Walking tour in Cotroceni historic quarter of Bucharest. Saturday 4 April

Dear Readers,

This is an invitation to an architectural history tour in the Cotoroceni quarter of Bucharest, open to all of you who would like to accompany me, the author of the Historic Houses of Romania blog, for two hours, between 11.30h – 13.30h, on Saturday 4 April ’15.

I will be your expert guide through one of the best quality historic architecture areas of Romania’s capital, constituted mainly from Neo-Romanian and Art Deco designs. These edifices were developed for the professional classes, especially well known medics, who built their residences  in the environs of Bucharest’s Medical University, the most prestigious higher education institution in that field from these parts of Europe, located at he heart of Cotroceni quarter. The area also boasts Romania’s Presidential Palace, a former official residence of country’s royal family, which inspired a great deal the architectural styles of this city quarter. All of that highly enticing built heritage is waiting to be discovered! Cotroceni is also populated by diverse species of  trees, which will give us an image how a beautiful Bucharest quarter of yester decades used to look, a sample of its environmental identity, a city renowned by its gardens and tree lined streets, before the urban agglomeration and decay of the communist and post-communist eras altered that charming character.

The tour costs 45 lei (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)

Historic Houses of Romania architectural tour in Cotroceni area of Bucharest

Historic Houses of Romania architectural tour in Cotroceni quarter 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 Contact page of this weblog.

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

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

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.

Architectural tour: Art Deco and Modernist Bucharest – Saturday 14 March

Dear readers,

I would like to invite you this Saturday 14 March ’15, to a thematic walking tour, scheduled to take place between 11.30h – 13.30h, on the subject of the Art Deco and inter-war Modernist architectural designs of Bucharest. 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 identity.

The Art Deco style, peculiar to the “roaring ’20s” and the 1930s was the first truly global architecture, embraced with gusto by the Bucharest people and the rest of urban Romania. The city became in those years a veritable Art Deco architectural regional “power“, embellished with high quality edifices in this style, many of which are still around, for us to admire and investigate, despite the terrible historical upheavals of the last eight decades in this part of Europe. A favorite Art Deco theme in Bucharest was that of the ocean liner, reflecting the longing of inter-war locals to travel to exotic places in the southern seas, far away from the local Siberia-like winters. The inter-war Modernist style and syntheses with Art Deco are also well represented in Bucharest, with creations signed by talented architects such as Horia Creanga, Duiliu Marcu sau Ion si Tiberiu Niga. That great multitude of buildings were developed on a solid economic background when Romania was one of the main oil exporters of the world and also an important agricultural producer. The present tour endeavours to locate and explain some of the representative edifices in the Art Deco and Modernist styles in central Bucharest and give you a well referenced overall image about how these designs imprinted the character of this city and Romania in general.

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 Deco Bucharest – architectural tour

Historic Houses of Romania architectural tour: Art Deco 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.

Architectural tour in Dacia – Eminescu – Polona historic area – Saturday 7 March

Dear readers

This is an invitation to an architectural history walking tour in the area centred on Dacia – Eminescu and Polona streets of Bucharest, endowed with some of the best quality historic architecture of Romania’s capital, open to all of you who would like to accompany me, the author of the Historic Houses of Romania blog on Saturday 7 March 2015, for two hours, between 11.30h – 13.30h.

I will be your guide in this distinguished Bucharest quarter, packed with impressive building designs, especially Neo-Romanian, belonging to its mature (such as the image on the left) and late flamboyant phases, along with Art Deco and Modernist designs. Dacia also encompasses Little Paris and a multitude of mixed style buildings of a powerful personality. The architects of many of these structures were from among the golden inter-war generation of such highly regarded professionals of Romania, among them Jean Monda or Jean Burcus. The zone is in large part residential, with a number of embassies and consulates in its midst, and also because of the good state of its period edifices and agreeable urban planning dating from the first decades of the c20th, is also considered one of the prestigious districts of Bucharest. All of that delightful landmark architecture is waiting for you to be discovered and examined!

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 architectural tour in Dacia area, Bucharest

Historic Houses of Romania architectural tour in Dacia area, Bucharest

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

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.

Walking tour in Mosilor quarter of Bucharest – Saturday 28 February

Dear readers,

This is an invitation to an architectural walking tour in Mosilor area of Bucharest, open to all of you who would like to accompany me, the author of the Historic Houses of Romania blog, Saturday 28 February ’15, for two hours, between 11.30h – 13.30h.

I will be your guide through one of the most picturesque areas of historic Bucharest, that has known a spectacular development after the unification of the Principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia in the aftermath of the Crimean War. It is located on the road stemming from the old city toward Moldavia, known in the olden times as “The Highway” (“Drumul Mare”). Its name comes from that of the famous Mosilor fair, held outside Bucharest’s walls, where traders and peasants from Moldavia and north-eastern Wallachia came with their goods and products. Among of the most active and successful traders were the Armenians, who had strong communities in Moldavia and many settled in the Mosilor area, where they erected the largest Armenian church in south-east Europe. The architecture thus very much reflects an effervescent commercial past, with interesting examples of trader houses built in a multitude of vernacular and elevated styles ranging from Little Paris, Neo-Romanian to Art Deco and Modernist. There is also a rare examples of Ottoman Balkan era dwelling, Casa Melik, dating from the c18th. Mosilor is thus a most representative sample of what Bucharest has been throughout most of its history, a trade centre for the Romanian lands. Its attractive and very evocative period architecture is waiting to for you to discover and photograph!

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)

Bucharest’s Mosilor area historic architecture (©Valentin Mandache)

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

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

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.

Architectural walking tour in Piata Victoriei, Sunday 22 Feb.

Dear Readers,

This is an invitation to an architectural history tour in Piata Victoriei area of Bucharest: open to all of you who would like to accompany me, the author of the Historic Houses of Romania blog, for two hours, between 11.30h – 13.30h, on Sunday 22 February 2015!

I will be your guide through a remarkably rich and architecturally varied area of central Bucharest, where famous public buildings often stand side by side with quaint Little Paris, Neo-Romanian or Art Deco style private houses. The character of the local built landscape has been in large part determined by the architecture embellishing two important boulevards that cross the area: Calea Victoriei, the oldest thoroughfare of Romania’s capital, and Lascar Catargiu, an artery opened in the late c19th as a showpiece of the then modern urban planning and architecture, roads that meet in the great square Piata Victoriei that hosts Romania’s government’s headquarters. The tour is thus an excellent opportunity to view and examine a most representative cross-sections of Bucharest’s architectural heritage, spanning examples from great public edifices to small dwellings of delicate elevated or provincial styles. All of that architectural kaleidoscope in a nutshell is waiting 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 architectural tour: Piata Victoriei historic architecture samples, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

Historic Houses of Romania architectural tour in Piata Victoriei area, Bucharest

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

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.

Art Nouveau Bucharest – architectural tour Saturday 21 February

Dear readers,

I will organise a thematic architectural tour this Saturday 21 February ’15, between 11.30h – 13.30h, 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.

Sunday walking tour: The Art Deco architecture of Domenii quarter. 15 Feb.

Dear Readers,

This is an invitation to an architectural tour focused on the prime Art Deco style houses from Bucharest’s Domenii quarter, open to all of you who would like to accompany me, the author of the Historic Houses of Romania blog, this Sunday 15 February 2015, for two hours, between 11.30h – 13.30h.

I will be your guide through a quite special section of Bucharest, in the past housing a part of city’s elite, composed mainly from medium and high ranking government officials from the inter-war Ministry of Agriculture and State Domains, hence the name “Domains” (Domenii in Romanian) for this quarter, and pilots and engineers working at the nearby airport and aircraft factories. The area has been developed mainly between the early 1920s and the late 1940s. The beauty of the architecture found in this corner of Bucharest, a large part of it built during the years of the political turmoil of the 1930s, wartime and the dawn of the Stalinist regime, is a testimony to the resilience of the human spirit in the course of those adverse upheavals. The Domenii quarter is essentially an Art Deco and also Modernist architectural “reservation” for Romania’s capital, additionally encompassing a number of beautiful Neo-Romanian houses and examples of other designs of the inter-war and the immediate post-war periods, scattered throughout the area. Domenii is now, according to the city’s regulations, an architecturally protected area, but nevertheless it suffers because of reckless unprofessional renovations or new designs that change the character of this historic area. Wonderful examples of that surviving amazing architecture, through the opportunity offered by this tour, is thus ready 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: the Art Deco architecture of Domenii quarter, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

Historic Houses of Romania architectural tour in Domenii quarter, 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.

Architectural tour in Bellu Cemetery – the national pantheon of Romania, Saturday 14 Feb.

Dear readers,

I am organising a thematic two hours walking tour (between 11.30h – 13.30h) this Saturday 14 February 2015, on the less conventional subject of after-life or funerary architecture found within the confines of Bellu Cemetery, the most famous and exquisitely embellished necropolis of Romania, the equivalent in these parts of Europe of Paris’ Père Lachaise or London’s Highgate cemetery. It 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.

Bellu Cemetery is considered the National Pantheon of this country, containing the graves and remarkable funerary monuments of important personalities that built the modern Romanian nation, people such as Mihai Eminescu, the national poet, Ion Mincu, the initiator of the Neo-Romanian architectural style or general Christian Tell, one of the heroes of 1848 Revolution. It was opened in 1858 as a public burial ground, part of the city’s advanced urban planning developments of the Victorian era, occasioned by a fast increase in population, when traditional cemeteries around urban churches became overcrowded and a health hazard, as was the case with other European capitals of that era. Many of Bellu’s funerary monuments are outstanding architectural tributes that the great, the good and the wealthy dedicated to their dead ones. These structures trace closely the changing architectural ideas and fashions of their time, representing a veritable condensed encyclopaedia of design styles. Their decorative details are often superlative and contain a wealth of symbols ranging from sacred, ethnographic to profane. The cemetery is part of the Associantion of Significant Cemeteries in Europe as a recognition of its heritage value. This place so much laden with history and architectural show-pieces is now among the tours organised by the Historic Houses of Romania blog author!

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: architectural tour in Bellu Cemetery

Historic Houses of Romania: architectural tour in Bellu Cemetery (map source: Bing Maps)

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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.

Architectural walking tour in Cismigiu area – Saturday 7 Feb.

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 7 February 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!

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.

Walking tour Saturday 17 January: The early Neoromanian architecture of Icoanei Garden area

Dear readers,

I would like to invite you to a walking architectural tour on Saturday 17 January ’15, between 11.30h – 13.30h, in Gradina Icoanei area, on the theme of the exceedingly important for this country’s heritage Neo-Romanian architectural style in its early phase, how this design peculiar to Romania has been initiated and defined, a period of cultural upheavals and economic prosperity from the 1880s until the mid 1900s. 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 Neoromanian architectural style is the most visible and amplest body of heritage that this country has bestowed on the world’s culture. Gradina Icoanei area of Bucharest has the highest concentration of buildings featuring this architectural design in its ianugural stages, what I term as the early phase of Romania’s national architecture. The style was initiated by the architect Ion Mincu in 1886 with the Lahovary House, an edifice viewed at  this tour, continued with a series of iconic edifices, such as the Central School for Girls, another objective of the tour, or the Causeway Buffet. The then new national architecture quickly gained popularity and featured in the works of other known architects of that period, such as Giulio Magni, who designed Elie Radu house, viewed at this tour, or Louis Blanc. The most interesting aspect of the early Neoromanian phase is the synthesis of this style with the historicist forms typical of the Little Paris design, then the fashionable building style in town, resulting in unique and fascinating architectural creations, from those produced by professional architects to vernacular buildings erected by craftsmen or ordinary people of the Fin de Siècle period. There were also syntheses with the Art Nouveau in that initial period of the Neoromanian style. The end of the early phase of the Romania’s national architecure is marked by the Royal Jubilee Exhibition of 1906 in Bucharest, when the this order was codified in the buildings presented at the event, launching its mature phase, seen and subsequently embraced by Romanian public in the country and provinces in the neighbouring empires with significant Romanian population. During the tour we will locate and examine some of the most significant early Neoromanian buildings, such as the famous Lahovary House and a great multitude of other edifices representative of that stage of development, many of them remarkably grouped within the Icoanei Garden area of central Bucharest, and now more than a century old.

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)

Walking tour: the early Neo-Romanian architectural style of Gradina Icoanei area (©Valentin Mandache)

The early Neo-Romanian architectural style of Gradina Icoanei area

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

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.

Building inauguration years rendered architecturally

Building inauguration year in architectural renderings

Building inauguration year in architectural renderings (©Valentin Mandache, Historic Houses of Romania – Case de Epoca)

The photo-collage above is composed by building inauguration year panels rendered architecturally, encountered by the author of this blog on edifices dating from a multitude of historical epochs in Bucharest and other locations in Romania. I used the illustrations as cover photographs for the Historic Houses of Romania – Case de Epoca’s Facebook page. I usually present to the readers a cover photo per week, and the ones here are those scheduled for the first ten weeks of 2014. To find out details about the significance of those years and the buildings hosting them, you can click the links listed below. The links are arranged in the same scheme as the architecturally rendered years mentioned in the collage.

1900 : 1569

1894 : 1666

1724 : 1857

1908 : 1889

1898 : 1879

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.

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.

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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