Grand Art Nouveau style remodelling project in Chisinau

Chisinau (Kishinev), the capital of the Republic of Moldova, is blessed with a fascinating mix of period architecture dating mostly from the second part of c19th and the first half of the c20th, reflecting the evolution of architectural tastes of the Russian Empire, Romania and the Stalinist Soviet Union. The city contains a number of attractive Art Nouveau style edifices, the most spectacular being a recent remodelling of a Fin de Siècle house, which I encountered during my recent Chisinau trip. The edifice is mentioned on the well documented website “Centrul Istoric al Chisinaului“, which is a comprehensive database of architecturally valuable buildings in the historical centre of the Republic of Moldova’s capital. At the entry detailing the house, which was compiled before the start of the remodelling project, is mentioned that the façade used to be Art Nouveau (named “modern” in the terminology of the Moldovan architects), but completely erased of its decoration during the vicious 1990s post-Soviet property boom. It seems that in the intervening time an enlightened proprietor has decided to bring something back from the edifice’s former glory, as the photographs, which I was able to take from the street, amply testify. In my opinion is a tasteful remodelling and it might also be in the spirit of the original decoration that adorned the house, as I believe the owner had access to old plans and photographs from which the contemporary designer could guide him/her/self. It reminds me of another Art Nouveau project from scratches which takes place in Bucharest, which I documented in 2010 on this blog. I believe that this particular instance is a positive development for Chisinau, and the post-Soviet world, in raising the awareness and appreciation about the local architectural heritage that suffered so much during the two world conflagrations of the c20th, the Soviet era or the most devastating for heritage last two decade since the Soviet empire fell.

Grand Art Nouveau style remodelling project, Pushkin Street, Chisinau (©Valentin Mandache)

Grand Art Nouveau style remodelling project, Pushkin Street, Chisinau: first floor balcony decoration (©Valentin Mandache)

Grand Art Nouveau style remodelling, Pushkin Street, Chisinau: detail of the pediment decoration, 1st floor balcony (©Valentin Mandache)

Grand Art Nouveau style remodelling, Pushkin Street, Chisinau:  detail of the pediment decoration, 1st floor balcony (©Valentin Mandache)

Grand Art Nouveau style remodelling, Pushkin Street, Chisinau: window pediment decoration (©Valentin Mandache)

Grand Art Nouveau style remodelling, Pushkin Street, Chisinau: pilaster capital (©Valentin Mandache)

Grand Art Nouveau style remodelling, Pushkin Street, Chisinau: detail of doorway pediment decoration (©Valentin Mandache)

Art Deco style semi-detached houses in Ploiesti

I would like to present you another magnificent period building photographed during my trip last week to Ploiesti, the oil town 60km north of Bucharest. The previous house I wrote about was a La Belle Époque period Little Paris town mansion; that article can be read at this link. This one is a well designed mid-1930s Art Deco example of semi-detached houses, which has an extraordinary personality. The edifice is located on Independentei Street, not far from the city’s main train station. It had escaped, by a miracle in my opinion, the epic 1943 American Air Forces bomber attack that devastated the area, which although was aimed at the destruction of the oil refining industry from around Ploiesti, many stray bombs fell on the city itself. That operation against those oil fields that in the Second World War supplied the German war machine, is known in the military annals as Operation Tidal Wave, one the costliest actions in terms of pilot and aircraft losses of the US Air Forces in Europe.

Art Deco style semi-detached houses dating from the mid-1930s, Ploiesti (©Valentin Mandache)

The main feature of the building is embodied by its monumental twin staircase towers around which a multitude of Art Deco design elements get unfurled, from extraordinarily attractive doorways, streamline-like balconies with eyebrow awnings, a well proportioned street fence or ample rooftop verandas.

One of the doorways embellishing the Art Deco style semi-detached houses dating from the mid-1930s, Ploiesti (©Valentin Mandache)

The door displays sunbursts among motifs that look like clouds, while the doorway opening is decorated with a “fleshy” Art Deco floral motif, in the manner of the local Brancovan and Neo-Romanian styles, which reminds me of some of architect’s Toma T. Socolescu‘s designs. He was extremelly influential in Ploiesti and Prahova county during the inter-war period and there could be a possibility that he might be the designer of this building too.

The staircase towers: Art Deco style semi-detached houses dating from the mid-1930s, Ploiesti (©Valentin Mandache)

The twin staircase towers are embellished with a ziggurat motif, very characteristic of the Art Deco style.

Art Deco style semi-detached houses dating from the mid-1930s, Ploiesti (©Valentin Mandache)

The structure, through its wonderful proportions and high design qualities, stands out among the built landscape surrounding it. I hope that the current renovation works, which seem to take place, would bring something back from its former glory.

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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 Contactpage of this weblog.

Quaint Little Paris style house in Ploiesti

Little Paris style house from the La Belle Époque period in Ploiesti (©Valentin Mandache)

This Thursday I undertook a short trip to Ploiesti, the centre of the Romanian oil industry, 60km north of Bucharest, and managed to photograph a sample of its great multitude of architecturally remarkable houses, built in large part by money generated by its oil wealth and also from Ploiesti’s traditional role as major market town in the region. Its urban development and architectural mix resembles at a smaller scale the historical trajectory followed by Bucharest. One of those noteworthy building, which I encountered there, located on the Independentei Street, is presented in this post’s photographs. It is a picturesque Little Paris style (what I call the French c19th historicist architecture provincially interpreted in Romania of the La Belle Époque period) dwelling, dating probably form the second part of the 1890s or the first years of the c20th at the latest, which seems quite well preserved. This type is often encountered within the territory of the Old Romanian Kingdom (pre-WWI Romania, which did not contain Transylvania and other territories gained after the war). Its general outlines remind me of an evocative Bucharest house from an impressionist style painting, about which I wrote a past article, see this link. I like its compact, box-like appearance, with rounded corners, central wrought iron doorway and ample shell-shape awning. The roof boasts two protruding round attic windows, an ornamental crest and spiky details dotting the drain trough at regular intervals. The decorative register for this type of house is generally inspired from the rococo style panoply, often containing interesting Art Nouveau elements for edifices built at the turn between the c19th and c20th. The Art Nouveau style bits in this particular example are seen in the glazed shell-shape doorway awning and parts of the design of its wrought iron gateway and street fence, fragments of which are presented in the photomontage bellow.

Wrought iron doorway with shell-shape glazed awning, Little Paris style house dating from the late 1890s or early 1900s, Ploiesti (©Valentin Mandache)

Details of the Art Nouveau style elements adorning the gateway of a Little Paris style house (1890s - 1900s), Ploiesti (©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 Contactpage of this weblog.

Freshly repaired Art Deco house façade

Bellow is a fairly good example of a freshly repaired and painted Art Deco house façade, a rare occurrence within the generally run down and much abused built landscape of Bucharest. Those improvement works were most probably performed by a developer, which erected a large commercial building just across the road from that house (in fact there is a row of Art Deco houses, all Art Deco and freshly painted) and was part of a deal by which the developer got the local house owners approval to build a taller and therefore more profitable edifice, although that would have impeded the quality of life in the area. That is a commonplace understanding encountered all over the place in Romania, where the property developers can bring to their side the local inhabitants promising them free repair works or infrastructure improvements. The case presented here is one of the happier such instances, which I hope will get more widespread as both the house owners and developers get more educated about the preservation of the local built heritage.

Art Deco style house, mid-1930s, Calea Victoriei area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

However, I have some criticism regarding this repair: the choice of window frames, white plastic, is tacky and does not follow the scheme of the original ones, which were probably designed in three vertical panes, according to the Art Deco style’s rule of three. Also, the profile of the rainwater drainpipes should have been square or rectangular in tone with the shape of the balcony or other rectangular shapes found within the façade, the new pipes being just ordinary DIY shop stock artefacts.

Art Deco style house, mid-1930s, Calea Victoriei area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The doorway is well preserved and necessitated only palliative paint touches to bring it back to life. I believe that repairing the façade of those houses was quite a cheap job for the developer, with maximum results regarding its higher objectives.

Art Deco style house, mid-1930s, Calea Victoriei area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The above picture presents the side of the dwelling, again quite well spruced up. The recently erected tall and large commercial building, from which this Art Deco house and its neighbours benefited in this auspicious way, is discernible in the background .

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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 Contactpage 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.

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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.

1900s Corner Shop in Provincial Romania

1900s corner shop house, today functioning as a dwelling, Targoviste, southern Romania (©Valentin Mandache)

The above image shows a quaint and relatively well preserved former corner-shop building, which also doubled as a local pub, dating from the turn between the c19th and the c20th, in Targoviste, southern Romania. It is a structure once ubiquitous in provincial towns, villages or the outlying quarters of Bucharest, but a rarity nowadays. The building represents an excellent historic commercial architecture witness for this area of Europe and would constitute a cheap and easy potential restoration – renovation project for anyone willing to undertake such an endeavour. I like in this particular example how the original window shutters are secured with impressive transversal iron bars, exactly as in the old days. I do wonder if the interior of the house still preserves something from the old shop layout or furniture.

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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.

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.

Bucharest Art Nouveau House: Letter from A Reader

Bucharest Art Nouveau house, Dorobanti area (©Valentin Mandache)

Recently I had the pleasant surprise to receive a letter from one of my readers who has seen photographs of his house published and analyzed on my blog in two previous articles (Bucharest Art Nouveau House and Blue frame Art Nouveau Window). The house in question is one of the few methodically restored and renovated historical buildings in Bucharest. That was possible because, as I found out from the message, the proprietor is an experienced architect, who has meticulously restored his own house. The results are indeed remarkable, as I detailed in my articles. The edifice is designed in what I would describe as a predominantly Art Nouveau style, with some motifs and shapes recycled from the c19th historicist and other architectural styles popular at that time in Bucharest. The new and substantial information brought to the fore by my reader about his house are an absolute gem, enlivening this fascinating period property from Romania’s capital with mentions about its architect, previous owners and their often dramatic personal stories, detailing the laborious and difficult restoration works undertaken. The following is the letter received from my reader concerning this beautiful historic edifice:

Dear Sir,

I would like to bring to your attention, in my quality as the proprietor of the house described in your blog articles, the following additional information:

The house has been built in 1915 by a Czech entrepreneur, for his German wife. The architect was a member of the Storck family, the famous Bucharest artists, namely Jean (Johann) Storck. I have affixed a name tablet with his signature on the façade, next to the main entrance. The architectural style is a composite one (the client probably requested that), for example mixing together [nn in an Art Nouveau matrix] Neo-Romanian elements (on the street façade) with elements inspired from the German expressionism seen in such house examples from Berlin or Prague (on the courtyard façade).

Because the wife of that entrepreneur did not like the house, it was sold as soon as it was finished to a Romanian aristocratic family, the judge Constatin R. Sturdza and his wife Maria-Irina (nee Campineanu). The family was part of the high Bucharest society, but decent and quite religious when compared to the conspicuous frivolity and arrogance displayed by many among that class during those times.

Mr. Costantin Sturdza has been a front line officer during the Great War, the president of the Constanta County court of justice, and later a good lawyer. He also administered the land and farms that remained in his wife’s property after the radical state agrarian reform of 1923.

His brother became a Foreign Affairs Minister during the Legionary (nn the local Romanian fascist party) government in the first phase of Antonescu’s regime [nn 1940]. Constantin (aka Costache) Sturdza was vehemently opposed to the deportation by the Romanian fascist government to Trandnestria in the Romanian and German occupied Ukraine of the Roma/ Gypsy minority members who lived on his land properties (the family has a letter from those Roma people attesting that fact).

It is interesting that this house has been visited a few times by the fascist dictator Ion Antonescu, who came there for discussions with Costache Sturdza’s brother (before he took over the power in the country in the autumn of 1940). The meetings took place in the lawyer’s office on the ground floor of the building.

After the 23 August 1944 royal coup (nn when Romania broke the alliance with Nazi Germany, joining the Allied cause) the house became the residency of the General Radu R. Rosetti (an in law relative of the Sturdza family), the famous military historian of Romania. He was subsequently arrested by the new authorities and died in the Vacaresti prison.

Costache Sturdza’s wife has been one of the local Red Cross presidents, and their children were also distinguished persons, such as the navy officer, Dinu Sturdza (married with Ionana Rosetti, the daughter of General Rosetti), Ion Sturdza (an engineer, who has recently died in France), Maria Irina (married Fof) (an agronomist), the wife of professor Mihai Pop (the great Romanian folklorist) or Ileana Sturdza (married Cerchez).

Even the owner, Costache Sturdza, was forced to endure a few spells in political prisons between 1945- 1949.

The house was confiscated by the state in 1950, but continued to be partly occupied by the owners’ family until 1989. Among other communist era tenants of this house was the family of the actor Dan Nutu. They were also harassed by the communist authorities, but professor Mihai Pop has managed through his efforts and connections to protect them and avoid the worst prosecutions to which they were exposed because of their status as descendants of an aristocratic family.

Art Nouveau house, Bucharest, how it looked before and after the restoration works

After the 1989 regime change in Romania, the family has successfully reclaimed the property, which was by then in a very run down state as is shown on the left hand side column of photographs in the above collage [nn the right hand column shows images of the house after subsequent restoration and renovation works]. I bought the property in 2003, and being an architect by profession I restored and renovated it in all details after the long 45 years period during which it was badly maintained by a communist state property management company (ICRAL). Amid those works I discovered the original colourful frieze mentioned in your article, hidden under a layer of plaster put there by the ICRAL people. I had an excellent team of workers that assisted me throughout this laborious project, without any support from the state authorities in charge with the heritage buildings, and tried my best to bring it as close as possible to its original shape and details.

One of the interesting discoveries during the restoration works, was the blue hue paint that originally decorated the window woodwork and doorways, under thick layers of more recent nondescript brown paint. I noticed that you also mention the beauty of this blue paint (surprisingly many other people, uneducated in these matters, consider the colour as too strident), this being the original paint colour.

Art Nouveau house, Bucharest- before and after restoration

In the interior of the building, as can be seen in the above photomontage, I installed a central heating system, air conditioning, overhauled the electricity cables and its water and drainage systems, tanked the cellar and thermally insulated the loft ceiling. I consider this project as a salvage operation meant to recover something from the ART NOUVEAU atmosphere of the old Bucharest. Many other owners of such architectural gems in this city would be able to save them if the state authorities in charge with the heritage buildings would give them just a minimal support, which tragically is missing in this country. Your kind articles about this house made me very happy and gave me new hopes and I would like here to thank you for that! With respect, Architect GRS

I am truly moved by these wishes and the impact made by my articles and would also like to thank my reader for his fascinating pieces of information and nice words! I thus hope that my creative effort expressed through the blog posts and the relevant photographs would contribute somehow to the necessary attitude change among the public and authorities toward the conservation of the local historic architecture. Bellow is a close up of the beautiful 1910s frieze uncovered by the proprietor of this house during the restoration and renovation works.

The frieze of a predominantly Art Nouveau house, Dorobanti area, Bucharest. (©Valentin Mandache)

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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 House in Targoviste

Little Paris style house in Targoviste, dating from the 1890s, southern Romania. (©Valentin Mandache)

This type of architecture was very popular throughout the late c19th and early c20th Romania, inspired from the French c19th historicist styles. The house in the photograph above, located in the centre of Targoviste, 80 km north-west of Bucharest, is a relatively well preserved example, conveying the idea of how the Romanian towns would have looked like during the Fin de Siècle era. I am enchanted by the provincial picturesque manner in which the different ornaments and structural elements are rendered- for example the pediment above the doorway, which contains the owner’s ornate monogram, is a near rectangle triangle, very remote in proportions from the classical Greek temple model that it tries to emulate. Targoviste has a fair number of such houses, which can be reasonably restored to their former glory for a fair price. Unfortunately there are not enough qualified craftsmen and other specialists capable to undertake such a task in nowadays Romania. However, the biggest problem is represented by the multitude of ignorant owners and property speculators whose usual objective is the demolition of such historic structures in order to free the land for modern, more profitable buildings or in the more fortuitous instances to alter the property in order to ‘improve’ it with modern amenities, as can can be seen in this particular example- the horrible air conditioning units above the doorway awning or the tasteless plastic frame double glazing that replaced the original ornate windows.

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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.

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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.

Church Shape Neo-Romanian Style House

A unusual, medieval Wallachian church shape, Neo-Romanian style house dating from the late 1920s. Dorobanti area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The ornate Neo-Romanian style house from the above photograph is in the final stages of a professional, in my opinion, renovation and restoration process. It is located in an area dotted with many prime Bucharest period property examples, embassies and exquisite government property edifices. What I found unusual about this building is its general shape, resembling closely that of a medieval Wallachian church, especially the types found in the Oltenia region of SW Romania. For example the arched porch next to the house doorway, visible in the second plane of the lower left corner area, is inspired from that of the Tismana monastery. I like how the church altar area is resembled by the apse like ground level veranda that has above it a beautiful alcove, tiered in three sectors that result in a discreet balcony. Also remarkable are the street fence poles, crowned by elegant jardininers decorated with Neo-Romanian style motifs.

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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.

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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 House in an Idyllic Setting

Little Paris style house dating from the 1890s in a verdant idyllic summer 2010 setting. Targoviste, southern Romania (©Valentin Mandache)

This Sunday last, I went for a second short architectural photography trip to Targoviste in southern Romania. The city is located in an Arcadia like natural setting, in the zone of contact between the Subcarpathian piedmont and the Wallachian plain (also called the Lower Danube prairie), between two important rivers, the Dambovita and the Ialomita. During the long summer seasons, the gardens and orchards of the local historic houses are overwhelmed by a dense explosion of lush leaves, delicious cherries and berries, and pungently perfumed flowers. That glorious state, which I just tried to describe, is much better conveyed by the above photograph of a Targoviste Little Paris style house (French c19th historicist styles provincially interpreted in Romania) dating from the last decade  of the c19th. It is a somehow stripped-down version of a Little Paris house, in contrast with the more abundantly decorated examples from Bucharest. Nevertheless, the patriarchal setting, typical of this provincial town in southern Romania, and the superb, near wild garden give this house an idyllic air of peace and timelessness. In my opinion this type of period property is one of the most affordable an rewarding potential renovation projects for anyone willing to take up such a challenge in this part of Europe.

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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.

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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.

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.

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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.

Fin de Siècle Provincial Prefecture Building in Romania: Commemorative Plate

Giurgiu prefecture building (built 1903), commemorative bronze plate (private collection)

This is an interesting architectural theme old bronze commemorative plaque produced with the occasion of the inauguration of the Prefecture Palace of the then Vlasca county, located in the Danube port town of Giurgiu, south of Bucharest. The building is designed in an attractive and well proportioned French Second Empire style, often encountered in examples of grand public buildings in Romania of that period. The inscription on the back reads “The Palace of Vlasca [today Giurgiu] prefecture, built in the year 1903, the 37th year of HM King Carol I’s reign, the prefect being Ion T. Ghica”. Today the building hosts the Giurgiu County Museum and is a shadow of its former glory, defaced by aggressive unprofessional renovations performed during the last two decades, a deplorable situation encountered now all over Romania.

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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.

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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.

An article in the Romanian press detailing my activity as a historic property consultant

The article in the Romanian national daily "Puterea" about my activity as a historic property consultant.

The Romanian national daily newspaper “Puterea”, which has recently been launched in Bucharest by the former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, has published an article-interview in its 17 May 2010 issue, where I speak about my activity as a historic property consultant specialised on the Romanian market. The journalist has correctly noted that I am the only expert in this market sector active in the country. The translation of the article’s title is “The new land grab – the demolition of Bucharest’s historic houses” (click the link to access the article- written in Romanian language); it is authored by Dana Fodor Mateescu.

I translated bellow a couple of paragraphs for your information:

“Valentin Mandache is an expert in historic houses, the only such specialist in the country offering consultancy services in the field of period property ( historical appraisal, market analysis, property finding, advice regarding the renovation and restoration of a historic property). He confirms the truth felt by many among Bucharest’s citizens: that a majority of this city’s historic properties are in a real danger of obliteration in the foreseeable future. [...] My activity epitomises a less common gathering of qualifications and work experiences for Romania’s professional landscape; it is a combination of skills pertaining to the fields of history of architecture and property market analysis, developed throughout 20 years of activity and specialist training in the United Kingdom, other European countries and the United States.

According to Valentin Mandache, the period property market is a very specialised market segment, mostly ignored or unprofessionally approached by virtually all Romanian property consultants. It requires a lengthy training and experience in the field of history of architecture, marketing and analysis focused on this more unusual market sector. [...] “When I encounter a historic house, I become extremely curious to find out details about its history and of the previous generations that had lived there” confesses Valentin Mandache. I just want to unravel in minute detail the intricacies of its venerable architecture and unearth the old mysteries that might be buried in documents, personal stories or the structure of that house. I believe that I am in a position to save a historic house when a client has a tangible benefit from my consultancy services, advising him or her how to buy that property, efficiently restore or renovate it, how to chose the best architectural details, decorative themes and conservation methods. I can also help that individual or organisation to properly market their property as an asset endowed with a distinct historic and architectural value. This is my contribution to the conservation and rescue of the cultural heritage of this country.”

“Puterea”, 17 May 2010

Rare Neo-Romanian Style Gazebo

A rare example of Neo-Romanian style gazebo pavilion, dating from late 1920s, once part of a wide verdant garden, within the grounds of a house in Calea Calarasi area of Bucharest. (©Valentin Mandache).

The old central Bucharest is a compact urban space with not much land available for laying out private gardens or even ampler backyards. Many of the gardens that existed there in the c19th or early c20th were built over in the course of time or gradually reduced in size as the city developed and new buildings were erected. It is sometimes possible to find within the courtyard of some of the period houses remnants of the previous garden architecture and artefacts that once embellished long gone verdant plots. I have thus been very pleased to find the rare Neo-Romanian style gazebo pavilion pictured in the image above, well hidden at the bottom of a narrow courtyard in Calea Calarasi area. The structure has once stood within a larger landscaped plot, which has since been partitioned and built over. It is less known that the Neo-Romanian style was also adapted for garden architecture, although that direction of development was incomparably less prominent or represented than in building architecture. Some Neo-Romanian gardens were laid out within the grounds of the Romanian royal palaces such as the Scroviste Palace north of Bucharest or within some areas of the Cotroceni Palace gardens, etc. This gazebo with its hallmark Neo-Romanian elements represented by the short arches and Ottoman Balkan church inspired arches is thus an uncommon occurrence, which if restored or renovated would greatly add  to the quaintness and value of a Neo-Romanian style house.

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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.

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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.