I really loved, when I used to live in London, the round blue coloured memorial plaques adorning old buildings, telling passers by about famous people from painters, explorers, to musicians and scientists who in the past lived there. The practice is encountered in many countries, and Romania is no exception. A memorial plaque on an old house, attesting that someone famous has lived there represents an important value added element to that property. The problem in Romania is the many shapes and various aesthetics in which the memorial plaques emerge on the street walls. However, recently I was able to photograph two delightful brass plaques, which I encountered in the Batistei area of Bucharest. There is no acknowledgment of the organisation(s) using that plaque design, responsible for putting them on the wall (they might have been afixed decades ago), but certainly would be a good idea to have this tasteful design adopted on a larger scale throughout the old city.
The first plaque, affixed on a Little Paris style house, now a clinic, is dedicated to Field marshal Constantin Prezan. He was one of the prominent heroes of the Great War in Romania.
There is a lot of hullabaloo these days about AIG and its financial misdeeds. In Romania they have a somehow token presence, being involved in general insurance and the newly established private pension funds here. Leaving aside the controversy, they seem to have excellent tastes when choosing office locations. I found this AIG office in the Romana Square area of Bucharest, located in a beautiful Neo-Romanian terraced house with an exquisitely decorated balcony and triptic access doors, built probably in late 1920s-early 1930s. The whole facade is like a textbook for the Neo-Romanian style. No doubt the actual superb state of the building is because of the money AIG has put in its renovation and upkeep, making such a contrast with so many similar period houses left in disrepair in this city by their native owners and neglect of the authorities. There is after all some good news about this organisation, at least in locations like Romania’s capital, seven time zones away from the epicentre of its troubles in the US. ©Valentin Mandache
If you are interested in acquiring a period property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in locating 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.
I recently photographed a remarkable period house in the Batistei area of Bucharest, built in an abstract Venetian style, popular among well to do Romanians in the inter-war period, especially during the reign of King Carol II (1930 – 1940). The quality of the construction is obviously exceptional, since its intricate details survived practically unscathed the decades of communist and post-communist neglect.
The house is from a period when the city was a cosmopolitan place with a very vibrant cultural life, still unsurpassed by the today amorphous urban agglomeration that represents Bucharest, the sixth largest EU metropolis. The popularity of the abstract Venetian Renaissance architecture stemmed from the fact that it had a high degree of convergence with the Neo-Romanian style, the most popular architectural order in interwar Romania, which itself has at its core elements of late Renaissance motifs borrowed from Venetian villa architecture (see my post on the origins and features of Neo-Romanian style for details). Also during the interwar period, especially starting with the 1930s there was a strong Italian cultural influence in Romania. Many Romanian intellectuals went to study arts and architecture in Italy and also the Romanian state established for those students and scholars research institutes (“Casa di Romania”) in Rome and Venice itself, similar with how the more developed European countries opened such establishments in Italy in late 19th century.
What I found very interesting was the large ornament design of upper floor window screens that displayed a series of intermingled cross symbols, which if carefully examined, can reveal a fascinating riddled message about the ethnic and cultural identity of the house owner. Continue reading