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.

The Great Fire of Bucharest: archaeological finds

Bucharest has been beset by many tragedies throughout its five centuries of recorded history, from invasions of the Ottoman, Russian and Austrian armies, to plagues or destructive earthquakes and floods. The most devastating such event, in the context of its time, has been the Great Fire of Bucharest that occurred on 23 March 1847. It was a huge conflagration that swept though most of the mid-c19th the commercial and residential areas of old Bucharest. There are many accounts in the press, letters or private diaries of that era, but to date no proper research has been produced or published on the subject of this catastrophe, a symptom of the low quality level of historical scholarship in contemporary Romania. From an architectural point of view, the Great Fire is important because by wiping out most of the Ottoman Balkan central built area of the city, it freed ground for the erection of new buildings inspired from the French c19th historicist styles, that gave rise to what I call the Little Paris style. That architecture, which had its first green shoots in the aftermath of that devastating blaze, won Bucharest in the following decades its nickname on the “Little Paris of the Balkans” and will constitute one its hallmarks for the next one and a half century.

In early 2011, the mayoralty has started works for a large underground car park in the University area, which lays on the northern fringes of the zone reached by the Great Fire. The digs, now investigated by archaeologists, as required by the urban planning laws, are clearly revealing the stratum of burned out material generated by the conflagration, also yielding a diversity of artefacts that bear traces of intense fire. Bellow are a series of old engravings depicting the Great Fire of 1847 interlaced with photographs which I recently made there.

Old engraving depicting the Great Fire of Bucharest, 1847 (source: Adevarul newspaper)

The Great Fire was started by a teenage boy firing a handgun into a loft full of dry hay, a fact that gives you an image of Bucharest as a true frontier city on the wild fringes of Europe, in the Balkans, similar in many aspects with the rapidly developing cities of the US mid-West or of Russian East of that era.

The Great Fire of Bucharest, 1847; traces in the University area as seen in April 2011 (©Valentin Mandache)

The photograph above shows the archaeological investigations into the current digs for an underground car park in the University area. Note the thick black stratum of burned out material dating from the time of the conflagration. It was chronicled that the conflagration lasted for many days, some accounts mention even weeks, but I doubt their accuracy.

Old engraving depicting the Great Fire of Bucharest, 1847 (source: Adevarul newspaper)

A very illustrative image of the great scale conflagration, engulfing most of old Bucharest, about a square kilometre area of extremely high density habitation and commercial activity, as seen in those March 1847 days from atop the Patriarchy Hill, one of the few remaining safe corners of the city.

Soot traces on pottery from the Great Fire of Bucharest, 1847; traces in the University area as seen in April 2011 (©Valentin Mandache)

The photograph above shows mid c19th pottery bearing traces of intense fire, unearthed by the current archaeological investigations that take place at site of the underground car park works in the University area.

The ash and burned out material generated by the Great Fire of Bucharest, 1847; traces in the University area as seen in April 2011 (©Valentin Mandache)

The extensive stratum of burned out material generated by the Great Fire of 1847, revealed by the car park works in the University area, is marked on the photograph above with red broken lines.

Old engraving depicting the Great Fire of Bucharest, 1847 (source: Adevarul newspaper)

A very telling old engraving of drama suffered by the inhabitants of Bucharest during the conflagration of March 1947: the burning out of the New Saint George’s church.

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I endeavour through this series of periodic articles to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of European architectural history and heritage.

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If you plan acquiring or selling a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in sourcing and transacting the property, specialist research, etc. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contact page of this weblog.

Burned down Art Nouveau style building

This once charming Art Nouveau building, dating from the end of the 1890s, has been ruined in a fire, during the property boom of the late 2000s in Bucharest. It is located in Lipscani, the old commercial quarter of Bucharest, an area that for a decade and a half after the fall of communism was left derelict by the city authorities, despite its obvious huge tourist  potential. During the last property boom, many historic buildings in the area were targeted by rapacious property developers for the valuable land plots  which they occupy. A favourite method of destruction, in order to obtain the much coveted demolition permit for historic buildings, was the arson, usually blamed on squatters who sometime occupied those properties. Lipscani has  started in the last two years to experience a sort of a renaissance as a place full of cafes and restaurants and it is just hopped that such an entrepreneur would revive or least save the beautiful Art Nouveau façade of this building. Bellow are recent photographs containing details of these rare for Bucharest type of ornaments.

Art Nouveau style building dating from the end of the 1890s, Lipscani area, Bucharest. (©Valentin Mandache)

Art Nouveau style building dating from the end of the 1890s, Lipscani area, Bucharest. (©Valentin Mandache)

Art Nouveau style building dating from the end of the 1890s, Lipscani area, Bucharest. (©Valentin Mandache)

Art Nouveau style building dating from the end of the 1890s, Lipscani area, Bucharest. (©Valentin Mandache)

Art Nouveau style building dating from the end of the 1890s, Lipscani area, Bucharest. (©Valentin Mandache)

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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.

Architect Jean Monda: 1931 ‘sober’ Art Deco design

Jean Monda has been one of the most long-lived and creative Romanian architects, active from the 1920s until the 1980s. His name is mostly associated with the development of the International Modernist style in Romania, being one of the post-war standard bearer architects that helped maintain the architectural profession at high level during the difficult conditions of the communist era. There is a biography of him in French, for those who would like to find out more details about his inter-war creations: “Jean Monda, architecte”, Luceafarul Publishing House, 1940. I found, during one of my Bucharest fieldwork days, a very interesting early Monda designed building (form 1931, as the year on the name tablet presented bellow shows), which through its more unusual design abundantly betrays him as a talented and resourceful architect.

Architect Jean Monda and builder J. Berman name tablet affixed on the 1931 Art Deco building from Mantuleasa area, Bucharest. (©Valentin Mandache)

The style of the edifice is an Art Deco, in general lines, with Modernist and inter-war Classical Monumentalist echoes, including some Bauhaus inspired elements. The building is like a drawing board on which Monda has tried his hand in the architectural trends of his day.

Architect Jean Monda designed building, 1931, Mantuleasa area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The Art Deco rule of three can be seen everywhere throughout the building as is the case with the design of the multi-floor bay windows, the abstract motifs decorative panels or the doorway decoration (see bellow).

Architect Jean Monda designed building, 1931, Mantuleasa area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The Classical Monumentalist features, that were were popular in Romania of that era through the strong influence of the Italian fascist architecture, can be seen in the massive false four pillars enclosing the doorway in the middle, the two circular profile columns decorating the glazed stairs case window or the rusticated wall base.

Architect Jean Monda designed building, 1931, Mantuleasa area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The Bauhaus inspired elements are in my opinion the openings of the stairs case windows, interestingly distributed and of a design of that brings to mind Paul Klee’s or Mondrian’s paintings.

Architect Jean Monda designed building, Mantuleasa area, Bucharest 1931 (©Valentin Mandache)

The modernist features stem from the right angle outlines of the building, minimalist decoration and the air of sobriety conveyed by the design as a whole.

Architect Jean Monda designed building, 1931, Mantuleasa area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

I believe this is a remarkable example of Romanian inter-war architecture from a defining moment in time charged with intense creative energies, angst and searches among the architects of that time, where Monda has been one of the Modernist current exponents, that marked the built landscape of the Bucharest and many other urban areas of the country for years to come. My biggest regret is that because of the lack of a wide lenses camera, I could not take pictures which would have shown this noteworthy building in a greater degree of plenitude and actual urban context.

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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 Contactpage of this weblog.

“Historic Houses of Romania” blog author cited in the latest book of Prof Giurescu

I had the pleasant surprise while reading Prof. Constantin C. Giurescu’s latest book, to find myself cited on page 194. He mentions there details from an interview published last May in the newspaper Puterea, where I spoke about my activity as a period property consultant and the high level of education, skills and experience needed to work efficiently in that specialist field. For me it is a great honour that Prof Giurescu, the best contemporary Romanian historian, has considered necessary to include those points in his eminent book.

The volume is entitled “Arhitectura Bucurestilor- Incotro?” (“Bucharest’s Architecture – which way?”) and has been published at the end of 2010 by Vremea publishing house. Through his methodology, diversity of sources and direct style, the work represents a rarity within the Romanian publishing scene, inflated by books written in a mediocre fashion, going in circles and lacking method. Prof Giurescu thus mentions and analyses the grand and small scale abominations suffered by the historic built landscape of Bucharest in the last two decades, from the lunatic government decision more than a decade ago, to gift the magnificent old parliament building to the Romanian Orthodox Church, one of the institutions most active in defacing and destroying the historic edifices in its care, to the countless demolitions and ‘renovations’ performed by ignorant period property owners, who think themselves as absolute masters of their property, forgetting that they are also custodians of a heritage good belonging to the community.

I highly recommend this book to all those preoccupied by this singular phenomenon within the European Union of wholesale architectural heritage destruction performed ironically not by outsiders, but in most cases by the native citizens of this “European” city, EU’s 6th largest metropolis.

Advice for home buyers of the La Belle Époque period

Bucharest enjoyed a remarkable capitalistic property boom during La Belle Époque period (late Victorian, followed by the Edwardian era), which was the first of the four building booms that the city and the country have witnessed to date. The first building boom was in many aspects similar with that of a frontier city from the mid-c19th American west or that of the new towns that sprang up in the same period in Russia’s Black Sea prairie or in Siberia. Romania’s capital was then in the process of a rapid development from a small Ottoman market town to an aspirational European capital city, which today is the sixth largest metropolis of the European Union.

That rapid development had to accommodate a large influx of people who came from its bucolic outskirts, outlying villages or small provincial towns and were used to a rural, medieval-like way of life. There was a real need to initiate and educate the new city dwellers, who were building or buying houses on a massive scale, in the ‘secrets’ of a modern European way of life. That is the era when the picturesque Little Paris architecture, one of the hallmarks of its built heritage, emerged. The brochure presented here is part of that more unusual  educational effort.

The brochure is just three pages in length, published in 1911 by “Societatea L.E.”, probably a local charity, and is brimful with practical advice. Although its recommendations sound trivial for our twenty first century ears, they would have resonated quite powerfully in those of the La Belle Époque people. Among the most amusing instructions are those referring to the use of the toilet, like “climbing with your feet over the toilet seat should be forbidden!” or “do not block the toilet drains with too large pieces of paper or cotton wool”. Another very telling advice is about the painting and decorating of the room walls, lecturing the Bucharest people, notorious for their perennial propensity to paint and decorate their houses in strident, garish colours, to keep the scheme as simple as possible: “you should leave the  walls whitewashed and if colour is desired for decoration, then use just one light lime-wash shade with a simple decorative frieze above”.

[brochure form Mr. Ion Rogojanu's collection]

Fund-raising for historic building restoration in the 1920s

1920s postcard sold to raise funds for the restoration of the "New St George's Chruch in Bucharest (private collection)

This is an interesting piece of fund-raising history for the restoration of ancient buildings, dating from the 1920s. It shows how the then Bucharest people were probably much more preoccupied with saving the city’s architectural heritage than their actual counterparts; a measure of the how gravely the identity of the locals has been eroded during the communist regime and the last two decades of chaotic transition to a market economy. The text on the postcard translates as follows: “Save the New St George’s church historical monument from becoming a ruin, there where the great Prince Constantin Brancoveanu lies”. The proceeds from the print sale were intended for the structural consolidation and restoration works of the New St George’s Church in central Bucharest, one of the most important basilicas of the city, where it is said that the headless body of the Prince Constantin Brancoveanu rests. The prince was beheaded in 1714 by the Ottoman overlords in Istanbul on treason charges (suspected of covertly joining Russia’s Tsar Peter the Great in his 1711 unsuccessful offensive in Moldova). Prince Brancoveanu is a pivotal figure in Romanian history, being known as an able administrator of Wallachia and a fabulously wealthy aristocrat (the Ottoman overlords even nicknamed him “Altin Bas”/ the “Golden Prince”) and builder of fine palaces and churches. The architectural style that emerged in the late c17th and early c18th as the result of Brancoveanu’s building programme is called “Brancovenesc” or sometime “Romanian Renaissance” style, a fascinating synthesis between the Byzantine, Ottoman, Renaissance and Baroque architecture that precedes and inspires the modern Neo-Romanian architectural style.

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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 Contactpage of this weblog.

Art Deco houses from Bucharest’s Domenii quarter

 

Art Deco era houses from Bucharest's Domenii quarter (©Valentin Mandache)

The Domenii quarter of Bucharest has been developed in the inter-war period for habitation by the city’s elite. At that time it was located on the outskirts of Romania’s capital in a green area, not far from the Colentina river lake system. The Art Deco style is the predominant architecture of the Domenii villas, the area containing some of the best examples of such architecture in Romania. I documented some of those brilliant buildings in a few blog articles a while ago, two of which can be accessed here or at the this link. The Domenii quarter is now, according to the city’s regulations, an architecturally protected area, but nevertheless it suffered and continues to suffer untold damage at the hands of rapacious developers or uncultured property owners, who got wealthy in the recent property boom and moved en mass to this prestigious area. A sample of the handiwork of that truly barbarian new wave of moneyed post-communist settlers (sometimes euphemistically called “new Romanians”) in the area can be found at this link; it is an Art Deco house stridently painted by its ignorant owner, who has replaced its original doorway with a cheap DIY store door and has also replaced the original Art Deco windows with cheap plastic frame double glazing. Most probably the Domenii quarter will continue to be mutilated for years to come by that type of property owners and developers and consequently its character and attractiveness will be lost for ever. The photomontage above and the slide show bellow represents just a small selection from that area’s treasure of Art Deco style houses. I very much like the the house from the lower right hand corner of the photomontage, which sports a giant abstractly rendered violin on its stairs tower (see it in more detail in the slide show photograph).

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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.

People from Bucharest’s Art Deco era

People from Bucharest's Art Deco era: afternoon dance at the Restaurant Flora, on the Chaussée in the 1930s. (old postcard, private collection)

The two photographs presented in this post are snaps of 1930s Bucharest life, which in my opinion wonderfully capture the ethos of the era when the Art Deco and also Modernist architecture was developed on a large scale in Romania’s capital, imprinting for decades to come the character of the city. The people depicted there belong to the emerging and increasingly prosperous middle classes of the inter-war period, when Romania benefited from large oil exports and a considerable internal market achieved after the country doubled in size and population following the territorial gains in the aftermath of the Great War. These people, clerks, teachers, bureaucrats, small businessmen or entrepreneurs of all sizes and trades, of very cosmopolitan ethnicities from Romanian, Jews, Greeks to Germans, Italian or Bulgarians, were highly sophisticated and cultured and had substantial disposable incomes, which many invested in building their homes in the Art Deco architectural style. I wrote some weeks ago an article about the economic background that made possible the development of the Art Deco architecture in Bucharest and Romania in general, which can be accessed at this link. The WWII and the communist regime dealt a deadly blow to these people and their dreams, when many of them were killed during the world conflagration or had their health and spirit broken through imprisonment in communist labour camps. Their property was in almost all cases confiscated, given to the proletarian masses brought by the regime from the countryside to staff the communist sponsored heavy industries.  Those wrongs have only partially been addressed in contemporary Romania, where the architectural heritage suffers terribly at the hands of a population that after seven decades of communism and post-communist transition has not yet managed to attain even a fraction from the degree of culture and sophistication of their inter-war counterparts.

People from Bucharest's Art Deco era: horse races at the Baneasa hippodrome in the 1930s. (newspaper cut, private collection)

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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.

Identical Neo-Romanian style houses in Bucharest city square

Recently I visited an interesting Bucharest square with identical model houses mirroring each other across the sides of that square, presented in the video above. This location was brought to my attention some time ago by Mr. Romulus Bena, a regular reader and commenter (on the Facebook page) of my articles. The architecture is Neo-Romanian with some Art Deco echoes. This set up is a rare occurrence in the inter-war Romanian urban planning. A few months ago I wrote about another similar urban set up from Campulung-Arges in southern Romania, click here for access. Bellow is an aerial view with the Bucharest city square documented in the video.

Neo-Romanian style houses in Brazil Street square, Bucharest; aerial view.

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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.

Psychedelic-like Design Art Deco Doorway

Mid-1930s Art Deco style doorway, Mosilor area, Bucharest. (©Valentin Mandache)

The design of the Art Deco style doorway presented above suggests an interesting psychedelic pattern well before its emergence in the 1960s pop art. A number of 1930s Art Deco style buildings in Bucharest display such refined motifs and decorations, as I recorded in a post last year about an exquisite decorative wall panel. It is a witness and a measure of Bucharest’s intense creative scene of those years, considered the golden age for this city, still unmatched today, after more than seven decades of devastating communist and post-communist regimes.

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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.

The Zodiacs of Bucharest: Photomontage, Video & Slide Show

Art Deco style zodiacal signs decorating the Zodiac Fountain of Bucharest, built in 1935, Carol Park area. (©Valentin Mandache)

Exquisite design zodiacal signs are present on two of the most iconic Bucharest architectural creations: the Zodiac Fountain from the Carol Park and the Zodiac apartment block on Calea Dorobanti street. The fountain was built on the occasion of the 1935 Bucharest Fête, a month long popular festival with great allegorical processions celebrating the Romanian national identity, organised by the government, under the patronage of King Carol II that imitated similar events organised in Mussolinian Italy or Hitler’s Germany, countries whose ideologies started to exercise a powerful influence in Romania of that period. The architect of the fountain is Octav Doicescu and the graphic representations in black and white mosaic pieces are the work of Mac Constantinescu. The style of the design is a modernist Art Deco, although the structure displays some obvious historicist features. The second such iconic building examined in this post is the Zodiac apartment bloc, located in the Dorobanti area, a very imposing edifice erected in 1946, after the end of the devastating Second World War and in the last year of King Michael’s reign, only months before the communists forced him to abdicate in December that year. The building is an excellent modernist design by the architects Radu Dudescu and Mircea Marinescu, decorated with sixteen panels representig the signs of the zodiac, creations of the artist Constantin Baraschi. The whole assembly is a testimony of the intensely creative atmosphere present in Bucharest just after the war that soon got strangled by the oncoming communist dictatorship. The image above shows a photomontage composed from close up images of the signs on the Zodiac Fountain. The fountain together with the Zodiac building are also discussed in the video that follows the text and are also presented in the slide show bellow.

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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.

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.

Bucharest mid-1930s Art Deco Style House

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

From my fieldwork in Bucharest, I came to the view that an appreciable number of this city’s Art Deco style houses were designed by Italian architectural bureaus and/ or were also built by Italian construction firms active in the city during the inter-war period. There is a long tradition of Italian architects’ and builders’ presence in this region, first documented in in the late c17th when the Wallachian Prince Constantin Brancoveanu built his famous palaces that became an essential inspiration source for the later Neo-Romanian architectural style. The Romanian inter-war episode is part of the larger phenomenon of Italian designed Art Deco buildings that sprang up in many world locations, most famously in places such as Eritrea or Albania. The building in the photograph above is in my view an Italian architectural design pattern, on the lines of another case about which I wrote here, but of course that needs to be established by researching relevant archive documents. I like the harmony of the design and how the apparently contrasting volumes and different shapes hinge and play each other around the massive staircase tower.

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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.

Never Finished Art Deco House

Never finished Art Deco house, dating from cca 1939, just before the start of the WWII. Targoviste, southern Romania (©Valentin Mandache)

Last Sunday I went for a short architectural photo trip to Targoviste, the erstwhile capital of the former principality of Wallachia (the city had that status until 550 years ago when the prince Vlad the Impaler started to use Bucharest as a princely seat instead, thus gradually ending Targoviste’s status as the capital city). I posted a series of photographs taken that day on the Twitter and Twitpic websites, which proved very popular, with one image standing out as the most noted, namely an unfinished Art Deco style house dating from the start of the WWII (it was also re-Twitted by the account of the British TV station Channel 4- Homes programme, which probably helped to spread the news). I am now also posting that image here in order to bring it to the attention of a wider audience. It is indeed quite rare to find still unfinished Art Deco style houses anywhere in the world, as is the case here, a fact which can bring first hand insights into the construction methods of that era. The house was built, I believe, sometime just before the war, in 1939, when it reached more or less the present state. Because the dreary conditions caused by the onset of the war, which was very calamitous for Romania, it was left in that state. The end of the war and the ensuing more than six decades period were again probably quite unfavourable for the owners of this building to afford its completion, thus perpetuating its ‘never finished’ house status. I very much like how the exposed brick and the raw concrete bits give the impression of a new and very modern building, although in fact is a veritable time capsule.

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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.