The “classical” Art Nouveau doorway of a 1920s Neo-Romanian style building

The Art Nouveau style doorway of a 1920s Neo-Romanian style house, Cotroceni area, Bucharest. (©Valentin Mandache)

I found the above doorway that displays some “classical” Art Nouveau patterns, especially the oval motif around the door window, in the quite unusual setting of a 1920s Neo-Romanian style house located in the Cotroceni area of Bucharest. My view is that this design contrasting quite markedly with the rest of the building, was not the whim of the initial owner or the architect of the house, but that the door comes from an older building which might have been there before the Neo-Romanian style one took its place or has been the doorway of the owner’s former home from some other part of Bucharest or even another town within or without Romania. That is quite plausible as in the aftermath of the Great War and the break up of the Habsburg, Russian and Ottoman empires, there were many population movements and refugees criss-crossing this part of Europe, many of them bearing with them relics of their former dear homes (lamps, chairs, trunks, etc.), and this doorway might have been one such a treasured memento, used as part of a new home in a new country.

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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.

Late autumn rose

A late autumn rose in front of an early 1930s Neo-Romanian style arched veranda, Dorobanti area, Bucharest. (©Valentin Mandache)

I took a small break over the last three days and now I am back at my pleasant travails:) on the subject of Romanian period houses. The photograph above containing a slightly faded rose in front of a richly decorated Neo-Romanian style arched veranda is very evocative of the historic architecture of Bucharest and how this city has once been, before the communist takeover and the chaotic, low quality building boom of the last decade.

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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.

Cast iron balcony

1880s cast iron balcony, Lipscani area, Bucharest. (©Valentin Mandache)

Fin de Siècle Bucharest was literally a city of ironwork balconies, when the Little Paris style architecture (what I call the French c19th historicist styles provincially interpreted in Romania of that time) has been all the rage in the city and the country. The balconies had in equal measure a functional and also a decorative role, greatly enhancing the personality of a house. The intricately worked iron balconies are also very evocative of the comfortable, relatively prosperous and contemplative way of life of the emerging middle classes in this corner of south east Europe during the height of the Victorian era. There were two main types of such architectural artefacts: the cast and the wrought iron balconies. The cast iron ones, such as the one from the photograph above, are usually the oldest examples of iron balconies, some of them dating from the 1860 – 1880s, while the wrought iron examples date mostly from between 1890s-1910s. The wrought iron balconies can be further divided into two types: upright fence ones and pear shaped balconies. Contemporary Bucharest is losing these charming period architectural embellishments at a fast pace, due to the chaotic and rapacious property development of the central areas during the last decade, or in some instances, even sold for scrap metal, by ignorant owners (the “new Romanians”, people from among the local middle class, very entrepreneurial, but crudely cultured, products of the low quality education system of post-communist Romania), who see them as an eyesore.

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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 Contactpage of this weblog.

Neo-Romanian style decorative panels

A conspicuous feature of the Neo-Romanian architectural style is represented by the elaborate decorative panels that emphasize areas of the façade or stairway. They contain a wealth of designs centred on a number of motifs inspired from the late medieval Wallachian church decorative panoply such as that of peacocks in the Garden of Eden, protector eagle or lions guarding the gates of Paradise. There are also instances of decorative panels containing non-religious abstract motifs in a variety of designs. Bellow are a few examples from the wealth of such attractive architectural artefacts embellishing Neo-Romanian style houses in Bucharest and Targoviste in southern Romania.

Neo-Romanian style decorative panel, late 1920s house, Dorobanti area, Bucharest. (©Valentin Mandache)

The panel above is a representation of the protector eagle, guarding the Garden of Eden, engaged in a  manichean battle with a serpent, the embodiment of evil. The Garden of Eden is envisaged as a luxuriant grape vine full of fruit, with its vines contorted around the eagle in the shape of a Greek cross, an allusion that the supreme deity watches that never ending fight.

Neo-Romanian style decorative panel, early 1930s house, Dacia Boulevard area, Bucharest. (©Valentin Mandache)

The panel from the second photograph is rendered in a more schematic, crisp manner, an indication of the Art Deco influence over the Neo-Romanian style that started to manifest in the early 1930s.

Neo-Romanian style decorative panel, late 1920s house, Targoviste, southern Romania. (©Valentin Mandache)

The image above shows an imaginative decorative use of a loft air vent, rendered in the shape of an abstract Greek cross, covered by a rectangular ironwork pattern containing smaller crosses of that type.

Neo-Romanian style decorative panel, mid-1930s house, Targoviste, southern Romania. (©Valentin Mandache)

This forth decorative panel contains a floral motif that does not have immediate religious references, rendered in an Art Deco manner, a result of the high influence of that style on the Romanian architectural scene in the 1930s.

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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.

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

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.

Book launch event: “Royal Cookbook” by Princess Margarita of Romania

HRH Princess Margarita of Romania has launched last Saturday, at the “Gaudeamus book fair” in Bucharest, among a wide acclaim from the public and considerable interest from the press, her new book on culinary subjects. The volume is entitled “Royal Cookbook” [“Carte regala de bucate” in Romanian] and is produced by the Curtea Veche publishing house.

"Royal Cookbook" by Princess Margarita of Romania

The book is a true work of love, the result of personal searches, culinary experiences, encounters and contributions from an important number of European royals with whom the Princess is related or in close friendship. The great distinction of this volume is represented by the small vignettes charmingly portraying its contributors, people from the immediate family like HM King Michel, HM Queen Anne and HRH Prince Radu’s mother to Archduke Georg of Austria or Prince Hassan bin Talal of Jordan. The vignettes interposed between enticing cooking recipes are excellent devices for communicating to the reader the culinary tastes and firsthand glimpses of the daily life and aspirations of HRH Princess Margarita’s family and friends. I very much like the concise and precise writing style of the author, which makes the book a breeze to read and reveals without doubt the leadership genes shared by the princess with her ancestors, distinguished sovereigns of Romania. The Curtea Veche publishing house is to be commended for its acumen in publishing this wonderful book.

"Royal Cookbook" by Princess Margarita of Romania

Sharing and talking about food is one of the most convivial human activities, which bring together groups and individuals, managing to break otherwise insurmountable barriers between them. Through this brilliant book, written in a straight forward manner, communicating with ease its hospitality message, the Romanian Royal House has scored very high mark public relations points, which in the more usual daily life circumstances would have necessitated a considerably greater effort and expense. The volume thus represents a direct link with the public that brings the monarchy closer to the people, further blowing away the smokescreen put between them by the uncongenial press and politicians.

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Diana and I were among the numerous public that listened to the introductory speech of HRH Princess Margarita at the book fair. The area occupied by the bookstands seemed too small to hold such an enthusiastic crowd that surged forward, with people stepping over each others’ toes to catch a glimpse of the author and get an autograph. As historians, we had thus a delightful opportunity to feel and observe at first hand the huge interest and positive emotion generated by this remarkable event.

Valentin Mandache

Patriotic transition style house

Transition Little Paris to Neo-Romanian style house dating from late 1890s, Icoanei area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

This house, which dates from the 1890s, embodies an interesting and relatively rare example of transition style between the cosmopolitan Little Paris style (which in a nutshell represents a symbiosis of French c19th historicist architecture provincially interpreted in Fin de Siècle Romania, with old local Ottoman Balkans motifs and construction techniques) and the then newly emerging Neo-Romanian style, represented in this instance through a number of defining ornamental medallions. Two of these medallions, decorating the street façade (see them in  more detail in the photographs bellow), represent the Prince Matei Basarab (1588 – 1654) of Wallachia and the Prince Vasile Lupu (1595–1661) of Moldavia. The artefacts are probably inspired from the great mosaics containing representations of Romanian leaders that embellish the entrance of the prestigious Bucharest’s Romanian Athenaeum, created a few years before this house was built. The two princes, famous for their bitter rivalry, instrumented in the c17th a brief Romanian national revival in their princedoms, before the region was further subdued by the Ottomans who put it in the early c18th under the administration of Greek dragomans, from the Phanar quarter of Istanbul. The Neo-Romanian architectural style, a national-romantic order through its genesis and programme, makes intense allusions to the heroic medieval and late medieval past. It is thus natural to find symbols and representations referring to those epic times of yore, such as the effigies of Matei Basarab and Vasile Lupu, on houses built, in various degrees of finesse, by ordinary people at that time. It gives us an idea about the ethos of that epoch, when the patriotic sentiment, expressed in references typical of the Romantic era, was at its height in the late c19th Romania, an intrinsic part of the process of modern state and nation building in this area of Europe.

Mural effigy of voivode Matei Basarab, house from the late 1890s, Icoanei area, Bucharest. (©Valentin Mandache)
Mural effigy of voivode Valile Lupu, house from the late 1890s, Icoanei area, Bucharest. (©Valentin Mandache)

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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.

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

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.

“Mahala” type house

"Mahala" type house, end c19th, Targoviste, southeren Romania (©Valentin Mandache)

The Romanian word “mahala” comes from the Turkish “mahalle”, which means “city district”. The connotations are however quite different, in Romanian the word designating the city slums, the poorest and worst areas of an urban settlement. Many mahala houses display interesting transition features between peasant/ rural and urban architecture. The image above shows a late c19th mahala house from the city of Targoviste in southern Romania. It is quite well preserved and gives an idea how the city slums would have looked like in this region of Europe more than a century ago. This type of building is quite rare now, their number diminishing year by year. In my opinion they have an architectural and social history value and some of them deserve to be preserved as interesting witnesses of this region’s urban evolution.

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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.

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

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.

Solar or stage reflector design for Art Deco doorway?

Abstract solar motif design Art Deco style doorway dating from the late 1930s, Romana area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

I have to say that I pondered a bit on the significance of the Art Deco motif incorporated in the design of the above apartment block doorway in Bucharest and came to the view that it represents either a well rendered solar motif or an abstraction of the lights of a stage/ cinema reflector, frequently represented in Art Deco creations. The high quality of the design is also enhanced by the finely worked wrought iron that has withstood the vicissitudes and lack of maintenance of the past decades in communist and post-communist 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 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.

Exclusive interview with Prince Nicholas of Romania, soon in ‘RDQ’ by Diana & Valentin Mandache (via Diana Mandache’s Weblog)

Exclusive interview with Prince Nicholas of Romania, soon in 'RDQ' by Diana & Valentin Mandache The Royalty Digest Quarterly will publish in its December issue (4/2010) an insightful interview with HRH Prince Nicholas of Romania, entitled "I see Romania as one big history lesson", in which he speaks about his country, education, his famous grandfather- HM King Michael, plans for the future. Interviewers: Diana Mandache & Valentin Mandac … Read More

via Diana Mandache's Weblog

Inverted ziggurat motif Art Deco windows

Art Deco style windows decorated with the inverted ziggurat motif; early 1930s house in Piata Victoriei area, Bucharest. (©Valentin Mandache)

The triptych of windows in the photograph above would be quite monotonous without the inverted ziggurat motif represented on the dividing pillars between wall openings. The inverted ziggurat is often used with great effect in the Art Deco and Modernist architecture, enlivening the composition of the whole design. One of the most famous uses of this motif that comes to my mind is the general configuration of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Guggenheim Museum in New York.

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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.

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

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.