I shot this photograph today, late afternoon, in Lipscani quarter of Bucharest, finding it evocative for the city’s atmosphere in wintertime. I like the contrast between the grey sky, fluffy-feathered pigeons, and suggestion of a forthcoming torrid summer conveyed by the two classical mythology personages that adorn the great cupola finial of an old shopping arcade, which dates from the La Belle Époque period.
As the year is drawing to a close, I would like to invite you to a nocturnal architectural end-of-year tour in the area of Lipscani in Bucharest, the historic urban core of Romania’s capital and also its oldest market, open to all of you who would like to accompany me, the author of the Historic Houses of Romania blog, for two hours, between 18.00h – 20.00h, on Friday 30 December ’11!
Bucharest, which is now the sixth largest city of the European Union, has its urban beginnings in the area of Lipscani, located now in the very centre of the large metropolis that it has became over more than five centuries of documented existence. Here in the Middle Ages traders from the Byzantium and later the Ottoman Empire changed goods with those who came from Central and Western Europe. In fact the name Lipscani is a Romanian appellative for the inhabitants of the German town of Leipzig, whose traders were prominent on the Bucharest market in those early times. The architecture of the quarter is one of the most picturesque and exquisite in the entire city and has undergone a thorough restoration and renovation in the last couple of years, which is still ongoing, when many cafés, pubs and restaurants opened in large numbers to welcome visitors. The earliest examples of Little Paris style buildings are present in Lipscani, as well as some well restored edifices from the Ottoman times, such as Manuc’s Inn, the last great caravanserai of Ottoman dominated Europe. Lipscani also contains imposing Art Deco, Neo-Romanian, Neoclassical and Beaux Arts style buildings. The area is brimful with history, architectural details and character, waiting for you to be discovered!
The meeting point is on the entrance staircase of the National Bank of Romania building on Lipscani Street, see the map bellow, at 17.45h – 18.00h, after which we will proceed for two hours to discover and admire, in the special atmosphere of the evening hours at the end of the year, what constitutes the historic and architectural essence of Bucharest. The streets of Lipscani are some of the best illuminated in Bucharest, therefore we will not have any problem in visualising its architecture at that particular time. The tour will end, for those who wish, at a Lipscani café or pub, where we can continue to exchange views and ideas over a coffee or beer.
I look forward to seeing you there!
Valentin Mandache, expert in Romania’s historic houses (tel: 0040 (0)728323272)
This once charming Art Nouveau building, dating from the end of the 1890s, has been ruined in a fire, during the property boom of the late 2000s in Bucharest. It is located in Lipscani, the old commercial quarter of Bucharest, an area that for a decade and a half after the fall of communism was left derelict by the city authorities, despite its obvious huge tourist potential. During the last property boom, many historic buildings in the area were targeted by rapacious property developers for the valuable land plots which they occupy. A favourite method of destruction, in order to obtain the much coveted demolition permit for historic buildings, was the arson, usually blamed on squatters who sometime occupied those properties. Lipscani has started in the last two years to experience a sort of a renaissance as a place full of cafes and restaurants and it is just hopped that such an entrepreneur would revive or least save the beautiful Art Nouveau façade of this building. Bellow are recent photographs containing details of these rare for Bucharest type of ornaments.
I endeavour through this daily series of 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.
I detailed in an extensive earlier article the allegorical statues that embellish the 1890s sector façade of the National Bank of Romania in Bucharest. The above collage is made with the images of the Greek Gods that personify the economic activities and legal environment bringing wealth to Romania’s coffers in late Victorian period: Justice (Themis), Trade (Hermes), Industry (Hephaestos) si Agriculture (Demeter). They are made from a beautiful yellowish calcareous sandstone sourced in Rustchiuk (today Russe in Bulgaria) from quarries close by the right bank of the Danube. What I found very interesting is that the statues are modelled after local Romanian racial types, of men and women who lived in Bucharest and the surrounding area at the end of c19th, similar with the local human types seen in vintage Victorian era photographs.
I endeavor through this daily series of daily articles to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of European architectural heritage.
If you plan acquiring a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in sourcing the property, specialist research, planning permissions, restoration project management, etc. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contact page of this weblog.
The National Bank of Romania is located in the Lipscani historic quarter of Bucharest in a large neoclassical complex of buildings built in two stages: 1st in the 1880s and 2nd in the 1930s. The 19th century sector is in my opinion the more interesting and attractive one, boasting a worthy of note neoclassical style adorned with beautiful statues, seemingly inspired from French 17th century palaces.
The construction of that building was finished in 1890 under the direction of architect Nicolae Cerkez. The old postcard bellow dating from the first decade of the 20th century shows the bank in a surround setting which has not changed very much since its inauguration.
The façade of the building, which is oriented to the south, is embellished with a series of allegorical sculptures inspired from the classical pantheon, symbolising the society and economy of Romania. Amazingly the sculptures still retain their initial freshness and sharpness after a century and two decades since they were affixed on the wall. That is because Bucharest has been much less affected by acid rains and corrosive pollution than other European capitals, as a result of the lower degree of industrialisation which the communist regime was able to achieve in Romania. The stone used for the façade and sculptures also seems of very good quality- a type of yellowish calcareous stone, which according to Romania’s National Bank website was brought from the area of Rustchuk, today Ruse in Bulgaria.
The top centre of the building is formed by a panoply composed by a coat of arms and clock flanked on the western side by a female deity symbolising Wisdom and the Sciences, represented measuring a globe with a compass and sitting on a stack of books. The usual goddess with these attributes is Pallas Athena, but it could well be another goddess from the Greek – Roman pantheon with similar attributes:
On the eastern flank of the panoply is a male figure, again sitting on a stack of books, with a papyri scroll in his hands.