Potlogi Palace: on the borderland between restoration and imagination

The Neo-Romanian architectural style is based on a multiplicity of sources from throughout the regions of Romania, chiefly among them churches and palaces built during a period centred on the reign of the Wallachian prince Constantin Brancoveanu (1688 – 1714). The architecture developed throughout that era is usually termed as Brancovan (other terms are Wallachian or Romanian Renaissance), representing a very peculiar, flamboyant mix of southern Romanian and Ottoman Islamic motifs together with European Renaissance (northern Italian) and baroque elements. Unfortunately, not many of those extraordinary buildings are still around, due to wars, frequent invasions by armies of the neighbouring empires, earthquakes or devastating great fires. Also an important proportion of the remaining edifices were in the course of time heavily altered.

The relative scarcity of such archetype structures, was something about which even Ion Mincu, the initiator of the Neo-Romanian style, complained about at the end of the c19th. Consequently many of the old Brancovan buildings had to be reconstructed in the modern era on the basis of disparate surviving fragments, using a a great deal of imagination in putting them together.

A case in point is that of Potlogi Palace, presented in images bellow, built by the prince Constantin Brancoveanu at the height of his power and during the flourishing of the Brancovan style in Wallachian arts and architecture.

Potlogi Palace, late c17th, southern Romania

The edifice, completed in 1698 – ’99, was destroyed by an invading Ottoman force just a decade and a half later, in 1714, as part of the reprisals for prince’s supposed collaboration with Peter the Great of Russia, and left in a ruinous state for the next two and a half centuries. The Palace, for the next two and a half centuries, became a shadow of its former glory, having a multitude of circumstantial uses, and in the end left in ruin (see the above photograph).

Potlogi Palace, late c17th, southern Romania

The restoration of Potlogi Palace was undertaken only in 1955, during the communist regime, and closely followed the Brancovan models developed at the Mogosoaia Palace, another great edifice from that period, restored in the 1920s by the great Romanian architect George Matei Cantacuzino. He also initially faced a ruin there and had to copiously use his imagination in the restoration work, taking clues from the architecture of the Brancovan period monasteries of Vacaresti (in its turn destroyed in the 1980s by the dictator Ceausescu), Hurezi, Stavropoleos and Doamnei church.

Potlogi Palace, late c17th, southern Romania; photo taken in 2007 (©Valentin Mandache)

A brief and insightful account of the restoration works is given in the publication “Studii si Cercetari de Istoria Artei”, vol. 1, 1960 (Romanian Academy).

Potlogi Palace, late c17th, southern Romania, photo taken in 2007 (©Valentin Mandache)

The way how the palace looks today is obviously a creation based on many suppositions, disparate remains, and, as I mentioned, imagination. The resulting majestic outlines, nevertheless manage to convey a good impression of how the great Brancovan era edifices were and the originality of that architecture.

Potlogi Palace, late c17th, southern Romania, photo taken in 2007 (©Valentin Mandache)

The veranda decorations and architectural details, in the image above, are a close rendering of those from the Mogosoaia Palace, which in their turn were designed by the arch. GM Cantacuzino, inspired, in this case, mainly by elements encountered at the Hurezi and Vacaresti monasteries.

Potlogi Palace, late c17th, southern Romania. Inauguration inscription by its founder, prince Constantin Brancoveanu; photo taken in 2007 (©Valentin Mandache)

The dedicatory inscription, shown above, one of the few surviving elements from the original palace, is in the Cyrillic script, used in Wallachia and Moldova until the alphabet reform of the mid-18th and mentions in initials on its corners the name and title of Potlogi Palace founder: “Io [I], K [Constantin], B [Brancoveanu], V [Voivode/ Prince]“.

Potlogi Palace, late c17th, southern Romania; the palace cellars, photo taken in 2007. (©Valentin Mandache)

The structure of the palace is sustained in great part by a single massive central pillar in the underground, pictured above.

Potlogi Palace, late c17th, southern Romania; photo taken in 2007 (©Valentin Mandache)

The image above presents the Byzantine double headed eagle, part of prince Brancoveanu’s coat of arms as a member of the old Cantacuzene imperial family of Byzantium; 1950s reconstruction.

Potlogi Palace, late c17th, southern Romania; photo taken in 2007. (©Valentin Mandache)

The photograph shows part of the interior stucco decoration with Persian and Ottoman motifs in the genre of the c17th Wallachian palaces, modelled after similar type decoration found at Doamnei church and other Brancovan era buildings.

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I endeavour 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 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.

Neo-Romanian style columns

Neo-Romanian style columns adorning 1920s and '30s houses, Dorobanti area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

One year ago I published on this blog a photomontage of gracious Neo-Romanian style colums that embellish private and public buildings throughout Bucharest. The new collage presented above contains again just a small sample from the great diversity of such artefacts that I found during a simple architectural photography outing last Sunday in the Dorobanti quarter of Bucharest. Often the Neo-Romanian columns are short and quite chunky, reflecting their origin in the Byzantine and Ottoman church architecture, at which is added a hint of Baroque influences, found in late medieval examples of ecclesiastical edifices in Wallachia (a combination of traits called the Brancovan style or Romanian Renaissance in specialist literature). That is the typology reflected by the columns in the above example with the exception of the upper right one, which is an interesting composition that leans toward what I usually call the Inter-war Venetian style version of the Neo-Romanian order, displaying an exuberance of grapevine motifs from leaves to grape fruit arranged together in three delicate design registers on the shaft and capital.

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I endeavor through this daily series of daily 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.

Little Paris style roof eave

Little Paris style roof eave, 1890s house, Filaret area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

This image is a telling example of what Bucharest’s Little Paris style is about- a Romanian provincial manner interpretation, during Fin de Siècle period, of French c19th historicist style fashionable at that time in the country and in a somehow lesser degree throughout the former Ottoman domains of the Balkan peninsula (ie the neo-Rococo elements  seen in this instance in the pediment and classical-like pilasters and capitals) combined with Ottoman – Balkan motifs (the flowery cassettes making up the frieze, the rope motif on its base, the intricate wooden roof eave support arms, the elongated wrought iron ornaments decorating the trough on the roof edge, etc.)

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I endeavour through this daily series of daily 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 Contactpage of this weblog.

Neo-Romanian – Art Deco syncretism style doorway

A magnificent Neo-Romanian - Art Deco syncretism style doorway, early 1930s house, Domenii area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

I found the doorway in the image above as marvellously expressing in a flamboyant manner the syncretism between the Neo-Romanian and Art Deco styles that characterised the Romanian architectural scene of the 1930s. The Islamic motif ornaments originating in the Ottoman and Persian art from which the Neo-Romanian style draws a great deal of inspiration, with their angular geometry, represent the background on which the Art Deco outlines can develop in a natural manner. That can can be seen here in the mihrab like outlines of the small courtyard gate, the doorway windows ironwork or the resplendent group of three plaster ogee arches of the door pediment.

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I endeavour through this daily series of daily 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.

Ethnographic identity veranda poles

Ethnographic veranda poles, mid-1930s Neo-Romanian house, Campina, southern Romania (©Valentin Mandache)

This is a well preserved example of veranda poles adorning a large mid 1930s Neo-Romanian style house in central Campina, southern Romania, inspired from the ethnographic motifs of Prahova county. The main particularity of this ethnographic province is that it features a mix of Carpathian and Ottoman Balkan (especially Bulgarian-like) ethnography. The Carpathian ethnographic motifs and artefacts are typically very geometric and angular, a sort of “peasant cubism” reflecting the artistic traditions of a population settled in the area since the first arrivals of the Indo-European populations more than five millennia ago, seen here in the shape and symbols of the capitals adoring the poles. The Ottoman Balkan ethnography is characterised by a more cursive, round geometry with floral motifs, reflecting the influence of the subsequent waves of populations that settled the area in the course of history from Slavs and especially Central Asian origin Turkish populations, seen here in the motifs embellishing the poles’ base. The veranda poles presented in this photograph, the creation of a talented and well informed inter-war Romanian architect, display excellently in their choice of motifs the ethnographic identity of the people of the area where the house was built; it is practically a statement of regional Prahova county identity.

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I endeavor through this daily series of daily 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.

Early Neo-Romanian style pattern

Early Neo-Romanian style pattern decorating the exterior walls of a late 1890s house in the St Joseph's Cathedral area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The pattern contains the representation of the lilac leaf motif, popular in the Art Nouveau and also early Neo-Romanian style (itself, at that stage, one of the many national-romantic styles that developed within the general Art Nouveau movement coordinates). I encountered, during my fieldwork in the city, a number of such exquisite early Neo-Romanian houses that display this peculiar pattern, as is the window example documented in this article, a decorative pattern that seemingly was popular among the craftsmen, architects and house owners of Fin de Siecle Bucharest.

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I endeavor through this daily series of daily 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 Contactpage of this weblog.

Balkan region corner shop house

1900s corner shop house, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The building above is one of the innumerable end of c19th corner shop establishments (it could have been at one time or another during its existence a grocery, a pub or a restaurant or all of these functions together), provided with living quarters on the first floor, that sprang up in towns throughout the Old Kingdom (how Romania before the Great War territorial changes is often called by the Romanians themselves). The architecture is what I call the Little Paris style, a mixture of provincially interpreted French c19th styles grafted on an Ottoman building fabric. This type of corner shop, where the owner’s family and sometime even the employees were living on the premises has been common throughout the Balkan Peninsula, as far as Anatolia in Turkey and is a reflection of the architectural fashions of the late Victorian Era throughout the region. Today the old Balkan type corner shop is an endangered species, being one of the prime targets for demolition or radical renovation in order to make way for new, more profitable buildings. They constitute, in my opinion, a very picturesque type of edifice, specific to the Balkans and Turkey from an era of interesting Western and Ottoman reciprocal influences. These building can easily find new uses in the today economy, especially in the tourism industry owning to their usually central location and architectural character reflecting the intricate economic and cultural history of this region of Europe, formerly part of the erstwhile Ottoman ream.

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I endeavor through this daily series of daily 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.

Early Neo-Romanian style window

Early Neo-Romanian style window, dating from the 1890s, Armeneasca area, Bucharest. (©Valentin Mandache)

The window and the building which it adorns date from the last decade of the c19th, a period when the Neo-Romanian architectural style was still in its infancy. I documented in previous blog articles a number of such exquisite houses, which display decorative and structural features from that fascinating formative period, click here or here to access some examples. This particular window displays an interesting transition between between elements peculiar to the Little Paris style (French c19th historicist styles interpreted in a provincial manner in the late c19th Romania), such as the two classical like columns or the flower garland rim, and Wallachian church and Ottoman decorative elements, where most conspicuous are the type of the broken arch crowning the top of the window and the repeating leaf motif decorating the pediment.

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I endeavor through this series of daily 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.

Rare Arabic Votive Inscription on Romanian Church Doorway

Arabic votive inscription on Romanian church doorway, dating from 1747, Old St Spiridon Church, Bucharest. (©Valentin Mandache)

Most of what is now Romania has been for centuries a part of the Ottoman Empire. The principalities of Wallachia and Moldova, and also at a later date Transylvania, where the only autonomous Christian protectorates of this empire, governed by Christian princes, where permanent places of Muslim worship or settlement where not allowed, following special c15th autonomy treaties with the Porte. For about one hundred years, from the beginning of the c18th, Wallachia and Moldova where governed by princes from the great Istanbul Greek families, loyal subjects of the sultan, who lived in the Phanar quarter of the great city, hence the generic name of their rule in the Danubian principalities as the Phanariot regime. They opened this peripheral region, previously dominated by the Hungarian and Polish kingdoms, to the culture and economy of the rest of the realm of the Padishah. Bucharest thus became a city where one could encounter traders from as far as Damascus, as well as Tripoli or Cairo. Also representatives of diverse Christian sects and denominations from throughout the Ottoman Empire found in this city a welcoming home. One of them was the Patriarch Sylvester of Antioch, in Syria, a mainly Arabic speaking church, who resided in Bucharest during the fifth decade of the c18th, a period of bitter struggles within this church that led to its split into an Orthodox and a Greek Catholic branch, in communion with Rome. Prince Constantine Mavrocordatos, the ruler of Wallachia and a member of the the very prominent Ottoman Greek family of Mavrocordatos from Istanbul, that had a crucial role in the Greek Enlightenment, granted, in 1747, to the Patriarch of Antioch and his suite of Arabiac speaking monks, the Bucharest church of “Saint Spiridon of Trimutinda” (known today as “The Old St Spiridon Church“) and other revenue making properties in the city. The photomontage above and the slide show bellow the text show the impressive doorway of this church, decorated with a votive inscription in Romanian (rendered in Cyrillic characters), Greek and Arabic languages, containing Prince Constantine Mavrocordatos’ solemn statement granting the church to the Patriarch Sylvester of Antioch and his congregation. The Arabic text is a rarity for Bucharest and Romania in general, where Muslims, in conformity with the special Christian protectorate status of Wallachia and Moldova within the Ottoman realm, where not allowed to build places of worship. By contrast, Arabic speaking Christians, were responsible for one of the such rare old inscriptions of Bucharest. The votive inscription also contains a medallion with the symbols of Wallachia (an eagle) and Moldova (an auroch head) together, denoting the fact that Constantine Mavrocordatos was appointed by the Sultan to rule at one time or another in both principalities. I very much like the particular design of this doorway, a beautiful mingling of Ottoman Islamic and Byzantine shapes, that became the hallmark of the Romanian church architecture of the c18th and the c19th, from where the architect Ion Mincu, the initiator of the Neo-Romanian style has found a rich source of inspiration. This inscription is a witness of an epoch when this land was part of a great empire that stretched from Budapest to Mecca, and how fashions and styles from far away lands blend and enrich each other, resulting in processes that can take centuries in new vitalist artistic expressions.

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I endeavor through this series of daily 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.

Old Ottoman Glazed Verandas

Old houses built by small merchants, with glazed verandas, dating from the late c19th. Targoviste, southern Romania. (©Valentin Mandache)

A common feature of the Balkan Ottoman town houses built between the c18th and c19th are the large airy verandas spanning the entire street façade length. Once the glass technology has became cheaper in the late c18th, affording the production of larger glass pane quantities, these verandas started to be glazed over. That was a very effective means to increase the comfort of the occupants and also their privacy, an important element of family life throughout the Ottoman realm for all communities, Muslim, Christian or Jewish. The glazed veranda house thus became one of the most conspicuous type of Balkan Ottoman provincial town building. It was also often encountered in the Romanian provinces of Wallachia and Moldova that were for centuries under Ottoman rule. Today the glazed veranda houses are a rarity in Romania, after being replaced, over the last century and a half, on a massive scale by newer and more fashionable architectures ranging from French historicist styles to Neo-Romanian and Art Deco, which were also perceived as more prestigious vis-à-vis the old Ottoman heritage. I managed to find in Targoviste, a provincial town 80km north-west of Bucharest, some eloquent examples of glazed veranda houses dating from that era, presented in the photomontage above. They were built in the late c19th by local small merchants and the main reason why they are still around nowadays is probably because the actual occupants are too poor to afford ‘improvements’ like plastic frame double glazing or new concrete walls. These houses used to have, in the old days, impressive wooden shingle roofs, before the metal sheet covers became affordable in the early c20th. I was thus quite pleased to discover in this example a small patch of the old shingle roof, visible trough a small damaged area of the metal sheet cover (see the photomontage upper image, where the shingle roof fragment is discernible just to the right from the satellite dish). Such a house with glazed veranda and shingle roof, on a mostly a wooden structure, could constitute cheap and straight forward potential restoration/ renovation project for anyone willing to tackle such an enterprise, which would greatly contribute to the revitalisation of the old architectural heritage of the once charming Romanian provincial towns. Sadly most of the locals continue to see such structures as decrepit and replace them as soon as they get hold of a minimum of funds for ‘improvements'; in that regard the actual economic crisis is quite a godsend insuring the survival of these interesting historic houses.

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I endeavor through this series of daily 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.

“Ex Occidente Press” – books and mention of my architectural photography

Last month I had the privilege to be presented with a stack of five beautifully cloth bound books, written by British authors, one of whom mentions my architectural photography and articles. They were received from Mr Dan Ghetu, the director of Ex Occidente Press, a small, but dynamic and resourceful English language publishing house with an exclusive international distribution, based in Bucharest, specialised in fantastic and decadent literature, described on its website as “rara et nova fiction of the supernatural, the odd and the weird, the strange and the decadent, the fantastic and the obscure, the very holy and the luxuriously heretical”.

The books are entitled as follows: The Mascarons of the Late Empire & Other Studies by Mark Valentine (2010), The Silver Voices by John Howard (2010), The Wounds of Exile by Reggie Oliver (2010), Cinnabar’s Gnosis: A Homage to Gustav Meyrink collective work (2009) and The Night-farers by Mark Valentine (2009). Photograph collages of the books’ dust-cover, hard back cover and title page are shown bellow.

Two of the authors, John Howard and Mark Valentine are readers of my blog, where John is a regular commenter of the Art Deco and modernist architecture themed articles, while Mark has found inspiration for the title and subject of the lead story of his “Mascarons of the Late Empire” from some my blog articles and photographs as he kindly acknowledges in the postface. Bellow is the photomontage presenting this particular book that contains a collection of four stories:

"The Mascarons of the Late Empire" by Valentine, Ex Occidente Press 2010- covers & title page.

The postface contains, as I mentioned, a kind acknowledgement (see the text image bellow) of my architectural photographs and articles that sparked Mark’s imagination to write the story; a link to that particular blog article and image entitled “The Mascarons of Bucharest” is here. I am grateful for Mark’s appreciation of my ‘fine architectural photography’, as he puts it, an undeveloped visual arts field in Romania, which I strive to develop.

Postface of the "The Mascarons of the Late Empire" by Mark Valentine, Ex Occidente Press, 2010.

John’s book (see the photomontage presentation bellow) contains seven absolutely Continue reading

Superlative Neo-Romanian Style Balcony Assembly

Neo-Romanian style balcony assembly from a late 1920s grand house in the Cismigiu area of Bucharest. (Valentin Mandache)

The Neo-Romanian style balcony assembly, presented in the image above, adorns a newly restored house in this architectural style, which in my opinion is one of most professional such operations undertaken in Bucharest during the last two decades, for any type of historic buildings. The decorative details are most exquisite and lovingly restored, including the balcony door woodwork. The ornamental motifs and outlines represent a textbook of Neo-Romanian architecture, where one can clearly see the main source of inspiration of this order from the late medieval Wallachian church architecture and also Ottoman Balkan motifs. In my view, the main source of inspiration for the designer of this particular house and balcony is probably the architecture of Curtea de Arges cathedral in southern Romania. This is one of the most beautiful basilicas of the entire Eastern Church world, a flamboyant gathering of motifs found between the c14th and the c17th throughout the vast former Ottoman Empire, the polity to which the Romanian lands belonged for over four centuries. The patterns present there can be traced back in old Georgia, Armenia, Anatolia and even Persia (see in that regard the coronal adornment of the balcony assembly, which looks as taken from the decorative panoply of a Persian mosque or the double arch of the window opening, again an Oriental motif, etc).

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I endeavor through this series of daily 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.

Neo-Romanian Style Doorway From the 1910s Decade

1910s Neo-Romanian style doorway, Silvestru area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The Neo-Romanian style doorway assembly in the photograph above is very interesting in the sense that it displays decorative motifs typical of the 1910s Bucharest architectural fashions, just before the start of the Great War. The main Neo-Romanian features are the Ottoman type broken arch moulding that acts as a pediment and the gridiron of the door windows, also inspired form Ottoman Balkan motifs. The door itself also contains Little Paris style decorations like the wood carved details on the lower level panels, or the central beam motifs, etc.  The architectural syncretism between the Neo-Romanian and the Little Paris styles, was in many aspects a characteristic of that decade, preceding the triumph of the former and the obliteration of the later style after the Great War.

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I endeavor through this series of daily 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.

Neo-Romanian Style Floral Frieze

Detail from a Neo-Romanian style floral frieze part of a richly decorated panoply of a house dating from the early 1930s in the Gara de Nord area of Bucharest. (©Valentin Mandache)

I already published back in April an image with the veranda of the house that contains this wonderful frieze, where the blossoming decoration can be seen in its Neo-Romanian style context, click here for access. This moulded strip reminds me of the oversized floral ornaments sculpted on the façades of the ancient Ottoman palaces from Anatolia, a motif which via the Ottoman Balkan architecture found its way into the decorative panoply of the Neo-Romanian order.

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I endeavor through this daily series of daily 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.

Patriarchal Bucharest “Little Paris” Style Corner House

An example of patriarchal Bucharest "Little Paris" style street corner house dating from the 1890s; Armeneasca area. (©Valentin Mandache)

The “Little Paris” architecture was very popular in Bucharest during the last decades of the c19th until the advent of the Great War, being part of the first building boom experienced by the city and Romania in general. The style represents a picturesque symbiosis of provincially interpreted French c19th historicist architectural orders and a multitude of local Ottoman Balkan decorative elements and traditional construction methods. The emergence of this type of architecture was part of the powerful westernisation drive of the country after gaining full independence from the Ottoman Empire (formalised by the 1878 Treaty of Berlin that concluded the Russian-Turkish war). This was a nationwide building programme financed especially by revenues from the large grain production that Romania, as an independent state, was able to export to the western markets. Today the “Little Paris” style houses of Bucharest represent some of the most specific examples of indigenous urban architecture, being also relatively easy and not prohibitively expensive to restore/ renovate. Unfortunately, these houses, being perceived by many locals as archaic and outdated, are also among of the easiest victims of rapacious property “developers” or ignorant owners who deface them through botched renovation/”modernisation” works. The example in the image above shows a enchantingly picturesque street corner example of a “Little Paris” style house. I like its patriarchal setting, simplicity and the juxtaposition of historicist ornaments (the base of plaster garland rectangles) with the decorative Ottoman broken arches that embellish the windows and the small roof eave pilasters.

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I endeavor through this daily series of daily 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.