Daily Picture 7-Oct-09: Ottoman Glazed Veranda

Ottoman glassed veranda (early 19th century) of an old oriental merchant house in the Lipscani historic quarter of Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The Ottoman style glazed veranda (early 19th century) of an old oriental merchant house in the Lipscani historic quarter of Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

A characteristic of the Ottoman 19th century domestic and commercial edifices are the large glazed verandas covering in many instances the entire street wall of a building. That was to maintain the privacy of the house occupants and also to afford a somehow higher degree of independence for womenfolk of the household, thus able to walk at will behind long stretches of glazed street walls. Restrictions on womenfolk’s movement were a characteristic of all communities (Muslim, Christian and Jewish) in the old Ottoman Empire.

In the 19th century glass became widely available and cheaper throughout the Turkish domain, including its Romanian Danubian provinces. Bucharest as other Balkan merchant towns was then embellished with many such structures. The name of a glazed veranda in Romanian is “geamlâc”, which is a Turkish word deriving from “cam”, meaning glazed-window area. Only a handful of these once prevalent structures now survives [or were re-created up to a palatable degree of accuracy], especially those that are facing backyards, being in general in a very sorry state, with their architectural heritage value not fully recognised by the locals or the city authorities.

The example presented above is perhaps the largest Ottoman glassed veranda that survives [or was indeed re-created following models shown in engravings from early to mid-c19th] in Bucharest, although it was heavily and unkindly restored in the 1930s and late 1970s. Nevertheless it conveys an idea how Lipscani historic quarter looked during its glory days, when it was at the heart of the Ottoman market town that later became the capital of Romania. Lipscani experienced perhaps its most difficult period during the neglect of the last two decades. It also suffers because of the city authorities’ botched attempts to rebuilt local infrastructure (see my previous post on Lipscani regeneration issues). The local architectural heritage was again intensely damaged during the property boom of the last few years when many historic buildings have been knocked down or altered by ignorant owners and entrepreneurs on the look out for a quick gain in the booming real estate market.

In the example above one can clearly see the ground area of the house being redecorated in a kitschy fashion as a western medieval building, completed with a billboard in an unconvincing gothic script, not having anything to do with the Ottoman identity and history of the place. It is part of the prevalent kitsch in Romania generated by the lack of culture and historical awareness among the local public and entrepreneurs. They might think that their plight and effort in putting in place those dreadful decorations are enough to attract quality tourists from abroad, but the result is just opposite, the bulk of tourists being locals and ignorant heavy drinking stag party groups from the west. (©Valentin Mandache)

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I endeavor through this daily image series 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 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.