Architectural walking tour in Cismigiu area – Sunday 5 July

Dear Readers,

I would like to invite you, in my quality as the author of Historic Houses or Romania – Case de Epoca blog, to an architectural history tour in Cismigiu area of Bucharest. This cultural excursion, open to all of you, is scheduled to take place this Saturday 5 July 2015, for two hours, between 11.30h – 13.30h.

I will be your guide throughout this beautiful expanse of Bucharest, which unfurls around Cismigiu Gardens, the “Central Park” of the city, which is also its oldest surviving landscaped garden. The quarter boasts a balanced mix of architectures ranging from Little Paris, Neo-Romanian to Art Deco and Modernism, and also representative church buildings, various species of neo-Gothic and even triumphalist Mussolinian styles. Cismigiu is packed with the remarkable creations of some of the most famous native and foreign born architects, active on the local market starting with the last decades of the c19th; personalities such as Giulio Magni, Oscar Maugsch, Horia and Ion Creanga, Ion and Tiberiu Niga, Nicolae Cucu, Gheorghe Simotta, Petre Antonescu or Emil Günes, to cite just some of them. All of these exceedingly interesting edifices and garden architecture are waiting to be discovered by you!

The tour costs Lei 45 (Romanian currency) per person, 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)

Architectural walking tour in Cismigiu area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

Historic Houses of Romania architectural walking tour in Cismigiu area, Bucharest

Historic Houses of Romania architectural walking tour in Cismigiu area, Bucharest

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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.

Architectural walking tour in Dorobanti area of Bucharest – Sunday 28 June

Dear readers,

This is an invitation to an architectural history tour in Dorobanti area of Bucharest: open to all of you who would like to accompany the author of the Historic Houses of Romania blog, this Sunday 28 June 2015for two hours, between 16.30h – 20.30h.

I will be your guide through one of the architecturally most distinguished areas of Bucharest, in the same league with Kiseleff in its quality of historic buildings. Dorobanti is brimful with architectural wonders, ranging from the finest Neo-Romanian to Art Deco style houses or hybrids between the two, to many other architectural designs. There are also some beautiful public monuments from the inter-war period dotting the tree lined streets and piazzas. The area is also host to many foreign diplomatic missions occupying some of its most beautiful mansions. Dorobanti is thus a compendium of Bucharest’s architecture, which in many aspects is still well preserved. All of these exquisite sights from one of the city’s most prestigious quarters 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)

Dorobanti area historic architecture, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

Historic Houses of Romania architectural tour in Dorobanti area of 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.

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

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.

Bucharest as the Little Paris of the Balkans – tour Saturday 27 June

Dear readers,

I would like to invite you to a thematic walking tour, to take place this Saturday 27 June 2015, after working hours, between 16.30h – 18.30h, on the subject of the late c19th – early c20th French and western historicist inspired architecture of Bucharest, which made the city known to the rest of world as the “Little Paris of the Balkans”, a phenomenon that imprinted the identity of Romania’s capital ever since. The tour 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 character.

The first building boom of modern era Bucharest happened during the period aptly named La Belle Époque, which corresponds with the late Victorian and early Edwardian epochs for the English speaking world (or Gilded Age in the US). It was characterised by a charming architecture inspired especially from the flamboyant neo-baroque, neo-rococo and also neo-gothic forms fashionable in France, a country seen by the then Romanians as a beacon of culture worthy to emulate, and from other west European states held in high regard by the then young Balkan nation. The local architecture thus acquired a personality of its own by combining the new forms with the indigenous and Ottoman traditional motifs and construction methods, resulting in what I collectively call, as an umbrella term, the “Little Paris style”. This is a type of architecture peculiar to the Fin de Siècle Romania and also to a lesser extent to the rest of the Balkans, reflecting the modernisation of the society and fusion in architecture of the western fashions together with ancestral forms. Bucharest is the best place in the entire region to view and study that peculiar type of architecture that emerged in this part of Europe, which because of its high concentration and relatively good state of preservation, is still an important component of the local built landscape. In the course of this tour I endeavour to show you some of the representative Little Paris style buildings found in central Bucharest, explain their architectural intricacies and the economic and social history contained without and within their walls and thus convey to you how amazing the Little Paris style is.

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)

Architectural walking tour – Bucharest as the Little Paris of the Balkans with Valentin Mandache

Architectural walking tour: Bucharest as the Little Paris of the Balkans

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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.

Art Nouveau Bucharest – Thursday 18 June tour, after working hours

Dear readers,

I will organise a thematic architectural tour this Thursday 18 June ’15, after working hours, between 18.15h – 20.15h, on the subject of the exceedingly interesting, but often elusive Art Nouveau architecture of Bucharest. 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.

The innovative and flamboyant Art Nouveau current that emerged at the end of c19th, as a reaction to the rigidity of the historicist styles, had also an important impact in Fin de Siècle Romania. One of its notable influences was the articulation

within its coordinates of the local national style, known today as Neoromanian, in a similar manner with other emerging national styles in the rest of Eastern Europe. Today the once exquisite Art Nouveau remnants are hard to notice by the untrained eye, although they are quite numerous, but scattered throughout the area of old Bucharest and often obscured by inclusion within ampler architectural assemblies rendered in historicist c19th styles. This tour endeavours to locate and explain the meaning and message of  some of the significant Art Nouveau representations that embellish the city center and give you an overall image about this style and its impact on the architectural development of Romania’s capital.

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)

Art Nouveau Bucharest – architectural tour (©Valentin Mandache)

Historic Houses of Romania tour: Art Nouveau 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.

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

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.

Walking tour Sunday 14 June: The Late Neo-Romanian Style of Bucharest’s Kiseleff Park area

Dear readers,

I would like to invite you to a thematic architectural tour this Sunday 14 June ’15, on the subject of the late phase of the Neo-Romanian architectural style, which unfurled mainly in the fourth and the fifth decades of the c20th, a period when this order peculiar to Romania reached a crisis in terms of expression, mitigated by a fascinating synthesis with the Art Deco, Mediterranean and Modernist styles. The tour takes two hours, between 11.30h – 13.30h, and it may be of interest to those of you visiting the city as a tourist or on business looking to find out more about its enchanting historic architecture and identity.

The modern construction technologies that emerged in the roaring twenties affording the development of light, airy structures expressed in the Art Deco and Modernist architecture, were quite antithetical to the traditionally ornate, heavy, built in brick and masonry, Neo-Romanian style edifices, as typical to its early and mature phases. That led to a crisis within this indigenous architectural order, threatened also by the high popularity among the public of the international modern styles or other fashionable building types, such as the Mediterranean inspired designs, which were all the rage in Bucharest during the 1930s. The Neo-Romanian style managed to survive and even thrive, until the watershed of the Second World War, through fascinating syntheses especially with the Art Deco, Mediterranean and to a lesser extent with the Modernist designs. The tour aims to present a number of telling examples from that phase of stylistic development located in Kiseleff Park area of north-central Bucharest, which is endowed with a higher concentration of such edifices, and thus chart a captivating chapter of Romania’s national style’s development and of Bucharest’s historic architecture.

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 thematic tour: The Late Neo-Romanian Style

Historic Houses of Romania tour: The late Neo-Romanian style

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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.

Architectural walking tour in TARGOVISTE – Saturday 13 June

Dear readers,

This is an invitation to an architectural history tour in Targoviste, renowned as the former capital of the former Principality of Wallachia and one of the seats of Vlad the Impaler, among many other fearsome medieval Wallachian rulers of the Medieval era, located north-west of Bucharest, 80km away, in the foothills of the Transylvanian Alps. The tour is open to all of you who would like to accompany me, the author of the Historic Houses of Romania blog on Saturday 13 June 2015!

I will be your expert guide in this excellently endowed in old architecture town. Targoviste contains a superb selection of period houses and public buildings, reflecting the styles and architectural evolution of Romania’s provincial towns since late Middle Ages. The locals are proud of the city’s heritage and legacy as a former princedom capital, somehow as Winchester is seen in England, if I may draw that parallel, with ample medieval ruins poignantly reminding its glorious past. The meaning of “Targoviste” in old Romanian language is that of  ”market town”, a true reflection of its medieval and early modern economy, until the advent of the oil industry in the inter-war period that changed its character.  All of that splendid architecture located in the Arcadia like setting of this city is waiting for you to be discovered and photographed! :)

You can read my blog articles detailing aspects of Targoviste’s wonderful historic architecture at this link: https://historo.wordpress.com/tag/targoviste/

Targoviste can be reached from Bucharest by car, train and bus. The tour will take about four hours, starting at 11.30am, with stops at the Princely Court open air museum and Arts museum (entrance ticket to each of this places has to be purchased there), and also for coffee and tea at one of the cafes on the old high street. The train schedule from Bucharest’s Gara de Nord can be accessed here: http://www.mersultrenurilor.ro, while the bus one here: http://www.autogari.ro.

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)

Architectural walking tour in Targoviste – Historic Houses of Romania –

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Historic Houses of Romania - architectural tour in Targoviste

Historic Houses of Romania – architectural tour in Targoviste

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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 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)

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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.

Happy Birthday to HM King Michael

HM King Michael of Romania and HM Queen Anne of Romania

HM King Michael of Romania and HM Queen Anne of Romania

I would like to wish HM King Michael of Romania a very happy 92nd birthday!

Below is an article published in Majesty Magazine, written by Diana Mandache and the undersigned, entitled “The History Maker”, with the occasion of His Majesty’s 90th birthday, evocating his exemplary, heroic life.

Valentin Mandache, expert in historic houses

King Michael, a great personality who has decisively influenced and determined the history of his country, survived a tumultuous period. His actions saved Romania from catastrophe during the Second World War, and his uncompromising moral stand throughout his life, however difficult the personal circumstances were, constitute a supreme example for his countrymen and the rest of the world.

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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 Contact page of this weblog.

Sketches of representative Romanian historic built landscape sights

VM drawings-001

Sketches of representative Romanian historic built landscape sights by the author of this blog

The built environment of Romania has an obvious personality, and being present permanently around me, it became in the last few years since I am based in Bucharest, an integral part of my intellectual universe. Some more than two decades ago I used to attended earth science courses, and one of the main tenets thought there was the keen observation of the ground and other landscape details to work out the local geological history. I was thought  back then to make as often as I can field sketches in a notebook, which were always preferable to photographs. That habit is still with me in my activity as an architectural historian, but recently in a high-tech form, having acquired and iPad and tried my hand on glass, which in my opinion is in many ways similar with how our c19th and earlier centuries counterparts used to draw and write on slate. My sketches encompass some of the main types of Romanian architectural landscape, which I hope you, dear readers, would find it interesting!

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Balchik, a resort with Romanian royal connections on the shore of the Black Sea

Today most of the Romanian Black Sea shore is, with the exception of the Danube Delta area, a mostly uninteresting flat plain, dotted with large industrial facilities and grey communist era hotel and residential developments. However, the country had between 1913 – 1916 and 1918 – 1940 a southern rocky seaboard with spectacular vistas, which is now part of Bulgaria. In the inter-war period Queen Marie of Romania built there, in the port city of Balchik (the ancient Greek colony of Dionysopolis, founded in c7th BCE), her most remarkable holiday palace, endowed with a magnificent garden and a multitude of guest houses, over a period stretching a decade, from 1927 to 1936. Some of the best Romanian architects of the time contributed with their creations, such as Emil Gunes or Henriette Delavrancea Gibory. Taking the queen’s example, many well to do Romanians also erected summer residences of a superb architectural quality that are still in large part in place and well looked after. The coast around Balchik faces the south and is protected behind by a series of rocky hills and cliffs from the cold winds and winter weather that come over the open Pontic steppe from as far as Siberia and menaces most of the rest of the country.

The inter-war period has thus been a glorious time for Balchik, which saw the wealthy spending summers in the luxury of their seashore villas, and the emergence of a remarkable painters’ and writers’ colony that took advantage of the glorious southern sunlight, appealing coastal landscape and enjoying the picturesque and welcome of the local community that was in important part Turkish, Tatar and Bulgarian.

Balcic - villa Tenha Yuvah - Diana Mandache collection

Balchik – villa Tenha Yuvah (Turkish for “Quiet Nest”) within the Royal Palace grounds – Diana Mandache collection

Queen Marie and her family spent many a great summer holiday at her palace and gardens in Balchik, taking pleasure fast boat rides along the shore. Everything exuded the happiness and well-being peculiar of that period of history, much the same as other European aristocrats, wealthy individuals or famous artists enjoyed places in the Mediterranean or the Gulf of Mexico.

Romanian Royals enjoying a boat ride, Balcic - Diana Mandache collection

Romanian Royals enjoying a boat ride, Balchik – Diana Mandache collection

Remarkable for Balchik and the times when Marie put it on the holiday map as an idyllic place, was the worlds apart contrast of life and aspirations with the Soviet Union’s Black Sea shore communities, over the not far away border. Balchik’s flourishing years as a royal resort overlap with Stalin’s party purges, the killing and sending to prison of countless wretched souls. Romania in less than a decade after Marie built her seaside palace became one of its first victims.

This post was initially published on Diana Mandache’s weblog under our joint authorship.

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)

Ottoman period sheep bell from Casota, Buzau county

Ottoman period sheep bell from Casota, Buzau county

Ottoman period sheep bell from Casota area, Buzau county, photo: Valentin Mandache

I have been shown in one of my recent visits to Moray Letham, the owner and restorer of Casota conac in Buzau county, about one hour drive from Bucharest, this interesting sheep bell, which is marked in its upper part by a moon crescent embracing a star, the symbol of the Ottoman state that once dominated these parts of south east Europe. Moray acquired this interesting piece of history from a local peasant. I photographed it against two of Moray’s pieces of c19th French antiques, an artificial stone lion and the pink marble counter top of a cupboard, which are intended to furnish the restored French neo-Renaissance style mansion in the villge.

It is hard to put a date on it, when the bell was made, as the Ottoman Empire is not effectively a lord of this region since the sixth decade of c19th. Following that reasoning, it is possible that the bell should have been produced locally not long before or roundabout that time. My opinion is that the bell is of a more recent date, perhaps an import from neighbouring Bulgaria, which remained under the Ottomans until the end of the 1870s and gained independence in 1908. The Romanian shepherds from the area went sometimes over to Bulgaria to trade their products. The same is true for Bulgarian traders and shepherds who frequently were heading over the Danube to Wallachia and further afield. Thus this bell could have been brought by someone in that process. There is also another possibility, if we take into account that the government settled in southern Romania in the last decades of c19th, until the Great World War, a large number of Vlachs, speakers of Romanian related languages from the Balkans. This bell could well have been brought over by one of those Vlach families  whose quintessential traditional activity is shepherding, when they came from their former places deep in the Ottoman Balkans.

Whichever is the origin of this sheep bell, it represents a tangible testimony of the quite recent history of these places, of the cultural and economic links between the peoples of the Balkans, which are now so much obscured by national borders, official national narratives and nationalist views of history, things which in general are far removed from the reality on the ground.

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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

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)

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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

The decorative stone of a Bucharest tube station

Politehnica tube station - ornamental stone

Politehnica tube station, Bucharest – ornamental stone, laid in the mid-1980s, photo Valentin Mandache

Bucharest’s public and private edifices erected in the last two decades, since the fall of communism, are, apart from the general forgettable design, built in high proportion using mass produced imported materials. Most of that is cheap, low quality, characterless and as regards the resulted architecture, can in my opinion, easily be categorised at kitsch. That situation also reflects the tastes and values of the actual generations engaged in building or renovating edifices of this town and country. They are in such stark contrast with the times of in the inter-war and subsequent communist periods when the architectural materials were in greatest proportion sourced within the country. That produced interesting and attractive results, with the ornamental and construction stone sourced in the Carpathian Mountains or in rocky hills of the province of Dobrogea, on the Black Sea coast, which are from that point of view a wonderful geological kaleidoscope, a bottomless source of high quality marble, limestone of different sorts, travertine, granite of various colours and grains, basalts, sandstones, etc.  I have in the image above a sample of that fabulous panoply of ornamental stone used in one of the grand communist era projects, Bucharest’s metro transport system. It shows the pavement of the Politehinca station, composed of red limestone peppered by Jurassic age marine fossils, which was sourced probably in the Apuseni (Western) Carpathians, the rock being formed in a geological age when those parts were a continental shelf covered by the warm seas on the Equator. My Dr. Martens shoes stand on a band of nicely granulated pinkish granite, sourced in my opinion in northern Dobrogea (it may also be from the Apuseni Mountains). The composition is evocative of the geographical and geological identity of this country, a fact which is no longer encountered within the pitiful built landscape of the actual post-communist years.