Update for “April Fools’ Day”: Bucharest’s government has just restored one of the town’s architectural landmarks

Note: The first paragraph and image is an April Fools’ Day joke, showing one of the landmark buildings of Bucharest in a happier time, in the early 1970s, while the reality is detailed in the second paragraph and image, plus video.

Amazing! Bucharest’s government of whom everyone says is corrupt, ignorant and actively destroying the town’s heritage, has just restored one of the landmarks of Romania’s capital: the early Neoromanian style rendered in Art Nouveau fashion Boteanu building, a design by arch. Petre Antonescu in the 1900s!

Boteanu building, by arch. Petre Antonescu, 1900s, in early phase Neoromanian style rendered in Art Nouveau fashion.

Boteanu building, by arch. Petre Antonescu, 1900s, in early phase Neoromanian style rendered in Art Nouveau fashion.

This is how the building is looking nowadays, compared with its former self, above, in the happier times of the 1970s decade, photographed by a rare American tourist, who visited during the communist thaw period in international relations, before Nicolae Ceausescu consolidated his totalitarian dictatorship. What we see today is the result of the neglect and active destruction that characterise the generations produced by Ceausescu’s rule and Ion Iliescu – Adrian Nastase post-communist corruption. Sadly the Royal House also plays in this dynamic, by giving medals to personages such as mayor Oprescu, who oversees the destruction of the architectural heritage, and its socialisation with corrupt politicians. There are high expectations after the November 2014 presidential elections, which would hopefully later reflect itself in a better appreciation and preservation of the architectural heritage by the general public.

Casa Boteanu, how it looks in today

Casa Boteanu, how it looks in today

Architectural walking tour: The Landmarks of Central Bucharest – Saturday 21 March

Historic Houses of Romania tour in central BucharestDear readers,

I would like to invite you to an architectural history tour to take place in central Bucharest, in the area around the former Royal Palace, which contains the Romanian Athenaeum, the symbol of this town and many other landmark buildings that imprint its personality. The tour is scheduled on Saturday 21 March 2015, for two hours, between 11.30h – 13.30h. This cultural excursion 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.

Bucharest has had a number of central areas as it evolved from a medieval market town in what is now the Lipscani quarter, within a bend of the Dambovita river, afterward periodically shifting its location, following directions toward the main regional trading partners: to the south and east during the centuries of Ottoman domination, or to the north once the European powers had the upper hand in the region. What we call today the centre of Romania’s capital, the objective of our tour, emerged less than one and a half centuries ago, encompassing some of its most iconic historic architecture, from the Athenaeum, a magnificent concert hall in the Beaux Arts style, built in a first phase in 1888, designed by the French architect Albert Galleron, to the neoclassical outlines of the former Royal Palace (arch. N. Nenciulescu, 1937) that today hosts the National Art Museum, or the futuristic glass structure that crowns the neo-Renaissance building of the former Habsburg Empire’s Embassy gutted by fire in the anticommunist revolution of 1989. We will also examine the Athenee Palace hotel, the famous spynest where British, US and German spies tried to outwit each other in the years and months right before the Second World War, or the  despised former Communist Party’s Central Committee headquarters, where the dictator Ceausescu and his wife had to leave in haste to meet their fate, pursued by the revolted people of Bucharest, marking the end on one of the harshest dictatorships in Europe. The area is also still bearing bullet marks from the anticommunist revolution or even older traces left by the German air raid of August 1944. We will also visit and examine the site of the former National Theatre, the equivalent of England’s the Globe for Romania, and Cretzulescu Church, a masterwork of the Barncovan style peculiar to the province of Wallachia, among many other objectives. The tour will end with a visit at Aman Museum, as an architectural history apotheosis, an edifice that is a magnificent piece of Little Paris interior and exterior design, embodying the architecture of Bucharest of the La Belle Époque period. All of those exquisite sights, concentrated in a quite small perimeter, enclosing some of the most important architectural landmarks of this town are awaiting 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 tour in central Bucharest

Historic Houses of Romania tour in central Bucharest

Historic Houses of Romania architectural tour in central Bucharest

Historic Houses of Romania architectural tour in central 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.

Video-invitation to walking tour in Matei Basarab area (Jewish Bucharest). 1.03.15

Historic Houses of Romania organises an architectural tour in Matei Basarab area of Bucharest, also known for its Jewish heritage, on Sunday 1 March 2015, between 11.30h – 13.30h. The guide is Valentin Mandache, expert in period architecture. Registrations at v.mandache@gmail.com

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I endeavour through this series of periodic articles to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania and its wider region in the south east Europe, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of architectural history and heritage.

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

If you would like to find out about the architectural style and history of a period house in Romania, which you intend to acquire, sell, renovate in its historic spirit or restore, I would be delighted to offer you professional consultancy in that direction. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contact page of this weblog.

Video-invitation to walking tour in Mosilor area of Bucharest. 28.02.15

Historic Houses of Romania organises an architectural tour in the picturesque Mosilor area of old Bucharest, on Saturday, 28 February 2015, between 11.30h – 13.30h. The guide is Valentin Mandache, expert in period architecture. Registrations at v.mandache@gmail.com

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

I endeavour through this series of periodic articles to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania and its wider region in the south east Europe, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of architectural history and heritage.

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

If you would like to find out about the architectural style and history of a period house in Romania, which you intend to acquire, sell, renovate in its historic spirit or restore, I would be delighted to offer you professional consultancy in that direction. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contact page of this weblog.

Video-invitation to Art Nouveau architecture tour in Bucharest. 21.02.15

Historic Houses of Romania organises a walking tour on the theme of the Art Nouveau style architecture of Bucharest, on Saturday 21 February 2015. The guide is Valentin Mandache, expert in period houses. Registrations at v.mandache@gmail.com

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

I endeavour through this series of periodic articles to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania and its wider region in the south east Europe, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of architectural history and heritage.

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

If you would like to find out about the architectural style and history of a period house in Romania, which you intend to acquire, sell, renovate in its historic spirit or restore, I would be delighted to offer you professional consultancy in that direction. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contact page of this weblog.

Video-invitation to architectural tour on the Art Deco of the Domenii district. 15.02.15

Historic Houses of Romania organises a walking tour on the subject of the Art Deco style architecture of the Domenii quarter of Bucharest, on Sunday, 15 February 2015, between the hours 11.30h – 13.30h. The guide is Valentin Mandache, expert in period buildings. Registrations at v.mandache@gmail.com

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

I endeavour through this series of periodic articles to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania and its wider region in the south east Europe, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of architectural history and heritage.

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

If you would like to find out about the architectural style and history of a period house in Romania, which you intend to acquire, sell, renovate in its historic spirit or restore, I would be delighted to offer you professional consultancy in that direction. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contact page of this weblog.

Video-invitation to architectural tour in Bellu Cemetery. 14 Feb. ’15

Historic Houses of Romania organises a walking tour in the largest and most famous necropolis of Bucharest, Bellu Cemetery, on Saturday 14 February 2015, between the hours 11.30h – 13.30h. The guide is Valentin Mandache, architectural history expert. Registrations at v.mandache@gmail.com

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

I endeavour through this series of periodic articles to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania and its wider region in the south east Europe, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of architectural history and heritage.

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

If you would like to find out about the architectural style and history of a period house in Romania, which you intend to acquire, sell, renovate in its historic spirit or restore, I would be delighted to offer you professional consultancy in that direction. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contact page of this weblog.

Video-invitation to architectural tour in Kiseleff – the late Neoromanian style. 8.02.15

Historic Houses of Romania organises an architectural tour in the prestigious Kiseleff area of Bucharest, on the theme of the late Neoromanian style, on Sunday 8 February 2015. Registrations at: v.mandache@gmail.com

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

I endeavour through this series of periodic articles to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania and its wider region in the south east Europe, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of architectural history and heritage.

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

If you would like to find out about the architectural style and history of a period house in Romania, which you intend to acquire, sell, renovate in its historic spirit or restore, I would be delighted to offer you professional consultancy in that direction. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contact page of this weblog.

Video-invitation to architectural tour in Cismigiu area of Bucharest. 7 Feb. ’15

Historic Houses of Romania organises a walking tour on the subject of the period architecture of Cismigiu area of Bucharest, to take place Saturday 7 February 2015. The guide is Valentin Mandache, expert in historic houses. Register by sending a message to v.mandache@gmail.com

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

I endeavour through this series of periodic articles to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania and its wider region in the south east Europe, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of architectural history and heritage.

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

If you would like to find out about the architectural style and history of a period house in Romania, which you intend to acquire, sell, renovate in its historic spirit or restore, I would be delighted to offer you professional consultancy in that direction. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contact page of this weblog.

A happy new year for 2015!

2015

Phoenix bird raising from burning flames, adorning the facade of a late phase Neoromanian style house, dating from the late 1930s in Kiseleff area of Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

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

I endeavour through this series of periodic articles to inspire appreciation of Romania’s historic houses and its region in South East Europe, 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 advise you with specialist research, sourcing and marketing the property. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contact page of this weblog.

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.

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.

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.

Art Deco sunbursts

Art Deco sunbursts

Art Deco-like sunbursts in the summer of 2012, Grivita – Domenii area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

I am a great fan of the cheerful Art Deco panels that depict sunbursts, rainbows or southern seas themes. In that spirit I have put together a real sunburst photographed last summer in Grivita – Domenii area of the city, a quarter that is still preserving its inter-war charm when it was built up in large part in the Art Deco style, then much in vogue in Bucharest, and the emblem of an insurance company, ornament that dates from the Art Deco era, located in the town centre. Looking at the natural sunburst is easier to understand the message, optimism and confidence exuded by the Art Deco panels of Bucharest and the culture of that beautiful time in the history of architecture.

Art Deco sunbursts

Art Deco sunburst as part of the composition of an inter-war Romanian insurance company emblem, University area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

Atlantes and caryatides of Bucharest

I tried to profit yesterday of the lull in between snowfalls and blizzards that affect Bucharest at the end of this January, and shoot a few photographs on the theme of atlantes and caryatides that embellish some of the historic buildings of Romania’s capital. If on the one hand the term caryatid (pl.-s/es) is well known, as the female figure appearing to support on her head the architectural structure above, the name coming form that of the sculpted goddesses that sustain the lintel of the Erechtheion temple on Athens’ Acropolis, atlantes, on the other hand, is somehow confusing for being the plural of the term atlas, the classical Greek god that support the world on his head and shoulders, a male counterpart of a caryatid. Bucharest does not have too many such ornaments, which are the province of the high historicist styles, encountered also sometimes on more modern buildings, but for a keen eye they reveal themselves on house corners, side streets or at the top of façades of some of the city’s historic edifices. Bellow is a selection of some of the most impressive atlantes and caryatides that adorn Romania’s capital, put in place in a period spanning from the mid-c19th to the 1930s, in styles ranging from neo-Renaissance, neo-rococo, Beaux Arts to classicized Art Deco.

Atlantes and caryatides of Bucharest

Atlantes at the gate of BCR building (1900s, Beaux Arts style) in University Square, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

Atlantes and caryatides of Bucharest

Detail of atlas at the gate of BCR building (1900s, Beaux Arts style) in University Square, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

Atlantes and caryatides of Bucharest

Caryatides of Bucharest, residential and commercial building in Curtea Veche area, Lipscani quarter, dating from the 1890s. (©Valentin Mandache)

Atlantes and caryatides of Bucharest

Detail- caryatid assembly, residential and commercial building in Curtea Veche area, Lipscani quarter, Bucharest, dating from  the 1890s. (©Valentin Mandache)

Atlantes and caryatides of Bucharest

Atlantes embellishing a neo-rococo style building dating from the  early 1900s, Smardan Str. area, Lipscani quarter, Bucharest. (©Valentin Mandache)

Atlantes and caryatides of Bucharest

Detail of an atlas from the  composition embellishing a neo-rococo style building dating from the early 1900s, Smardan Str. area, Lipscani quarter, Bucharest

Atlantes and caryatides of Bucharest

Caryatides flanking the entrance of an 1930s apartment block (arch. Petre Antonescu) in Natiunile Unite square, Bucharest. (©Valentin Mandache)

Atlantes and caryatides of Bucharest

Detail of a caryatid (classicized Art Deco figure) at the entrance of an 1930s apartment block (arch. Petre Antonescu) in Natiunile Unite square, Bucharest.

Atlantes and caryatides of Bucharest

Terracotta caryatides on top of Stirbey Palace, neo-Renaissance style (Palladian inspiration), dating from the mid c19th, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

Atlantes and caryatides of Bucharest

Detail of a terracotta caryatid, Stirbey Palace, neo-Renaissance style (Palladian inspiration), dating from the mid c19th, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

Atlantes and caryatides of Bucharest

Atlantes and caryatides, Macca – Villacrosse covered passage, 1890s, neo-rococo style, Lipscani quarter, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

Atlantes and caryatides of Bucharest

Atlas and caryatid- detail from the assembly embellishing the entrance of Macca – Villacrosse covered passage (1890s, neo-rococo style), Lipscani quarter, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

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

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