in this corner of south east Europe.

Art Deco style school, Ploiesti (©Valentin Mandache)

Art Deco style school, entrance for girls, Ploiesti (©Valentin Mandache)

Art Deco style school, detail of the doorway ironwork featuring the Greek key motif, a suggestion that the school is envisaged as a "temple of learning", Ploiesti (©Valentin Mandache)

Art Deco style school, entrance for boys, Ploiesti (©Valentin Mandache)

Art Deco style school, detail of the doorway wall opening decoration, Ploiesti (©Valentin Mandache)

Art Deco style school, detail of the doorway for boys pediment, Ploiesti (©Valentin Mandache)

Art Deco style school, detail of the doorway for girls pediment, Ploiesti (©Valentin Mandache)

Art Deco style school, detail of the letter architectural rendering used for doorway inscriptions, Ploiesti (©Valentin Mandache)

Art Deco style school, close up of the late 1930s, made in Germany clock, Ploiesti (©Valentin Mandache)

Art Deco style school, details of the side façade and doorway, Ploiesti (©Valentin Mandache)

Art Deco style school, Ploiesti (©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 Deco era streetcar

Art Deco era streetcar, Michael the Brave Park, Ploiesti (©Valentin Mandache)

The streetcar in the above photograph is a transport history exhibit placed in Michael the Brave Park in Ploiesti, the major oil production and refining centre of Romania. It dates from the 1930s, a time when the Art Deco architecture was highly fashionable there, along with the Neo-Romanian style. Ploiesti boasts the largest, in my opinion, Art Deco style building in the south east Europe: the Central Market Halls, designed in the first part of the 1930s by the great architect Toma T Socolescu, a native of the area, and also a multitude of other such wonderful edifices, such as the house which I documented in this blog article. The tram seen here, with its fine and simple outlines, also reminds of the Art Deco fashions found besides architecture, in a multitude of domains such as industrial machinery or jewellery design.

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

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 Deco garage door masterpiece

I discovered during the last Sunday architectural history and photography tour in Calea Calarasi area of Bucharest a tantalizingly beautiful Art Deco style garage doorway, presented in the photographs bellow (the same image processed in three different sequences in order to better outline various parts of its delicate design). I am very impressed by its quality and excellent proportions that please the eye, and also by its good state of preservation. The design reminds me of paintings typical of the Bauhaus school, something like a cross between Mondrian and Paul Klee. The theme is a 1930s era factory with clerestory roof windows (the sawtooth-like elements), chimney stacks from which smoke billows out, clouds and Suns in different positions, at dawn- on the left, midday- in the centre and dusk- on the right, signifying a working day at the factory. The wall surrounding the door opening also contains a similar theme Art Deco design, which unfortunately is now quite obscured by a layer of whitewash. On the whole, I believe, this garage door is quite an work of art and a testimony of the quality of Bucharest’s Art Deco era architecture.

Art Deco garage door, Calea Calarasi area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

Art Deco garage door, Calea Calarasi area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

Art Deco garage door, Calea Calarasi area, 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 Contactpage of this weblog.

Domenii – Casa Scanteii area: images from last Sunday’s architectural history & photo tour

Domenii - Casa Scanteii area Sunday architectual tour (©Valentin Mandache)

We had, last Sunday in the Domenii – Casa Scanteii area of Bucharest, an extensive and in my view mind-blowing viewing and examination of two major genres of 1930s architecture: Art Deco and “Stalinist Gothic”. Again, I was very fortunate to have enthusiastic and well informed participants from a variety of backgrounds. Domenii quarter has been developed mainly in the 1930s and ’40s and hosts a myriad of equisite Art Deco and peerless Neo-Romanian – Art Deco amalgam style dwellings, built for the inter-war Bucharest’s elite. Nowadays the area is in a rapid process of being taken over by the new class of post-communist Romanian moneyed people who unfortunately are not cultured or sophisticated enough to understand the importance of conserving that heritage and, as a result, a large part of those buildings were demolished, replaced with characterless massive new structures or in the best case aggressively renovated. Casa Scanteii – the former headquarters of the communist central press, located close by Domenii quarter, is the second largest building of this country, second after Ceausescu’s enormous House of the People, itself one of the largest in the world. It was designed by a group of architects led by Horia Maicu and built in 1950 – 51, following the model of the 1930s Muscovite buildings known as the “seven sisters”, a species of grandiose communist era Art Deco style structures erected in the 1930s Stalinist Soviet Union. The building was intended to stamp on the Soviet domination of Romania and herald the dawn of a new era and society in this corner of the world. While Casa Scanteii looks from afar similar with its Soviet counterparts, at a closer examination its architectural details are very indigenous- inspired from the late medieval Wallachian church architecture (Brancovan style) and using a multitude of Neo-Romanian style motifs. Even its monumental doorways look like a Wallachian church entrance. These absolutely particular aspects of this Stalinist era building, which are today forgotten by the locals specialists and laypersons alike, were closely examined and discussed by the participants at the tour. I trust that those who took part in the tour had thus a fulfilling cultural Sunday out and now are the privileged keepers of some of the most interesting and esoteric architectural history information about this corner of Bucharest! :)

Domenii - Casa Scanteii area architectural tour

Domenii - Casa Scanteii area architectural tour

!!! The next Sunday (21 August ’11) architectural history and photography tour will take place in Campina and Comarnic, OUTSIDE Bucharest, on the Prahova Valley (1h 15min hour by train), see a map at this link; meeting point: Gara de Nord train station, in front of McDonald’s restaurant, inside the station. I look forward to seeing you there !!!

Valentin Mandache, expert in Romania’s historic houses

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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

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.

Road utilities and Art Deco style house

During the “roaring ’20s” and in the second part of the 1930s, after the Great Depression, Bucharest went through a process of rapid urban. That was the period when the first proper urban development masterplan of the city was elaborated and approved, which in large part is still followed today. The architecture of the new dwellings and public edifices erected in those years was usually Art Deco and Neo-Romanian.

I found in one of my field day in Kiseleff area an interesting side street developed in that period, where I was able to discern its evolution, from first having in place the road utilities, followed in the subsequent years by houses built on plots lining up the road. The photograph bellow shows a canal lid dating from 1927, inscribed with the name of Bucharest’s sewerage works board and produced by a factory in Sibiu, Transylvania, the new province of then Romania acquired after the Great War. That indicates with a fair degree of accuracy the period when the road was built and its utilities infrastructure put in place.

Road infrastructure and Art Deco style house, Kiseleff area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The year on the canal lid corresponds with the beginnings of the Art Deco era architecture in Bucharest, a style clearly reflected in that of many houses built in subsequent stages on that road, as is the interesting example shown in the following photographs.

Road infrastructure and Art Deco style house, Kiseleff area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

This ample Art Deco style house was probably built roundabout the year 1930, judging by it typology, building technology and type of ornaments.

Road infrastructure and Art Deco style house, Kiseleff area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The house is embellished with a beautiful Art Deco panel containing luxuriant flowers and vegetation, sunburst and rainbow motifs. I like how the rainbows are marked by thunderbolts, suggesting the storms of the southern seas, a world that enthralled the Romanians of that era, dwellers of a latitude with harsh, Siberia-like, winters.

Road infrastructure and Art Deco style house, Kiseleff area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The house also boasts a beautiful ethnographic solar eight ray disc, inspired from the Neo-Romanian architecture, rendered in this case in an alluring Art Deco manner.

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

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.

Mosilor area: images from last Sunday’s architectural history & photo tour

Mosilor area: images from last Sunday’s architectural history and photography tour (©Valentin Mandache)

The tour which I organised last Sunday, 7 August ’11, the tenth such end of the week cultural excursion :), in Mosilor area of Bucharest has been very popular, attended by professionals and students alike, in majority Romanians, as well as people from Ireland or the US, settled or working here. Mosilor is one of the most picturesque and evocative quarters of old Bucharest, being a mostly residential district with a strong identity expressed in its people’s sense of community and delightful historic architecture. The quarter grew around the famous Mosilor fair, which since the c18th, when was first mentioned in documents, took place outside the walls of the old city, on the road that went to Moldova, also known as “Drumul Mare” (the Highway). The fair and quarter around it grew spectacularly once the principalities of Wallachia and Moldova got united, forming Romania, in the aftermath of the Crimea War. Mosilor area, as a consequence, has a relatively high density of exquisite late c19th houses rendered in the “Little Paris style” architecture, what I name the French and other western historicist styles of that period interpreted in a provincial manner in Romania. Another well represented architectural style is the Neo-Romanian, ranging from early examples dating from the last years of the c19th, to hybrids with the Art Deco, erected in the 1930s. There is also a multitude of other styles from different periods- from a late c18th Balkan Ottoman dwelling, to Beaux Arts, Art Deco and Modernist edifices dotting the quaint and leafy streets of Mosilor. I thus trust that the participants enjoyed a good cultural Sunday morning out, full of discoveries and revelations about one of the most loved and enchanting quarters of old Bucharest. :)

Mosilor area: participants and guide during the last Sunday’s architectural history and photography tour (photo: Ioana Novac)

Mosilor area: participants and guide during the last Sunday’s architectural history and photography tour (photo: Ioana Novac)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

!!! The next Sunday (14 August ’11, 9am-12.00) architectural history and photography tour will take place in Domenii hisoric quarter – Casa Scanteii building, north-west-central Bucharest (see a map at this link); meeting point: in the Arch of Triumph square at the Herastrau park entrance in front of the big black public clock. I look forward to seeing you there !!!

Valentin Mandache, expert in Romania’s historic houses

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

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.

Art Deco staircase tower window

Art Deco staircase tower window, mid-1930s house, Matei Basarb area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

I like the svelte lines of this staircase tower window from an Art Deco house in east-central Bucharest, which is excellently preserved despite the inauspicious conditions that prevailed in the country ever since the beginning of the WWII. Its quite austere lines remind me of the high tech factories of that era (e.g. automobile or aircraft industry), a main source of inspiration for the Art Deco style.

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

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.