From the designer of the Neo-Romanian style mansion in California

I had the very pleasant surprise to receive about a couple of weeks ago a message from Mr Eric Lind, the architect of the Neo-Romanian style mansion in Sacramento, California, which I documented the month before, see the link here, a post that proved to be very popular with my readers, notably those based in Romania. Eric has warm words about my work in the field of the historic architecture of Romania and especially about my writings and expertise on the Neo-Romanian architectural style, which seems to have been a source of information for his creation. His California mansion design that contains well pointed and essential Neo-Romanian style elements is very interesting and represents in my opinion quite an architectural event that opens an esoteric chapter in the US architecture. There are extremely rare examples of Neo-Romanian houses outside the region of Romania, and this particular mansion is one of those few and far between occurrences. Here is Eric’s message, which I would like to share, with his prior permission, with my readers:
From: “Eric Lind”
To: “Valentin Mandache”
Date: 12 May 2011 05:12
Subject: Your blog
Mr. Mandache,
I’d like to thank you for your kind words and posting of a link to my video on your blog back on April 09.  I was curious as to why I had a spike in Romanian views until I checked the youtube analytics.I was wary when I saw they were coming from your blog because I was familiar with your website (as anyone would be after researching Neo-Romanian architecture online), and knowing you are an expert on the style, thought you might discredit my description of being “Neo-Romanian.”  I’m aware it’s kind of a stretch with the expansive single-story floor plan and lack of detail to label the building of the style, but I did my best in dealing with the client’s expectations and budget.Thanks again for the kind words, and I’d like to commend you on your impressive breadth of knowledge of the historic Romanian houses.  Your dedication to and passion for your work is quite apparent!  I was completely unaware of the Neo-Romanian architectural style until I took on a Romanian client and started researching, and your site was surely a huge help.From what I’ve seen, Petre Antonescu seems to be the master architect of the style, I wonder if you’d agree…
Regards,
Eric Lind
LEED Accredited Professional
Eric Lind Associates, Inc.
There is a second video featuring Eric Lind Associates’ California Neo-Romanian style building, featuring a very interesting animation of its structural elements and process of construction (click the picture to access the video):
Neo-Romanian style building in Sacramento, California. ELA_Construction Animation_Spahn Ranch
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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.

Neo-Romanian balcony veranda assemblies

Bellow are two examples of ample Neo-Romanian style balcony veranda assemblies built one and a half decade apart (the first image, immediately under the text, shows a late 1930s construction, while the one bellow it dates from the first half of the 1920s). They exhibit the evolution of this style from heavy forms, built using traditional materials like compact bricks and masonry (1920s) to somehow slender and airy shapes made possible by the use of reinforce concrete and lighter, modern bricks. The common denominator is the near burdensome, but flamboyant decorative register composed of elements inspired from the late medieval Wallachian church (Brancovan era) ornaments like the Ottoman Islamic arches, short Byzantine columns or the rope motif among many other enchanting details.

Neo-Romanian style balcony veranda assembly, late 1930s house, Cismigiu area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)
Neo-Romanian style balcony assembly, early 1920s house, Dorobanti area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

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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.

Elisabeta Palace garden party photograph

Diana Mandache, HRH Princess Margarita of Romania, Valentin Mandache (Photo: Daniel Angelescu, Romania Royal House appointed photographer)

An instant from the Royal Garden Party given on 12 May 2011 by HM King Michael of Romania, HRH Princess Margarita and HRH Prince Radu at the Elisabeta Palace in Bucharest with the occasion of the National [Royal] Day of Romania (10 May), also as part of the of the 90th birthday [October next] anniversary jubilee celebrations of HM King Michael.

Sibiu orthodox cathedral – universalist message in architecture

Sibiu orthodox cathedral, old postcard (1900s), Valentin Mandache collection

The city of Sibiu (Hermannstadt in German, Nagyszeben in Hungarian) is the second largest urban centre of historic Saxon Transylvania. It is, as its varying names show, a multi-ethnic city. The main faith of Sibiu’s ethnic Romanian population is Christian orthodox, with its centre of worship at the majestic cathedral depicted in the old postcard pictured above, inaugurated in 1904 and designed by the Hungarian architects Josef Kamner and Vergilius Nagy. The postcard was published by the Sibiu archdiocese in the period immediately after its inauguration. The crisp drawing and lively hand applied colours convey, in many ways better than a photograph, the architectural message and the monumental proportions of this remarkable ecclesiastical building. The cathedral is modelled after Saint Sophia in Constantinople, embracing also elements of local Trasylvanian architecture and baroque, the style ubiquitous throughout the Habsburg empire, whence Sibiu was then a frontier city in the vicinity of the old Kingdom of Romania. I like the universalist message of its architecture, making references to the church of the first millennium of the Common Era, before the Great Schism and the Reformation, which had its centre in Byzantium. That obvious integrative symbolism was so much in contrast with the ethnic tensions prevalent throughout the Habsburg Empire in its last decades of existence, when the cathedral was conceived and built, a situation that ultimately led to the demise of that once great polity.

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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.

Neo-Romanian style monogram panel

Neo-Romanian style monogram panel, early 1920s house, Dorobanti area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

This panel is about 1.5 metre in length and sits on the first floor level of a street corner Neo-Romanian style house in the Dorobanti area of Bucharest. It contains at its centre the monogram of the house owner, the intertwined V and A initials, set among luxurious vegetation motifs. The design is typical for the 1920s period, in the first years after the First World War, when in Romania were still echoes in the decorative arts from the historicist styles (neo-baroque, neo-rococo) of the c19th, visible here in the lettering style reminding of the rococo architectural letter rendering or in the laurel wreath, a rare classical antiquity reverberation for a Neo-Romanian setting, embracing the monogram. The rest of the panel is filled by a dense symmetrical array, inspired from the Ottoman Islamic art, of grape and acanthus vines adorned with ample leaves, flowers and many grape fruit. The whole assembly is an epitome for the Neo-Romanian decorative concepts in the years before the emergence on the local scene of the Art Deco and International Modernist styles.

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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.

Adobe peasant house from the Oriental Carpathian mountains

Adobe peasant house, Uz Valley, Oriental Carpathian mountains, Romania (©Valentin Mandache)

The adobe constitutes an excellent building material widely used until very recently in Romanian countryside. It is made from soil with a high clay and sand content, mixed up with water, bound together by straw and horse or cow manure. The compound is then cast in brick shape moulds and left to dry in the sun for a number of days (2-3 weeks). A finer variety of adobe is also used as a plaster, coating the walls made from those type of bricks. That plaster can later be whitewashed or painted in a diversity of colours and motifs. The buildings made from that material provide a good degree of comfort and insulation from the excesses of the Romanian climate characterised by very hot summers and utterly cold winters. Adobe is in many aspects similar with cob or mudbrick, but in my opinion more robust, durable and efficient than those. I grew up in a village where most of the dwellings were made from adobe bricks, even parts of my parents’ house was built from that material. I fondly remember as a child trampling my feet in the mud, together with other fellow villagers, in preparation for the bricks, literally going round in circles, a ritual like scene so much part of the ancestral village life.

The photograph above, which I made during my recent trip to Uz Valley (Darmanesti, Bacau county) in north eastern Romania, presents such an adorable adobe peasant house. It is a very simple, but exceedingly functional structure, with everything a peasant family needs: a kitchen, placed on the left hand side of this example, and a large bedroom, spaces divided by a corridor where the doorway is placed. This house type is quite ubiquitous throughout the Romanian lands, being built as such since at least the c18th when the necessary tools and technology became widely available in the region; of course the roof was then made from wooden shingles, the ceramic tiles seen in this example being a contemporary “amelioration”. The adobe walls are surrounded by a nice veranda made from simple beams, only the wooden columns having a bit of reduced to essence decoration. The back roof slant is extended to create a covered area behind the house, where the family keeps the firewood dry and other major household items (a cart, tuns, etc.)

I very much like the balanced proportions of this house; it is something there reminding me of the Golden Ratio, similar, if I am allowed to compare, with that of the classical antiquity buildings.

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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.

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.

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

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.

Architecture and geopolitics: why Romania’s architecture is so mixed up and in a permanent identity crisis

For those of you who would like to know more about the fascinatingly peculiar geopolitics of the region where Romania is located, I published a while ago an article, presented in the Scribd interface bellow, debating some of its aspects. The very uneven and often stunted development of architecture within the Romanian lands can well be attributed to the millennial old geopolitical instability of the Carpathian region, an area where three mighty overland empires came into contact: the Ottoman, the Habsburg and the Russian realms. The frictions and conflicts between these great polities were often played out within their common periphery, which is represented by the Romanian lands, with terrible consequences for the economic and cultural development of the local communities. The architectural phenomenon was of course one one of the victims of that geopolitical setting.

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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.

Uz Valley ethographic architecture (north eastern Romania)

Ethnographic architecture from north eastern Romania (©Valentin Mandache)

The above photomontage depicts peasant houses and monumental wooden gateways carved with ethnographic motifs from the Uz Valley in the Oriental Carpathian mountains of Romania (Darmanesti, Bacau county). The name “Uz” comes from that of the old Turkic and Ugric populations that settled in the area one millennia ago, which in time got assimilated within the host ethnic Romanian population, but also still survive, represented by the small Csango ethic group, living in settlements in and around Bacau county, which are related to the Hungarians. The village, now a quarter of Darmanesti city, an oil refinery centre, is amazingly picturesque, with its ethnographic architecture surprisingly well conserved, hardly touched by the wild property development boom that devastated the stock of historic houses of this country in the mid 2000s. The pictures from the collage, which are also presented in the slide show bellow, display a wealth of ethnographic motifs typical to the area: a fascinating mixture of Romanian and Csango patterns. That type of period property is quite cheap now and would constitute an excellent renovation/ restoration project for anyone brave enough to acquire such a house in this quaint rural setting from the eastern fringes of the European Union.

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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.

Potlogi Palace: imagination & restoration

The Neo-Romanian architectural style is based on a multiplicity of sources from throughout the regions of Romania, chiefly among them churches and palaces built during a period centred on the reign of the Wallachian prince Constantin Brancoveanu (1688 – 1714). The architecture developed throughout that era is usually termed as Brancovan (other terms are Wallachian or Romanian Renaissance), representing a very peculiar, flamboyant mix of southern Romanian and Ottoman Islamic motifs together with European Renaissance (northern Italian) and baroque elements. Unfortunately, not many of those extraordinary buildings are still around, due to wars, frequent invasions by armies of the neighbouring empires, earthquakes or devastating great fires. Also an important proportion of the remaining edifices were in the course of time heavily altered.

The relative scarcity of such archetype structures, was something about which even Ion Mincu, the initiator of the Neo-Romanian style, complained about at the end of the c19th. Consequently many of the old Brancovan buildings had to be reconstructed in the modern era on the basis of disparate surviving fragments, using a a great deal of imagination in putting them together.

A case in point is that of Potlogi Palace, presented in images bellow, built by the prince Constantin Brancoveanu at the height of his power and during the flourishing of the Brancovan style in Wallachian arts and architecture.

Potlogi Palace, late c17th, southern Romania

The edifice, completed in 1698 – ’99, was destroyed by an invading Ottoman force just a decade and a half later, in 1714, as part of the reprisals for prince’s supposed collaboration with Peter the Great of Russia, and left in a Continue reading Potlogi Palace: imagination & restoration