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

Dear readers,

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

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

The tour costs Lei 35 (Romanian currency) per person, book by emailing v.mandache@gmail.com or using the comments section of this post. You will be informed of meeting place on booking.

I look forward to seeing you at the tour,

Valentin Mandache, expert in Romania’s historic houses (tel: 0040 (0)728323272)

Art Deco Bucharest – architectural tour

Historic Houses of Romania architectural tour: Art Deco Bucharest

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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.

Architectural tour on Sunday 10 august: Remnants of the Great Exhibition of 1906 in Carol Park

Dear Readers,

I would like to invite you to a Historic Houses of Romania tour in Carol Park, which apart from intellectual fulfilment, would also offer the possibility to take a breath of fresh air. The tour is open to all of you who would like to accompany me, the author of blog, for two hours, on Sunday 10 August ’14, between 10.30h – 12.30h.

We will identify and examine the fascinating vestiges of the Great Exhibition of 1906 (also known as the Royal Jubilee Exhibition, see the pictures presented here), held in that park, created specially for the event, when the Neo-Romanian architectural style was popularised to the wider public, contributing to the inception of its mature phase of development for the next two decades and large scale adoption throughout Romania and neighbouring regions, where the country had a direct influence, especially during the interwar period.

The 1906 Royal Jubilee Exhibition has been the largest such event in south east Europe, modelled after the great universal exhibitions that took place in the western capitals or America starting with the mid c19th. The event was a proud gathering place of some of the best creations Romania had to offer to that date, celebrating 40 years of King Carol I’s glorious rule that saw the economic advancement and achievement of the country’s independence and also 1,800 years since what are now the Romanian lands were conquered by the Roman Empire (what is known in historiography as Emperor Trajan’s second Dacian War), which thus ignited the formation of Romanian language and people. The exhibition whose remains we are going to admire in this special tour, was the equivalent of the TV or the websites of its day, thus immensely contributing to the spread of fashions, especially Neo-Romanian architectural models throughout the whole of the then Romania.

Book by emailing v.mandache@gmail.com or using the comments section of this post. You will be informed of meeting place on booking.

I look forward to seeing you at the tour,

Valentin Mandache, expert in Romania’s historic houses (tel: 0040 (0)728323272)

Historic Houses of Romania tour : the remnants of the Great Exibition of 1906 in Carol Park, Bucharest

Historic Houses of Romania tour : the remnants of the Royal Jubilee Exibition of 1906 in Carol Park, Bucharest

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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.

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

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.

Saturday 9 August architectural walking tour: Patriarchy Hill area, Bucharest

Dear readers,

I would like to invite you, as the author of Historic Houses of Romania – Case de Epoca blog, to an architectural history tour in Patriarchy Hill area of Bucharest. This cultural excursion is open to all of you, and is scheduled to take place this Saturday 9 August ‘14 for two hours, between 10.30h and 12.30h!

I will be your guide through the urban expanse surrounding what is considered the “Acropolis” of Bucharest, the hill that dominates the old town and is the seat of the Romanian Orthodox Church, the main faith of this country, containing the patriarchal cathedral together with its administrative quarters, reworked in the inter-war period by the architect Gheorghe Simotta. Patriarchy Hill has also been until quite recently the seat of the Romanian Parliament building, a design by arch. Dimitrie Maimarolu, in 1907, and thus the area boasts highly prestigious and architecturally significant public and private edifices associated with the religious and secular powers of this country. The surrounding maize of streets is embellished with fine Little Paris, Neo-Romanian and Art Deco style houses, many evocative of the tumultuous political history of this city in the last century and a half or earlier events pertaining to the times of the Phanariot rule under the Ottoman Empire. All of these fascinating sights and facts are waiting to be discovered and photographed by you!

Book by emailing v.mandache@gmail.com or using the comments section of this post. You will be informed of meeting place on booking.

I look forward to seeing you at the tour,

Valentin Mandache, expert in Romania’s historic houses (tel: 0040 (0)728323272)

Historic Houses of Romania architectural tour in Patriarchy area, Bucharest

Historic Houses of Romania architectural tour in Patriarchy Hill area, Bucharest

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

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

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

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

Building inauguration years rendered architecturally

Building inauguration year in architectural renderings

Building inauguration year in architectural renderings (©Valentin Mandache, Historic Houses of Romania – Case de Epoca)

The photo-collage above is composed by building inauguration year panels rendered architecturally, encountered by the author of this blog on edifices dating from a multitude of historical epochs in Bucharest and other locations in Romania. I used the illustrations as cover photographs for the Historic Houses of Romania – Case de Epoca’s Facebook page. I usually present to the readers a cover photo per week, and the ones here are those scheduled for the first ten weeks of 2014. To find out details about the significance of those years and the buildings hosting them, you can click the links listed below. The links are arranged in the same scheme as the architecturally rendered years mentioned in the collage.

1900 : 1569

1894 : 1666

1724 : 1857

1908 : 1889

1898 : 1879

Art Deco apartment doors

Although today in Bucharest the temperatures were hovering around -12 centigrades, being freezing cold and blowy, my spirit, at least, was warmed up by a visit to an Art Deco style apartment that in part evoked much warmer climates and sunnier lands, a theme often encountered in this town’s Art Deco architecture.

The interior of the dwelling does not have much left from its original features, except the doors. The original wall and ceiling mouldings, the 1930s windows, bathroom and kitchen tiles and fittings, were replaced in the last few years by the owner, a “young artist”, who judging from the results of her misguided effort, is in fact is a typical Romanian period house proprietor, nurturing arrogant dreams about the money value of their real estate, but completely oblivious regarding its artistic and heritage worth. The doors remained in place, presumably because the owner ran out of money, splashed on the other “improvements”, otherwise I would have seen plastic made portals bought triumphantly from a DIY shop.

Art Deco apartment doors

Art Deco apartment doors, arch. B. Zilberman, 1935, Matei Basarab area (©Valentin Mandache)

The main door, pictured above, is a composition of panels displaying at its centre the rule of three, typical of the Art Deco, with the others arranged around in a gamma cross array, a cosmic motif that I encountered quite frequently in the ornamentation pertaining to this design in the Bucharest of the fourth decade of the c20th, associated usually with the nazi movement, which I believe was not the case here, as the block where this apartment belongs, was inhabited by Jewish families. The door’s lower register contains two overlapping semicircles, signifying the rising and setting sun of the southern seas.

Art Deco apartment doors

Name plate of arch. B. Zilberman on apartment block built in the early 1930s, Matei Basarab area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The apartment block dates from the mid-1930s and is located in Matei Basarab area, the architect being B. Zilberman, a designer with numerous commissions in that quarter, which in that period had a large Jewish population. His name and the fact that he is a graduate of the architectural school in Milan are proudly displayed in a name tablet on one of the exterior walls of the building.

Art Deco apartment doors

Art Deco apartment doors, arch. B. Zilberman, 1935, Matei Basarab area (©Valentin Mandache)

The bedroom door, seen in the third photograph, was narrower, but of wonderful proportions, preserving the gamma cross motif made from panels radiating a central window made from six openings. The lower register in this instance was embellished with three horizontal bars, according to the rule of three mentioned above.

Art Deco apartment doors

Art Deco apartment doors, arch. B. Zilberman, 1935, Matei Basarab area (©Valentin Mandache)

I like the three steps motif decorating the panel overhead the dressing room door, clearly enlivening the rest of the bedroom and diminishing the sense of weight generated by the unfortunate choice of wall colour by the contemporary owner.

These doors, survivors from happier times in the brave new world of Romania’s post-communist society, are important for the local architectural identity and also worth some money, even if the locals do not realise that yet. My hope is that the citizens of Bucharest and the country will start recovering through those witnesses their civic pride and appreciate the creations of their forebearers, who were certainly more sophisticated than their descendants.

De Stijl and Constructivist forms in the hallway of Frida Cohen House

Among the hidden architectural gems of Bucharest are the Modernist creations of Marcel Iancu (also spelt Janco or Janko), the culture polymath active on the architectural scene of Romania’s capital in the 1920s and the 1930s. Iancu’s buildings encompass his conceptions of art ranging from surrealism, as he was one of the foreruners of that current, Soviet inspired constructivism, functionalism to cubism, Bauhaus or expressionism. The Frida Cohen House, an apartment block, the amplest edifice designed by Iancu, exhibits many of those traits and for me is a delight to continuously discover new such elements with each visit I make there.

Frida Cohen House, arch. Marcel Iancu, 1935, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

Frida Cohen House, arch. Marcel Iancu, 1935, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The constructivist and cubist features are obvious when analysing the exterior outlines and volumetry of Frida Cohen building, yet equally if not more fascinating patterns reveal themselves once one steps into the entrance hallway.

Frida Cohen House, arch. Marcel Iancu

Frida Cohen House, arch. Marcel Iancu, 1935, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

Remarkable in my opinion is the floor with its grey and black tiles, arranged in a modern painting like figure, in the vein of the De Stijl artistic movement, where the forms although lack simple symmetry, as one would expect in an architectural design, nevertheless achieve a sense of balance through their inner kinetics.

Frida Cohen House, arch. Marcel Iancu

Frida Cohen House, arch. Marcel Iancu, 1935, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The main staircase of this noteworthy building is also a case in point, this time as an example of constructivist design, where the profile of the apparently utilitarian device is an equilateral triangle, a basic geometrical shape, seen, as other fundamental forms, within the Constructivist movement as a pure pattern. The staircase reminds me of one of Iancu’s celebrated affirmations that “the purpose of architecture was a “harmony of forms”, with designs as simplified as to resemble crystals” (Tom Sandqvist, p. 342). To me the crystal suggested by the stairwell contour is undoubtedly a diamond (the tetrahedron of Carbon atoms), which is a metafora for perfect harmony in itself.

Every single creation of Marcel Iancu is, as in the samples illustrated  above, brimful with meanings and symbols pertaining to the the emergence and maturation of the first Modern artistic currents, fostered by epoch making social and economic changes in the period that led up to the Great War and its aftermath decades, a fertile and effervescent period of which Bucharest benefited through the agency of such a hugely talented personality.

Volunteers for mock tours of Bucharest’s historic architecture

Historic Houses of Romania – Case de Epoca is looking for volunteers: I am designing two new Bucharest architectural tours (Royal and Muntenian/ Brancovan themes) and would welcome participants for the following mock/ rehearsal tours (free of charge, of course):

  • Tuesday 21 January, the Royal theme, meeting at 11.30h (duration 2h) in front of Carol I statue, Revolution Square,
  • Wednesday 22 Jan., Brancovan theme, meeting at 11.30h (duration 2h) in front of the entrance of Municipal Museum – Sutu Palace.

You need to be physically fit for a walk in town, on a distance of 5km. The participants are welcome to actively engage with the expert in historic houses and ask questions you consider relevant to the tour theme.

Valentin Mandache, Historic Houses of Romania – Case de Epoca

Rehearsal architectural tours: Royal and Muntenian/ Brancovan theme (Historic Houses of Romania - Case de Epoca)

Rehearsal architectural tours: Royal and Muntenian/ Brancovan theme (Historic Houses of Romania – Case de Epoca)

Art Deco mud scraper

My article about the foot mud scraper from the La Belle Epoque era adorning the Metropolitan Orthodox Cathedral in Sibiu has attracted an unexpected degree of interest from the readers. Among those making remarks was Robin Grow, the President of Australia’s Art Deco and Modernism Society, who naturally asked me if I have an Art Deco mud scraper among my finds. I answered that indeed I have found one in Bucharest, which I would like now to show it to you in all its glory in the following photographs.

Art Deco mud scraper

Art Deco mud scraper, Villa Miclescu, arch. Horia Creanga, 1930, Dorobanti quarter, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The inedite artifact adorns Villa Miclescu, one of most elegant buildings of Bucharest’s Art Deco and Modernism era, located in Dorobanti quarter, designed by the architect Horia Creanga in 1930.

Art Deco mud scraper

Art Deco mud scraper, Villa Miclescu, arch. Horia Creanga, 1930, Dorobanti quarter, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The mud scraper displays the rule of three, inspired from the Egyptian mythology, typical of the Art Deco style, seen in its three blades, being in tone with the horizontal bars grouped in three on the ironwork of the doorway.

Art Deco mud scraper

Villa Miclescu, arch. Horia Creanga, 1930, Dorobanti quarter, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The villa is mostly an inter-war Modernist design, of which Horia Creanga is most famous, with some Art Deco elements, such as the staircase windows, doorway or the mud scraper.

Art Deco mud scraper

Art Deco mud scraper, Villa Miclescu, arch. Horia Creanga, 1930, Dorobanti quarter, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The building is in a bad state of repair, although it is on the heritage list, a common situation in Bucharest, due mostly to the lack of education and interest about the historic architecture among the post-communist inhabitants of this town. One can notice the effects of that neglect even on this Art Deco mud scraper, which is such a rare architectural vestige: the first photograph, which I took about one and a half years ago, presents it with two “ears”, the loops on each side, while the last one, taken last week, shows one of those ears missing. That gives you an idea how fast the architectural identity and heritage of Bucharest is disappearing at the hands of its own citizens and their representative authorities.

Circular motif Art Deco gate

Art Deco style gate, dating from the mid 1930s, Piata Romana area, Bucharest

Art Deco style gate, dating from the mid 1930s, Piata Romana area, Bucharest

An interesting Art Deco design vestige, dating from the cultural peak period of Bucharest, in the third and fourth decade of the last century, now uncared and unloved by its post-communist inhabitants, still stoically surviving among their ugly, uncouth renovations of period buildings.

Conference invitation: the formative years of King Michael and Queen Marie – 15 Jan. ’14

Diana and I would like to invite you to the new conference from the already traditional series inaugurated last year at the Liberal Cafe in Bucharest, on the royal and architectural history of Romania.

The subjects this year are the following:

Diana Mandache: “King Michael as a school pupil: curriculum, marks, fieldtrips”

Valentin Mandache: “Eastwell Manor: the birthplace of Queen Marie”

The event is organised by the National Liberal Party’s Bloggers’ Club, and is scheduled to take place on Wednesday 15 January, starting at 6.30 pm (The Liberal Cafe: 9, Doamnei Street, Lipscani quarter, just across the road from the National Bank).

Conference on the formative years of King Michael and Queen Marie

Conference: *King Michael as a school pupil, *Eastwell Manor: the brithplace of Queen Marie

There will be shown and discussed photographs and period newsreel footage about the school pupil Michael, from the Regency period and then as a Crown Prince, and architectural photographs of Eastwell Manor, images of Queen Marie during her childhood and as an adult visiting her birthplace, and how these formative years in such significant circumstances and environments influenced those two royal figures later in their life.

Conference on the formative years of King Michael and Queen Marie

Conference: *King Michael as a school pupil, *Eastwell Manor: the brithplace of Queen Marie

The Bloggers’ Club of the National Liberal Party and the presenters are looking forward to welcoming you at the conference!

A happy 2014!

I would like to thank all my readers, collaborators, participants at my architectural history tours and courses for the active support, encouragement, comments, contribution and criticism without which I would not have coped in what I consider my ongoing mission to bring to the attention of the wider world Romania’s and Southeast Europe’s architectural heritage and period property market. I wish you all the best for 2014!

Valentin Mandache, expert in historic houses

Greetings for 2014!

Greetings for 2014!

King Michael’s forced abdication: lessons from a letter

History and historical facts discussed over the envelope of a letter sent from Bucharest to Paris in February 1948, just a few weeks after the forced abdication of King Michael of Romania. The envelope contains a two sets of stamps, one from the just ended royal period and another form the newly installed communist regime, constituting a good material witness of a watershed event in Romania’s history.

Retrospective 2013. Historic Houses of Romania – Case de Epoca

As 2013 is drawing to a close, here is a less than 2 min length video of my architectural history photographs, which I believe shows the essence of my activity this year. The images were used throughout 2013 as cover photos for my Historic Houses of Romania facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/casedeepoca).

Sketches of representative Romanian historic built landscape sights

VM drawings-001

Sketches of representative Romanian historic built landscape sights by the author of this blog

The built environment of Romania has an obvious personality, and being present permanently around me, it became in the last few years since I am based in Bucharest, an integral part of my intellectual universe. Some more than two decades ago I used to attended earth science courses, and one of the main tenets thought there was the keen observation of the ground and other landscape details to work out the local geological history. I was thought  back then to make as often as I can field sketches in a notebook, which were always preferable to photographs. That habit is still with me in my activity as an architectural historian, but recently in a high-tech form, having acquired and iPad and tried my hand on glass, which in my opinion is in many ways similar with how our c19th and earlier centuries counterparts used to draw and write on slate. My sketches encompass some of the main types of Romanian architectural landscape, which I hope you, dear readers, would find it interesting!

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Late Neo-Romanian style doorway assembly

Late Neo-Romanian style doorway assembly, house buit in the early-1930s, Cotroceni area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

I divide the evolution of the Neo-Romanian architectural style in three main phases. The early one lasted from its initiation in 1886 by the architect Ion Mincu with his edifice in the national style, Lahovary house, until 1906 when the Royal Jubilee exhibition took place, showing to the public its grand pavilions, many designed in an elevated unitary manner that “canonised” the style, which marked the beginning of its mature phase. It reached an apogee after the country’s victory in the Great War and subsequently in the 1920s decade, when was adopted all over the territory of interbellum Romania. The late 1920s, and the 1930s decade saw the increase popularity and in the end prevalence of the international styles Art Deco and Modernism, which induced a crisis of expression for the Neo-Romanian, thus marking its late phase. The national style managed to strive through an imaginative synthesis with the Art Deco and also Mediterranean inspired forms, resulting in extremely interesting designs. The evolution of the style practically ended with the instauration of communism in the winter of 1947, under the impact of the ideologically driven architectural priorities of the new political regime. It continued to have echoes for another two decades especially in vernacular forms and in motifs used on post-war edifices.

The street gate and doorway assembly presented above belongs in its design outline and period when it was built to the late phase of development of the Neo-Romanian style. The wrought iron gate is inspired from Brancovan style church or altar doors, but expressed in coordinates close to Art Deco. The two gate posts are also derived from church or medieval citadel towers, conforming with the national-romantic message of the style. The door itself shows a series of square panels pointed each by a central disc, which can be understood as the outline of an ethnographic solar disc or an interpretation of a Greek cross. The wall surround of the door is basically an adaptation of a church door opening in reduced to essence coordinates of the Art Deco style. The doorway assembly dates from the beginning of the 1930s, and as the time progressed into that decade, the expression of the Neo-Romanian forms in an Art Deco “ambiance” became even more prevalent and captivating as a form of architectural language.