Tag Archives: Property Bubble

Burned down Art Nouveau style building

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.

Art Nouveau style building dating from the end of the 1890s, Lipscani area, Bucharest. (©Valentin Mandache)
Art Nouveau style building dating from the end of the 1890s, Lipscani area, Bucharest. (©Valentin Mandache)
Art Nouveau style building dating from the end of the 1890s, Lipscani area, Bucharest. (©Valentin Mandache)
Art Nouveau style building dating from the end of the 1890s, Lipscani area, Bucharest. (©Valentin Mandache)
Art Nouveau style building dating from the end of the 1890s, Lipscani area, Bucharest. (©Valentin Mandache)

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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.

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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.

Advice for home buyers of the La Belle Époque period

Bucharest enjoyed a remarkable capitalistic property boom during La Belle Époque period (late Victorian, followed by the Edwardian era), which was the first of the four building booms that the city and the country have witnessed to date. The first building boom was in many aspects similar with that of a frontier city from the mid-c19th American west or that of the new towns that sprang up in the same period in Russia’s Black Sea prairie or in Siberia. Romania’s capital was then in the process of a rapid development from a small Ottoman market town to an aspirational European capital city, which today is the sixth largest metropolis of the European Union.

That rapid development had to accommodate a large influx of people who came from its bucolic outskirts, outlying villages or small provincial towns and were used to a rural, medieval-like way of life. There was a real need to initiate and educate the new city dwellers, who were building or buying houses on a massive scale, in the ‘secrets’ of a modern European way of life. That is the era when the picturesque Little Paris architecture, one of the hallmarks of its built heritage, emerged. The brochure presented here is part of that more unusual  educational effort.

The brochure is just three pages in length, published in 1911 by “Societatea L.E.”, probably a local charity, and is brimful with practical advice. Although its recommendations sound trivial for our twenty first century ears, they would have resonated quite powerfully in those of the La Belle Époque people. Among the most amusing instructions are those referring to the use of the toilet, like “climbing with your feet over the toilet seat should be forbidden!” or “do not block the toilet drains with too large pieces of paper or cotton wool”. Another very telling advice is about the painting and decorating of the room walls, lecturing the Bucharest people, notorious for their perennial propensity to paint and decorate their houses in strident, garish colours, to keep the scheme as simple as possible: “you should leave the  walls whitewashed and if colour is desired for decoration, then use just one light lime-wash shade with a simple decorative frieze above”.

[brochure form Mr. Ion Rogojanu’s collection]

The Lush Vegetation & Sunburst Motifs of A Vanished Art Deco Panel

The lush vegetation and sunburst motifs Art Deco panel that embellished, until not long ago, a late 1920s apartment block in Bucharest; Opera area. (©Valentin Mandache)

The example above has been, in my opinion, one of the most picturesque and interesting Art Deco era building façade panels of Bucharest. It has vanished last year together with the rest of the quaint Art Deco style decoration of the building that hosted them for so many years after that edifice fell victim to the frenzy of ‘improvement’ works plaguing now Romania’s capital. These works are a city wide programme promoted by the mayoralty and heavily subsidised by the taxpayer aimed at ameliorating the thermal coefficient/ insulation of the local buildings. Although that seems a ‘green’ policy when taken at face value, it is in fact a major conduit through which many of Bucharest’s historic buildings are defaced or irremediably damaged with the concourse of the local authorities through programmes financed by taxpayer money. The scheme is enthusiastically embraced by the great multitude of ignorant property owners and tenants that populate this city. It is just one of the innumerable examples of badly thought policies affecting the architectural heritage of Bucharest. I wrote an article about this building and its plight last year (click for access here), a few weeks before all its Art Deco embellishings were rudely razed and thrown to the rubbish bin. In the autumn of 2009 I took another photograph of the newly ‘improved’ building, which I collated in the image bellow with a photograph of the old dwelling before the works took place. The proprietors are now probably very proud of the ‘modern’ look of their asset and convinced that the property value is much higher than when the strange  and useless, in their view, Art Deco panels were present there.

The Art Deco style apartment block before (upper half of the photograph) and after the 'improvement' works carried out by taxpayer subsidised contractors. The façade location of the decorative panel is indicated by the the 'x' mark within the blue circles. Photographs taken in 2009 (spring and early autumn). Opera area, Bucharest. (©Valentin Mandache)

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I endeavor through this daily series of images and small 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 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.

Immured Neo-Romanian Doorway: A Sign of Our Times

A former Neo-Romanian style doorway immured by the ignorant owners of this late 1920s house, under the indifferent eye of the authorities, a frequent occurrence in today Romania. Iconei area, Bucharest. (©Valentin Mandache)

The doorways of the Neo-Romanian style houses are flamboyant architectural structures that enhance the aesthetic and money value of the property lucky enough to feature them. An example of an beautiful such doorway can be seen by clicking here. Unfortunately in Bucharest and Romania in general, a multitude of those property owners, are not educated enough to appreciate the great worth of their asset and try to preserve it. I posted some weeks ago an article about a well off, but ignorant owner, click for access here, who replaced an old Art Nouveau doorway with a new DIY store abomination, of which he or she was probably very proud. These people are also oblivious to the fact that they have a responsibility to the community and the nation as the custodians and carers of those historic houses. The authorities share in a great degree their low quality educational background and disregard of the collective identity and history, with the result that the architectural heritage of Romania is destroyed now on a massive scale by its own citizens. The example above with the immured Neo-Romanian style doorway only one of the  many such occurrences, right in the heart of Bucharest, close to embassies and high end properties. It just gives an idea of the scale of this epidemic phenomenon and the huge task ahead of educating the public about the value of its heritage and architectural identity.

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I endeavor through this daily series of images and small 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 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.

Getting Rid of One’s Own Heritage in Bucharest

Derelict, heritage listed, mid 1910s Neo-Romanian style house, fire gutted by squatters with the tacit approval of absentee proprietors- a common method in Bucharest for obtaining a demolition permit for historic houses, in order to develop the plot with a more profitable modern office building. Iancului area, Bucharest. (©Valentin Mandache)

The architecture of this mid 1910s house is extremely interesting, being a transition style between early Neo-Romanian, as was conceived by the architect Ion Mincu, its initiator in the 1880s, and the citadel like structure popular in the inter-war period. One can see here some of Mincu’s hallmarks in the pointed arch windows and airy veranda, together with the bastion tower structure borrowed from the fortified yeoman dwelling of Oltenia region, the “cula” (a word derived from Turkish meaning citadel) type house. Unfortunately the building has suffered during the wild Romanian property bubble of the last few years, eyed by greedy developers and irresponsible proprietors for the development of a more profitable modern building on the valuable plot of land occupied by this quite centrally located historic house. The building in this instance has probably changed hands in speculative transactions a number of times in the space of just a few years and was left to deteriorate, open to the elements and squatters, in order to secure the much coveted demolition permit. In the end the house was gutted by fire and although the authorities brick boarded its entrances, it looks that the fate of this magnificent house is sealed. That fact most probably makes its proprietors extremely hopeful of pocketing large profits from the development of the land (I very much doubt that as the Romanian property market is now the most inflated and least profitable in the entire European Union).

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I endeavor through this daily series of images and small 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 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.

“Old and New in Bucharest Architecture. How to Preserve our Identity?”- Radio Programme

This was a radio broadcast programme by Radio Romania International on 16 March ’10, 20.00h-21.00h, on the subject of Bucharest’s old buildings and their plight in the last two decades of Romania’s painful transition from communism to democracy and market economy. The debate, entitled “Old and new in Bucharest architecture. How to preserve our identity?”, took place among blog authors specialised on the architectural heritage. The participants were the following: the author of this blog- Valentin Madache (Historic Houses of Romania), Cezar Buimaci (Orasul lui Bucur) and Dan Rosca (Bucurestii Vechi), moderator- Mara Popa. The language used is Romanian; apologises for the non-speakers of this language.

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If you plan acquiring a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in locating 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.

Daily Picture 18-Mar-10: Art Nouveau and Property Bubble Hangover

A Bucharest variety of 1900s Art Nouveau style house that also displays rococo and early Neo-Romanian elements, in a very bad state of repair, next to a flashy stretch limo that gathers dust, among empty plastic bottles scattered on on a dirty unmaintained pavement. Maria Rosetti area. (©Valentin Mandache)

The photograph, which I took in late autumn last year, of a luxury limousine next to a deteriorated period house, inhabited by poor state tenants, is a telling metaphor of the hangover feeling that engulfed Bucharest after the bursting in 2009 of the Romanian property and financial bubble, which saw New York type prices for property and credit fuelled ‘new Russian’ style consumption excesses. The sky-high property prices are still lingering aroung, making the purchase of a period property in Bucharest one of the most expensive, riskiest and unprofitable investments anywhere in the European Union. My estimate is that although the prices are about 20% less than the exuberant levels of late 2008, they are still having a very long way to go (another 60% down from today prices) and reach a level that would reflect the undeveloped infrastructure and economic reality of Romania.

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I endeavor through this daily image series to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of European architectural heritage.

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If you plan acquiring a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in locating 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.

From Country Mansion to Village Hall and Back Again

An old country mansion dating from early c20th, built by the local aristocrat/ landlord, in what was perhaps initially a neo-classical style, for use as his residence and farm administrative headquarters. Olt county. (©Valentin Mandache)

The mansion in the image above was confiscated by the communist regime in late 1940s as part of the communist takeover of the private property in Romania, subsequently used as a village hall until early 1990s, then given back to the descendants of the pre-communist owners and now as the result of a lingering property bubble that affects the country, is on the market for huge price tag, much higher than better quality period property from Southern France or Tuscany, left to deteriorate and out of reach of anyone willing to properly restore or renovate it. This is the usual sad trajectory followed by many of the historic houses that dot Romania.

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I endeavor through this daily image series 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 locating 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.

Daily Picture 2-Feb-10: Crude Renovation of an Art Deco House

A high quality design Art Deco style house dating from the 1930s, crudely renovated by its owner. Domenii area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The most visible interventions on the wonderful Art Deco style house in the image above are the exaggerated colour scheme and near complete replacement of original features with cheap modern mass production fixtures (white plastic frame double-glazing and DIY store metallic doorway). It is interesting to note that in Romania most of the historic house owners and a large proportion of the public, because of deficient cultural education during the communist period and the last two decades of transition, have a deep rooted contempt for heritage conservation and consider such invasive renovations as greatly increasing the value of the property.

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I endeavor through this daily image series 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 locating 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.

Neo-Romanian Style House in Early 1900s Photograph

Photograph taken in early 1900s of a newly built Neo-Romanian style house, Pitesti, Arges county.

The above old photograph shows a magnificent Neo-Romanian style house located in Arges county, today much altered and in bad repair, put on the market by its owners (presumably property flippers) and advertised by estate agents as “Austrian baroque” building, with a huge price tag, characteristic of the property bubble mentality that still lingers around in Romania. Old photographs of period houses, from the public archives or private sources, are among the most important resources for a restoration/ renovation project. With the passing of time many of those houses were altered and in some cases modified beyond recognition. The problem is even more acute in the particular cases of countries that have suffered wars and social upheavals as in Eastern Europe.  Ironically, in Romania, the most destructive period for historic houses is in the last twenty years since the fall of communism, when imperfect property and heritage legislation, coupled with the ignorance of many among the locals about their own history and heritage resulted in a veritable massacre of the country’s valuable old architecture. There are however some individuals and organisations that have gone in the right direction and put great effort an money in restoring and renovating historic houses. Unfortunately in many instances those projects are done by ear, without proper expert documentation and advice. Consulting archives, photographs from the family of the former owners, old newspapers or interviewing local historians is seen in many instances as a distracting and time consuming pernickety. I am afraid that what remains today from the beautiful house in the photograph above will share the unfortunate fate of countless many other period properties in Romania.

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I endeavor through this daily image series 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 locating 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.